Financial cost of violence against women

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48en_vio ... Violence

Financial cost of violence against women

Source: End Violence List (1999)

  Commonwealth Secretariat
  Other Costs
  USA Australian report

University Hong Kong University Hong Kong

Dear Network members

I have been reading the series of e-mails on deducing the financial cost of violence against women with a mixture of interest and suspicion.

One of the struggles for those working in areas of human rights, including women's rights is to work against the commodification of individuals. I understand that the economist argument of how economically inefficient and non-productive violence is ... might be good rhetoric to dialogue with bureaucrats or business-folks but really ... violence against human beings cannot be reduced down to a value-added price. How much is affordable then??

While figures are useful for those in the market knowledge industry, I feel somehow that playing with numbers, tallying up the costs, does not do justice for those women and men that are systematically abused and exploited through violence in their everyday lives.

There must be an alternative mode of resistance that does not reduce human dignity down to a price.

Department of Comparative Literature
University of Hong Kong
ph: (852) 2857 8211
fax: (852) 2857 7955 c/o Dept

Financial costs of violence against women

Angellina Mwau

It is very important to collect data on the costs of violence against women in health services, law enforcement and loss of work and other issues related to violence against women because without data it is impossible to come up with appropriate program to address violence.

For example one of the things COVAW-Kenya has been thinking of doing is coming up with a program to help health care professionals improve their response to victims of abuse.

We even wrote a proposal to that effect to several donors but non of them responded to our request and I believe it is because we did not have any data to justify our request. We based the need on few workshops we carried out in private hospitals where we were only able to find out some of the barriers of why health care workers have problems in helping victims of abuse.

It is also important to collect data to justify to the government the need to change policies in relations to violence. If we do not know the number of women who report cases of violence to police stations and the problems they face - how do we justify the need to train law enforcement. We keep on talking about the effects of violence against women but have we in Kenya carried out research to find out the effects of violence on women, society and children?

To be able to come up with community based approaches in eliminating gender violence we need to find out the needs of other agencies and to address them.

Yes, I believe such data would convince the government and donors to fund long term programs that will help end violence against women.

The reason why this has not happened is because NGO's working in the area of gender violence do not talk to each other to find out the problems they are encountering in the process of providing services. I do not think the lack of data is as a result of insufficient funding, I think it is lack of priorities, and treating the symptoms instead of dealing with the root cause.

I have been trying to get some training of trainers experience by participating in training sessions by trainers of health care workers here in the US so that when I get back I can try to train health care workers in Kenya, but I do not have data to convince the health care administrators on the importance of training health care workers on the dynamic of gender violence with no data at all. I need help on how to go about this.



Financial cost of violence against women
From: Lucia Kiwala
Commonwealth Secretariat
(Senior Programme Officer - Gender Affairs Department
Gender and Youth Affairs Division - Commonwealth Secretariat)

Dear members

I was pleased to learn that UNIFEM had initiated the debate on the financial cost of violence against women. Indeed, I was looking forward to hearing from other members regarding their experiences. I have also deduced from the ensuing debate, however, that not much has been done in this area, although a number of developed countries have undertaken some studies. This is a cause for concern as violence against women is not only affects women but it also impacts on the welfare of the family, community and the development of a nation.

The debate on the financial cost of violence was initiated at a time when we had started discussing this issue within Gender Affairs Department of the Commonwealth Secretariat. We have identified the financial cost of violence against women as a crucial factor in accelerating action to end it. We hope that Commonwealth Women's Affairs Ministers will consider this issue at their next triennial meeting scheduled to take place in the year 2000.

I believe that governments and donor agencies might be compelled to act if the financial cost of violence is established. Empirical evidence could perhaps act as a catalyst to triger concerted action once governments and donors begin to systematically count the losses emanating from violence against women and its impact on national development.

Violence against women should not be seen as merely a women's rights issue. It should also be regarded as a matter for concern to politicians, policy-makers, programme implementers and donors who require maximum returns from their resource investments. Henceforth, programmes, policy initiatives, and othermeasures to address violence, whether undertaken by governments, women's organisations and other organisations interested in this issue should be justified that they help maximise returns on investments in many sectors of national development.

It would be helpful to hear from members in those developed countries that have carried out studies on the financial cost of violence against women regarding the usefulness of the research findings. To what extent have the respective governments relied on the research findings? What has been the impact of these studies with regard to government responses to programmes aimed at ending violence against women. What lessons (positive or negative) could be learned from this experience?

For the financial cost of violence against women to be established, it is imperative that governments, donor agencies, international organisations, NGOs and local communities invest in research. This could include: providing funding; developing indicators and other research instruments; carrying out research; advocacy and lobbying to encourage governments and donors to act; participating in and co-operating with researchers; and providing any other support essential for conducting successful studies.

Research should be carried out systematically drawing on existing skills and resources. It should not only be the work of NGOs but should also involve Women's Studies Departments, whenever they exist, and other research institutions. The development of indicators and other research instruments that could be adapted to suit national circumstances would greatly facilitate this process.


Lucia Kiwala
Senior Programme Officer
Gender Affairs Department
Gender and Youth Affairs Division
Commonwealth Secretariat
Pall Mall, London SW1Y 5HX
United Kingdom


Financial costs of violence against women in Uganda

Dear Friends,

Thank you for your message of 29th June. Below is our response to some of the queries you requested us to respond to:

1. What is the financial cost of Violence Against Women?

Here in Africa and Uganda in particular, I am sure the cost would be enormous given the magnitude and prevalence of this particular Human Rights abuse i.e. for treatment, legal intervention and time taken by relatives to look after the victims. Traditionally in some societies in Uganda when a woman is bartered by her husband, her co-wife or a sister takes off time to look after her. This reduces the woman-power in the fields (agriculture) being the backbone of the economy and therefore has huge effects on the economy of the country. Women doctor activists have on occasions indicated that a substantial number of their patients (those who can afford it!) are treated from conditions related to violence, but no one has thought of quantifying how much is spent to this type of ill health. Therefore, it is very difficult to ascertain the actual cost because of lack of specific dis-aggregated data. I am glad however, to let you know that UNFPA here in Uganda has spearheaded and succeeded in forming a gender coalition of women organisations working in the area of violence against women. Plans are under way to start collection of data on various types of violence against women. The financial costs are also expected to be analysed.

2. Law Enforcement Specifically Addressing Violence Against Women

The National Association of women Judges, in conjunction with the Uganda Law Commission has drafted a legislation in respect to Domestic Violence, which is being prepared for presentation to the government. Last year the same commission presented a proposal of Domestic Relations Bill after a comprehensive study which to some extent, has some relationships to Domestic Violence. This proposal however, faced a lot of resistance from some of the male folk who of course as we all know are the perpetrators!

3. Loss of Work

There are definitely a number of women who loose work due to violence but as earlier stated, lack of data on this subject makes it impossible to give an actual number. However, we will send you a case study we documented which could be a testimony from Uganda of a woman who had to give up work due to the violence she was experiencing. Through advocacy campaign this case is now registered with World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) Gender as case number UGA 020699.VAW/Uganda/Domestic Violence for redress.

4. Who Pays the Costs

In most cases, the violators in cases of domestic violence do not bother about the consequences of the violence. Women therefore (despite the poverty they live in) struggle to pay for their physical treatment. Concerning the mental and psychological effects, which can not be identified by the victims themselves, friends or relatives, and there being no such services within their reach, let alone the cost, such women definitely die silently.

Turning to armed conflict, after the wars governments (and rightly so) concentrate on the immediate basic meals i.e. food, clothing etc. and later the focus is mainly on economic and infrastructure development. In most cases the health of women survivors is not even thought of. Isis-WICCE research findings and short term clinical investigations, which we are launching on 9th July, 1999 gives a clear picture justifying this. Some of the cases need professional attention which these women cannot afford and as a result remain helpless, stressed, traumatized but still with the responsibility of fulfilling than gender roles.


Violated women and especially those of war situation are left in despair, weak and withdrawn. These conditions live them with very little energy to work for their lives and of their families. Therefore living in object poverty until death!

In order to make an effective intervention more research needs to be carried out on the issues you highlighted in your e-mail message. This will enable us to get the actual statistics of the prevalence as well as the major needs that should be addressed.

I hope this information will be of some help for the discussion.

Best wishes,
Ruth Ochieng

Plot 32 Bukoto Street,
PO Box 4934
Kampala, Uganda
East Africa
Tel. (256 41) 543953 Fax. (256 41) 543954

From: Marion E. Doro

A 16 July message on financial costs of violence against women included a reference to Uganda NGOs collecting data on various forms of violence. The usefulness of such a project was questioned "... how much will the data help [the NGOs] efforts to lobby politicians?"

The short answer is that the lack of concrete evidence prolongs the efforts of women NGOs to end violence. They have minimal chance of influencing the legislators unless they have sufficient evidence which demonstrates the negative consequences of violence.

In Ugandan society violence against one's wife is accepted as legitimate, and when it is mentioned most men shrug it off as "its our culture". Interestingly enough if a woman assaults her husband she is regarded as a criminal.

The US Department of State Uganda Report on Human Rights Practices for 1998 notes:
"Violence against women, including rape, remained common. There were no laws passed to protect women against battery, although there is a general law concerning assault. In 1997 the Government began to implement the Children's Statute, which provides extensive protection for families and children. However, implementation during the year proved exceedingly difficult, in view of manpower and judicial constraints; in reality, little was done to enforce the statute's provisions. Law enforcement officials, consistent with general public opinion, continued to view wife beating as a husband's prerogative and rarely intervened in cases of domestic violence"


There is more, but suffice it to say that Ugandan women endure violence in silence, and conditions in the rural areas are far worse than in the cities. With few exceptions the pattern is the same elsewhere in Africa. Women have few rights, neighbors are reluctant to get involved or seem to interfere with a husband's rights, and if women seek medical care after a beating they are most likely to cite some innocuous cause for the injuries. The extent of violence is based on hearsay. There is simply little or no legal administrative support system; even the police refrain from taking action on what traditional law regards as a "domestic matter".

Several women's rights groups, such as FIDA, Action for Development, the National Association of Women Judges of Uganda, and the Forum for Women in Democracy, are actively pursuing reform and holding public workshops to lobby for revision of the Domestic Relations Act and land legislation. They face two major difficulties: The first is the public silence on the issue, which grows out of the "its our culture" syndrome that simply accepts the so-called traditional notion that women are inferior and the subsequent unwillingness to acknowledge this as a problem. The second problem is that in the absence of concrete evidence it is exceedingly difficult to persuade legislators of the need for reform.

If such concrete evidence can be produced, reported, and circulated, it would empower women and create a supportive public opinion which would question the viability/legitimacy of the "its our culture" response. Such reports would be printed in the newspapers, especially those which are independent. Legislators could not be dismissive about the issue.

Another question raised in the 16 July message is "If it is important and worthwhile, why hasn't it happened?" Part of the answer is given in the next question they raise: "insufficient funding?"

Uganda's coalition of women's organization deserves praise, support, and funding.

Marion E. Doro, PhD
Lucy Marsh Haskell Professor emeritus of Government
P.O. Box 5457 Connecticut College 270 Mohegan Ave
New London,CT 06320
Tel: 860-442-7513 Fax: 860-439-5333


Financial costs of violence against women in Canada

From: Chris Bradley

Dear colleagues,

The excellent report by Kerr and McLean on the costs of VAW in British Columbia (BC) cited by Rosemary Cairns can be found on the website of the BC Ministry of Women's Equality, at  

Rosemary listed the costs identified by the report, which totalled Canadian $385 million annually. If health service and other miscellaneous costs, and the intergenerational costs, are factored in the authors estimate a total annual cost of close to one billion Canadian dollars. To give this figure a context, it was approximately one percent of BC's GDP for the year of the study (personal communication from the senior author).

I am currently trying to put something together on the economic costs and development impacts of VAW in developing countries, and vice versa, and would be very glad to hear from anyone also working on this issue.


Christine Bradley


Financial costs of violence against women in Canada

From: Rosemary Cairns

Dear End-Violence members,

I am aware of the following information for Canada:

1) The Health-Related Costs of Violence Against Women in Canada: The Tip of the Iceberg, by Tanis Day, Ph.D., 1995, published by the Centre for Research on Violence Against Women and Children, London, Ontario

This study includes a very detailed appendix on calculating the costs of violence, including medical and dental costs, workplace costs, long-term effects, existing community resources, and provincial/territorial initiatives.

Its estimate of the annual health-related costs of violence against women in Canada was $1,539,650,387.

2) Selected Estimates of the Costs of Violence Against Women, published by the Centre for Research on Violence Against Women and Children. Project Manager Lorraine Greavers, Ph.D., Research Associate Olena Hankivsky, M.A., Research Assistant JoAnn Kingston-Riechers, M.A., 1995.

This paper estimates selected economic costs of three forms of violence against women - sexual assault/rape; woman abuse in intimate partnerships; and incest/child sexual assault - in four policy areas: health/medicine; criminal justice; social services/education; and labour/employment.

Partial estimated annual costs of violence against women in these four policy areas are:
Social services/education $2,368,924,297
Criminal Justice $871,908,583
Labour/employment $576,764,400 and
Health/Medical $408,357,042
For a total selected estimate of $4,225,954,322.

3) Paying for Violence: Some of the Costs of Violence Against Women in B.C. May, 1996, by Richard Kerr and Janice McLean, published by B.C. Ministry of Womens Equality.

Estimated costs of violence against women in British Columbia (Canada) (in millions of dollars):

Policing 47
Corrections 39
Criminal injury compensation 17
Victim assistance programs 3
Counselling for women 5
Aboriginal programs 3
Mental health care (Partial) 18
Alcohol and Drug treatment 7
Income assistance 161
Transition Houses 25
Sexual and Woman Assault Centres 2
Women's loss of work time 54
Children who witness abuse programs 2
Treatment programs for assaultive men 2

There also are references to the cost of violence in "Health Aspects of Violence Against Women: A Canadian Perspective", by Diane Kinnon and Louise Hanvey, published as part of the Women's Health Forum August 8-10, 1996, in Ottawa. It refers to costs identified by the Canadian Panel on Violence Against Women, published in 1993. This paper says the World Bank has estimated that in industrialized countries, sexual assault and domestic violence take away almost one in five healthy years of life of women aged 15 to 44. (United Nations, Violence Against Women, prepared for Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing, China, September 1995, New York, page 1).

I have copies of these papers if you need them. I would need an address for you to which I could send them, in that case.

Hope this is helpful.

Rosemary Cairns
Status of Women Council of the NWT
Yellowknife, NT


Financial costs of violence against women
Other Costs

From: Loretta Kemsley

On Tue, 29 Jun, End-Violence Moderators wrote:

* Do you have concrete numbers on any of the financial costs of violence
against women in your community/country? For example, the cost of:
- health services for women and girls who are harmed
- law enforcement specifically addressing violence against women
- loss of work on the part of victims
- reduced educational attainment, on the part of women and of their children affected by violence against themselves and their mothers
- "brain drain" in developing countries when women flee a hostile environment - other costs

There are other aspects which should be considered: the cost of moving (sometimes repeatedly) so she can be in hiding; loss of property because she has no way to take it with her or he steals it from her; evictions, attornies, restraining orders, child support enforcement and other legal costs; medical bills from injuries; mental health therapy and medicines; and repossessions, such as cars and furniture, because she can't afford the payments and he won't make them. Keeping on the move at dangerous times, such as night when he is off work, is expensive also, in gasoline, car repairs, and eating away from home. She might also arm herself or pay for enhanced security systems in the home.

I'm sure this list could be added to easily. These are/can be out of the pocket costs for the victim, most of which is never recovered in a divorce action or through a government agency.


Loretta Kemsley President

MOONDANCE: Celebrating Creative Women
Our vision, our wisdom, our strength 

"Advantage Woman, 1998" awarded by
Business Women's Advantage   


Financial costs of violence against women in USA

Dianne Post

From: The Impact of Domestic Violence on Your Legal Practice, American Bar Association Commission on Domestic Violence, 1996

Victimization in the workplace can cost an estimated $550 million annually in lost wages plus unknown costs due to short and long term disability arising from the violence.

Employers pay 4 billion a year in terms of absenteeism, increased health care expenses, higher turnover, lower productivity.

Insurance costs include not just the immediate injury but poorer health in general, increased physical symptoms and chronic pain, headaches, chronic back pain, pelvic pain, and gastrointenstional distress. Victims frequently access emergency room services which are the most expensive. Approximately 50% of all women in emergency rooms are there because of violence against them.

In l994, approximately 300,000 victims of domestic violence received free legal services. Even if each client received only l hours worth of assistance (very low estimate) and each hour was valued at $50 per hour (very low) it would come to $l50 million dollars.

Domestic violence costs $67 billion a year in property damage and loss, medical costs, resulting mental health care costs, police and fire services, victim services, and lost worker productivity. citing Ted R Miller et al, National Institute of Justice, US dept of Justice, Victim Costs and Consequences. A New Look, 18-19 (l996)


Australian report on economic costs of violence

From: Meeta Iyer


My name is Mythiley Iyer and I work with the Domestic Violence Resource Centre in Queensland, Australia.

In 1993, the Women's Policy Unit commissioned a study into the cost of violence against women. A report entitled "Who pays? The Economic Costs of Violence Against Women" was published in the same year.

You may still be able to receive a copy by contacting the current Executive Director, Stephanie Belfrage, at < womens_policy(AT) >. Alternately, the agency that I work with will be able to make a photocopy of the document if it is no longer available.


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