Haunting images capture the extent of gender-based violence around the globe

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Sarah Biddlecombe
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Violence against women and girls is prevalent across the world. To highlight the vital importance of this year’s “16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence” campaign, the United Nations reproductive health and rights agency (UNFPA) has shared a series of photographs with

It is a devastating fact of life that violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread - and persistent - human rights violations in the world today.

In the UN’s most recent report, almost one in five women between the ages of 15 and 49 said they had experienced physical and/or sexual violence inflicted by an intimate partner in the past year. And in 2012, almost half of the female victims of intentional homicide worldwide were murdered by either an intimate partner or family member.

Based on data collected from 87 countries between 2005 and 2016, the report shines a light on the horrifying extent of gender-based violence across the globe. One of the most vital tools in the fight against such violence is undoubtedly awareness and, to this end, UNiTE (a branch of the UN) will be leading a worldwide campaign of 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence from 25 November to 10 December.

Bookended by the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on 25 November and Human Rights Day on 10 December, the campaign’s theme is “Leave No One Behind: End Violence against Women and Girls”, with the theme colour of orange being used to light up landmarks and buildings around the world and bring attention to the cause.

To mark the campaign, is publishing a series of photographs shared exclusively from the United Nations reproductive health and rights agency, UNFPA. Featuring images of objects relating to real-life incidences of gender-based violence from around the world, accompanied by captions from the photographer, the haunting photographs show just how far we have to go in the fight to eliminate violence against women and girls.

Please note: the following images are graphic and might be difficult to look at.


“The UNFPA mobile team visited the family of Tatiana, a single mother with six children, who was suffering from violence inflicted by her ex-husband. The team are providing Tatiana with psychological support and information about social benefits that she can receive as a single mother of six children.”


“This is a photo of an examination room where rape survivors receive medical care at a UNFPA-supported Institute for Family Health (IFH) clinic in Amman, Jordan. The room is equipped to examine and treat rape-related injuries, evaluate and provide preventative care for sexually-transmitted infections, test for pregnancy, and collect forensic evidence. The photo features an examination bed with stirrups, a lamp, and an ultrasound machine.

Earlier this year, a 27-year-old Syrian refugee woman received medical care in this examination room after she was raped by one of her husband’s male relatives.

’They were supposed to meet at a café to talk about family problems, but then he insisted that they talk at his house,’ recalls Dr. Rania Elayyan, a general practitioner specializing in the clinical management of rape at IFH. She treated the female rape survivor in the examination room featured in the photo.

’When she tried to leave his house, he pushed her onto the bed and began strangling her. Then he ripped off her clothes and raped her. After the rape, the man who did it apologised to her. She didn’t tell anyone about the rape. She kept it a secret.

’She came by herself to the clinic. She was worried she was pregnant. When she came to the clinic, she was sad, frustrated, and traumatised. When she came into the room I consoled her and listened to her story. Once she felt comfortable, I gave her a medical exam and tested her for pregnancy and sexually-transmitted infections. All of the tests came out negative.

’She was very happy that she wasn’t pregnant, but she was still sad and in shock.’”


“This photo is from the project #otkrytažitʹ, organized by UNFPA Belarus together with Niko Sandros and ОО “Radislava” / NGO RADISLAVA in Minsk.

’Open to live’ is an art therapy course for women victims of domestic violence. During the course, the participants acknowledge their experiences and fears, express them on paper and share these images with others.”


“Asha Ali Ibrahim, a 41-year-old Female Genital Mutilation FGM circumciser, shows the blades and home remedy anti-bleeding powder she carries in her handbag outside her home in Diaami, Hargeisa in Somaliland, July 14, 2017.”

“Carmen*, an 18-year-old college student, said: ‘I loved doing my makeup and getting dressed up, but my boyfriend hated it. He told me I didn’t look good and that I’d get wrinkles, so I started doing it alone, hiding in the bathroom. It sounds silly, but those little things add up and make you feel bad. They affect your self-esteem and they change you.’

Psychological violence in adolescent relationships is the most invisible and naturalised, but it initiates what can, in many cases, transform into physical violence.”


“Rawa’s* father prevented her from studying and deprived her of her most basic rights after sexually assaulting and raping her. He would use this rope to tie her to this bed and rape her. One day she ran away to the police station, who referred her to a shelter. The father was later taken to the police.

We spoke to the shelter’s official and the girl then took us to the room where he has been assaulting her, where I took this photo.”

* Some names have been changed

Images courtesy of UNFPA