Largest Global Study on Violence Against Women Finds Feminist Movements Hold the Key to Change

Share Article

Recently published in the American Political Science Review, a new study on violence against women conducted over four decades and in 70 countries reveals the mobilization of feminist movements is more important for change than the wealth of nations, left-wing political parties, or the number of women politicians.

A new study on violence against women conducted over four decades and in 70 countries reveals the mobilization of feminist movements is more important for change than the wealth of nations, left-wing political parties, or the number of women politicians.

The study in the latest issue of American Political Science Review (APSR), published by Cambridge University Press for the American Political Science Association (APSA), found that in feminist movements that were autonomous from political parties and the state, women were able to articulate and organize around their top priorities as women, without having to answer to broader organizational concerns or mens' needs. Mobilizing across countries, feminist movements urged governments to approve global and regional norms and agreements on violence.

Strong, autonomous feminist movements were the first to articulate the issue of violence against women and the key catalysts for government action, with other organizations sidelining issues perceived as being only important to women. Strong movements commanded public support and attention, and convinced the media the issues were important for public discussion. In countries that were slower to adopt policies on violence, feminist movements leveraged global and regional agreements to push for local policy change.

S. Laurel Weldon, co-author of the study, said: “Violence against women is a global problem. Research from North America, Europe, Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, and Asia has found astonishingly high rates of sexual assault, stalking, trafficking, violence in intimate relationships, and other violations of women’s bodies and psyches. In Europe it is a bigger danger to women than cancer, with 45 per cent of European women experiencing some form of physical or sexual violence. Rates are similar in North America, Australia and New Zealand and studies in Asia, Latin America and Africa show that violence towards women there is ubiquitous.”

The scope of data for the study is unprecedented. The study includes every region of the world, varying degrees of democracy, rich and poor countries, and a variety of world religions – it encompasses 85 per cent of the world’s population. Analyzing the data took five years, which is why the most recent year covered is 2005.

Mala Htun, co-author of the study, adds: “Social movements shape public and government agendas and create the political will to address issues. Government action, in turn, sends a signal about national priorities and the meaning of citizenship. The roots of change of progressive social policies lie in civil society.”


Notes to Editors:
‘The civic origins of progressive policy change: combating violence against women in a global perspective, 1975-2005’ is published in the latest issue of American Political Science Review and is available online at:

For further information please contact Michael Marvin of Cambridge University Press at (001) 212.337.5041 or by email at: mmarvin(at)cambridge(dot)org

The authors of the study are available for interview. Please use the contact details above to arrange.

About the American Political Science Review
Published for the American Political Science Association, American Political Science Review is political science's premier scholarly research journal, providing peer-reviewed articles and review essays from subfields throughout the discipline. Areas covered include political theory, American politics, public policy, public administration, comparative politics, and international relations. The APSR has published continuously since 1906.

The latest issue the APSR includes:

  •     Inequality and regime change: democratic transitions and the stability of democratic rule, Stephen Haggard and Robert Kaufman
  •     Crime victimization and political participation, Regina Bateson
  •     Rule creation in a political hierarchy, Clifford Carrubba and Tom Clark
  •     Benchmarking across borders: electoral accountability and the necessity of comparison, Mark Kayser and Michael Peress

Further information and a full list of contents can be found at:

All articles are available in full; please contact us using the details above.

About the American Political Science Association
APSA, founded in 1903, is the leading professional organization for the study of political science and serves more than 15,000 members in more than 80 countries. With a range of programs and services, APSA brings together political scientists from all fields of inquiry, regions, and occupational endeavors within and outside academe, with the aim of expanding awareness and understanding politics.

For more information go to:

About Cambridge Journals
Cambridge University Press publishes over 300 peer-reviewed journals, including journals published on behalf of over 100 learned societies, which form the latest in research and discovery across a range of topics. Many of these journals are the leading academic publications in their fields and together they form one of the most valuable and comprehensive collections of research available today.

Across the world, Cambridge Journals are available in online and in print – keeping scientists, researchers and scholars abreast of crucial developments in research.

For further information, go to:

Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Michael Marvin
Cambridge University Press
Email >
Visit website