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Commonwealth focus on economic cost of violence against women and girls

11 September 2017

A project to raise awareness of the economic cost of violence against women and girls in the Commonwealth has been launched.

The initiative has been introduced by the Commonwealth Secretariat in the form of the ‘Economic Cost of Violence Against Women & Girls’ information brief, which provides background information for stakeholders wishing to gain a greater understanding of the financial implications for countries that fail to prevent violence against women and girls.

The document serves as a prelude to a wider ‘Economic Cost of Violence Against Women and Girls’ project, which will be piloted in small states, and will provide assistance in the form of a framework to quantify the economic costs of violence against women and girls (VAWG) in order to promote a national response in the form of capacity building, improvements in data collection and analysis, monitoring evaluation framework, advocacy for policy reform and development of programmes to address VAWG. 

The framework will consider the range of economic costs associated with VAWG, which are related to financial costs associated with violence, for example physical and mental trauma, as well as premature mortality. These costs have a significant impact on the health, legal and social sectors, and are a contributing factor behind costs arising from, for example, medical expenses, reduced productivity, increased tax burden and costs to the police and justice system. The information paper highlights that, beyond the most significant cost to the victims themselves, there are further implications for the wider community, employers and the government, which collectively represents a heavy burden for the economy and society. 

Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said, “We must work to bring an end to violence against women and girls. We have to do it for all those who are forced into an existence of constant and tormenting fear, leaving the victims physically, mentally, and emotionally scarred. We must also do it for the ten-year-olds who are forced into marriage, families that mourn daughters who have been brutally beaten by their partners, and for the young girls who are at risk of bleeding to death after being subjected to female genital mutilation.

“The cruel reality of this violence is having a deep impact on the social fabric in the Commonwealth and on our economies. Spiralling social dysfunction, demands on health provision, and lost productivity add up to a staggering cost. Researchers estimate this might be as high as 10 per cent of some countries’ GDP. So there are multiple reasons why tackling violence must be a priority – over and above the moral imperative.”

The project builds on existing Commonwealth commitments to ending violence against women and girls. In 2015, the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting committed to ending such violence, in accordance with the gender equality and empowerment objectives of the Commonwealth Charter. This was in alignment with the Commonwealth’s priorities for Gender Equality 2017-20 that were endorsed by the 11th Commonwealth Women’s Affairs Ministers Meeting in September 2016, and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.