Home is the most dangerous place for women, confirms UN study

By Prarthana Mitra

On November 17, Buzzfeed published a piece against the anomalisation of sociopaths like Chris Watts and Scott Peterson, whose domestic homicides made international headlines and eventually put them on the death row.

A week later, on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, the United Nations came out with a report that said, more than half of the world’s murdered women last year were killed by their intimate partners or family members.

The biggest threat to women’s lives comes from the men they date and marry

Calling home “the most dangerous place for a woman,” the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime cited that 58% or 50,000 of the 87,000 female homicide cases studied were committed by the victims’ intimate partners or family members.

Around 34% of the crimes were found to have been committed by intimate or former partners, debunking a popular myth that generally pegs strangers, friends and acquaintances for violence against women. The biggest threat to women’s lives, as it turns out, comes from the men they date and marry.

137 women killed daily in 2017, by partners/family

“This amounts to some six women being killed every hour by people they know,” the report added, confirming the findings of another well-known report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to the 2017 report, 55% of female homicides were caused by domestic violence, while 93% of those victims were found to have been killed by their boyfriends, husbands, and lovers.

The UNODC study states that African and American (both North and South) women were in greater danger of being killed by intimate partners or family members. The lowest rates were found in Asia with 0.9% and Europe, with 0.7% victims per 100,000 female population.

A not-so-safe place

These are staggering numbers and yet the system of due process continues to fail women who are, moreover, expected to don their gender roles and keep the family together despite their best interests.

Even though women formed only 20% of the world’s homicide victims, the fact that the most of them suffer brutal crimes in the so-called safe space, suggests a gross imbalance in power dynamics in the domestic sphere. And unlike the dangers at the workplace or in the streets, this is more invisible and largely unaddressed.

For example, marital rape is still legal in India, with right-wing lawmakers claiming that criminalising non-consensual sex with a spouse could destabilise the institution of marriage. Although Asia fared slightly better, the problems of spousal ill treatment and domestic abuse are rampant, compounded by economic, historical and social mores.

UNODC chief Yury Fedotov concurred, saying, “[…]women continue to pay the highest price as a result of gender inequality, discrimination and negative stereotypes.” The report noted that “no tangible progress” has been made “despite legislation and programmes developed to eradicate violence against women.”


The study calls for greater coordination among various stakeholders like the law enforcement, judiciary, and health and social services. It also stressed the importance of involving men in the resolution process. For instance, Swayam, a Kolkata-based non-profit working to end violence against women, works closely with their male relatives (especially in rural areas) as part of a campaign to address and diffuse tension arising out of differences in biological sex and gender roles.

Making a case for effective crime prevention, safety and empowerment of potential victims besides the need for immediate legal redress to hold the accused accountable, Fedotov hopes this report will propel a breakthrough to make homes safe again.

Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius


Crimes against womendomestic abuseUnited NationsWomen's safety