The cost of violence to the world
A co-worker stays late in the office without much to do, afraid to go home. A colleague appears tired and distracted, depressed. A friend is recurrently absent from work but cannot explain why.
For each one of them the story is the same: they are suffering from violence, whether it is physical, sexual, verbal, emotional or psychological. Violence against women and girls is a human rights violation and this, on its own, should be big enough call for action. Statistics show that 7 out of 10 women in the world have suffered from violence at some point in their lives, and seem to ignore the fact that violence affects us all and that its consequences can generate a number of costs not only to victims and their families, but also to businesses and countries.
Violence has many effects. Some are immediate while others can be inter-generational. The same goes for the effects which can have impacts at an individual level (for survivors, perpetrators and others affected by violence), to a broader level (family, community, society). In the end, all of these impacts translate into costs at a national, regional and global level.
The costs of violence can be measured in various ways:
- immediate injuries
- mental illnesses
- sexual and reproductive health problems
- substance abuse
- poor social functioning skills
- lost workdays, lower productivity and lower income
- overall reduced or lost educational, employment, social or political participation opportunities
- expenditures on medical, protection, judicial and social services
For example, in India, a woman loses an average of at least 5 paid work days for each incident of intimate partner violence, while in Uganda, about 9 percent of violent incidents forced women to lose time from paid work, amounting to 11 days a year. In Morocco, an estimated out-of the pocket expenditure incurred by women who suffer violence accessing services can be as high as US$157, when some of them earn as little as US$7.50 per day in the agricultural sector.
But the cost is not a problem confined only to developing countries. In the United States, the cost of violence against women exceeds $5.8 billion dollars a year while in France in 2010, the cost was estimated around €2.5 billion per year.
Unfortunately, and despite the gravity of the situation and the impact on development, gender based violence still remains invisible in strategies to boost economic growth; and as long as the symptoms and the consequences of domestic violence go unnoticed or overlooked, nothing changes and thousands of lives and billions of dollars will be lost.
So if we are looking for ways to improve global economies and creating better and more decent working conditions, focusing on violence and protecting the victims of abuse is a great way to start.
“There is one thing that will bring productivity up and costs down, and that is ending violence against women. That is the development message we have to give” -UNDP Associate Administrator Rebecca Grynspan at the 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women-.