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Gender-based violence affects women’s mental health


Women who experience gender-based violence such as rape, sexual assault, intimate partner violence and stalking are at an increased risk to develop mental health disorders in their lifetimes, finds a new Australian study.

Tormented women were found to be at risk for mental illness, disability, substance abuse, and suicidal tendencies.

The study finds a strong correlation between severe mental imbalance and sexual harassment. Researchers analyzed the results of a national survey of 4,451 women aged 16 to 85 conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2007. For the women who suffered higher levels of violence, the rate of anxiety disorders was 77 percent, 52 percent for mood disorders, substance abuse 47 percent and post-traumatic stress syndrome 56 percent.

Investigators discovered the four most common types of gender-based violence – physical violence by an intimate partner (7.8 per cent), rape (8 per cent), other sexual assault (15 per cent) and stalking (10 per cent) – are strongly associated with a wide range of problems for women including more severe current mental disorder, higher rates of three or more lifetime mental disorders, physical disability, mental disability, impaired quality of life, and overall disability.

In the United States, more than 20 percent of women have experienced intimate-partner violence, stalking or both. A full 17 percent have reported rape or attempted rape, according to information in the study.

The study is the most comprehensive ever undertaken of gender-based violence in a nationally representative sample of women. Findings are published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

The study finds that women who have been raped or faced any kind of abuse or sexual harassment have far higher rates of mental disorders and are up to 20 times more likely to attempt suicide than other females.

“It was the strength of these associations that was most shocking,” said study leader Susan Rees, Ph.D. “There is an overwhelming link between gender violence and key indicators of women’s mental health, well-being and risk of suicide attempts.”

She mentioned that for women exposed to two types of gender-based violence the lifetime rate of mental disorder was 69 percent and for three or more types of gender-based violence, it was 89.4 percent. Attempted suicide figures were alarming with a 1.6 percent attempted suicide rate for women never exposed to gender-based violence rising to six percent for women who had experienced one type and 34 percent for those enduring three or four types of violence.

“This research highlights the need to ensure that expert mental health care is a central component of gender-based violence programs. Similarly, psychiatric services need to be better equipped to assist women with mental health disorders who have experienced such violence,” Dr Rees said.

Write to d-sector  |  Editor's Note

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Corruption Watch

The bad news is that corruption has not only sustained but has grown in size and stature in the country. With scams being a regular feature, seventy per cent respondents in a survey have rightfully opined that corruption has continued to increase in India. One in every two interviewed admit having paid a bribe for availing public services during last one year. Transparency International's latest survey reveals that the political parties top the chart for the most corrupt public institutions, followed by police force and legislatures. No wonder, India continues to make new records on the global corruption arena!

The shocking revelation is that the health and education sectors haven't remained untouched by this phenomenon. With 5th and 6th positions respectively for these sectors on the public perception chart on corruption, corruption has crept insidiously into these sectors of hope for the masses. With bureaucracy being fourth in the list of corrupt institutions in the country, corruption seems to have been non-formally institutionalized with little hope if public services would ever be effective in the country. With economic growth having literally institutionalized corruption, are we now expecting corrupt to be socially responsible - a different CSR.

Poor. Who?

Not giving 'aid' to India is one thing but calling it 'rich' is quite another. If one in three of the world's malnourished children live in India, what does average daily income of $3 indicate? It perhaps means that there is a relative decline in poverty - people are 'less poor' than what they used to be in the past. But having crossed the World Bank arbitrary threshold of $2 a day does not absolve the 'developed' countries of their obligation to part with 0.7 per cent of their Gross National Income in development aid. Should this three-decade old figure not be revised?  

An interesting debate in UK's House of Commons delved on future of development assistance by the British Government. While prioritizing limited resources has been a concern, there has been no denying the fact that development aid must be guided towards tangible gains over a short period of time to start with. There are difficult choices for elected governments to make - should they invest in long-term primary education or in short-term university scholarships? Which of these will bring gains and trigger long-term transformation in the society. As politicians continue to be divided on the matter, poverty persists!!   

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