6 October 2020
ESCWA Tool Shows Costs of Violence Against Women
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The guidance details how to assess the cost of violence against women to the economy and its impact on public health.

Case studies from Egypt, the UK, Viet Nam and Palestine show how costing violence has contributed to increased awareness and advocacy on the topic, as well as concrete policy changes.

The UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) has released guidance on the costs of domestic violence to a state’s economy and its impact on public health. Such information enables policymakers to identify the systemic loss of a country’s economic potential, and revise budgets to support prevention and protection. SDG target 5.2 calls to “eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres.”

The report estimates that 500,000 working days are lost to marital violence annually, as women exposed to domestic violence are typically less productive and tend to take more time off, resulting in an economic loss for them and the economy as a whole. Sexual violence can result in unwanted pregnancies, miscarriages and reproductive health issues.  

Nearly one quarter of the UK’s criminal justice system budget for violent crime is spent on domestic violence.

The tool features case studies from Egypt, the UK, Viet Nam and Palestine. In Egypt, the study finds that approximately 5.6 million women experience violence at the hands of their husband or fiancé annually, and the cost for women and families due to violence is approximately LE 2.17 billion. The study reports that disseminating the findings has led to increased recognition of the impact of violence against women on the entire economy and increased advocacy, resulting in:

  • an increase in the Ministry of Planning’s budget for violence against women-related activities;
  • an increase in the number of female police officers; and
  • development of a new draft law on violence against women that is under consideration by parliament.

The UK case study finds that the total cost of domestic violence to society is approximately £23 billion, of which £3.1 billion is borne by the state through support to the criminal justice system, health system, social services, social housing, and legal aid bills to support victims. Nearly one quarter of the UK’s criminal justice system budget for violent crime is spent on domestic violence.

The case study on Viet Nam highlights how the survey results have contributed to increased awareness of the impact of domestic violence and enhanced service provision. UN Women and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) have supported the Government of Viet Nam to pilot an ‘Essential Services Package for Women and Girls Subject to Violence,’ which features a referral system, health care and protection. The pilot also supports the police and criminal justice system to enhance services to survivors of domestic violence. Training has increased the expertise of government personnel and researchers working on domestic violence, positioning them to undertake future costing exercises, and to feature relevant questions in national statistical surveys.

A compilation of lessons learned from the case studies highlights key recommendations for conducting costing studies, given their potential impacts: devote enough time to the preparatory phase for a costing study, including engaging the government to ensure ownership of the findings and a commitment to implement recommendations; consider the study’s scope, including clear definitions of what is included and what age range is selected; employ innovative and participatory approaches, such as a case study of a particular service or area; design the questionnaire to ensure that the methodology is culturally appropriate; produce and disseminate robust estimates; and develop an advocacy plan and use the findings at the outset, such as developing an advocacy plan to target key government leaders and engaging the media to maximize dissemination of the findings and raise awareness among the public and policymakers.

The tool proposes steps for Arab states to cost domestic violence, including considerations related to ethical guidance, site selection, data availability, and methodology and type of costs. [Publication: Costing Domestic Violence] [Case study one: Egypt] [Case study two: UK Case Study] [Case study three: Viet Nam] [Case study four: State of Palestine] [Lessons Learned from Case Studies

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