New ActionAid research reveals how domestic violence impacts women’s reproductive rights

11 July 2017

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new ActionAid report provides detailed evidence of the link between domestic violence and women and girls’ ability to control their bodies and fertility.

The report contains first-person stories of women and girls from some of the poorest countries in the world which demonstrate how domestic violence can affect access to contraception, pregnancy and sexual health, among other services.

According to the research, millions of women and girls are being raped, denied access to safe abortions, and forced to have multiple pregnancies by their intimate partners.

In one instance a woman from Liberia describes how her husband raped and beat her before and during pregnancy, causing miscarriage. She was later able to attend a health centre and access contraception – but only in secret.

In another instance, a 15-year-old girl from Rwanda was forced to marry her sister’s widower. She later contracted AIDS from her husband and was left as a single mother of four children when he died. She now has free and open conversations with her daughter about sex and hopes she won’t marry until after she’s 20.

The report is being published ahead of the Family Planning Summit on 11 July 2017, co-hosted in London by the UK Government, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the United Nations Population Fund.

ActionAid supports the Summit’s aim to empower 120 million women and girls to use modern contraception by 2020, and is asking Secretary of State for International Development Priti Patel to build on the UK Government’s strong record on these issues to take action on  the link between violence and reproductive rights - including  support for women’s rights organisations working on the issue.

At present many women are not able to access reproductive health services because of domestic violence. Responses that take account of the way that violence affects family planning would allow many more women to benefit from being able to control their fertility. 

ActionAid UK Women’s Rights Adviser Danielle Spencer, author of the report, said:

“One in three women face physical and sexual violence in their lifetime - most likely perpetrated by an intimate partner. But there is an enormous gap in the understanding of the link between violence against women and girls and reproductive rights.

“Our research tries to fill this gap. If this summit aims to bring real change to empower 120 million women and girls by 2020 then it is critical that it tackles the way in which violence in relationships affects family planning.”

Download the report: 'Common Cause, Collaborative Response: Violence against women and girls and sexual and reproductive health and rights' (pdf)

For interviews and further information please contact Charlotte Clarke at ActionAid: / +44 (0)7743 642 775

Notes to editors:

Danielle Spencer is available for interviews and will be hosting a discussion on the report at the House of Commons on 12 July 2017. High res photos of one of the survivors are available upon request.

ActionAid is a leading international charity working in over 45 countries. We work with the poorest women and girls in the world, changing their lives for good. Find out more about our work.