The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on Nov. 25 has its origins in the 1960 assassination of three of the four Mirabal sisters — Antonia, Maria and Patricia — who were political activists in the Dominican Republic. Their fourth sibling, Bélgica, passed away in 2014. The sisters, known as the Unforgettable Butterflies, became a symbol of the endemic violence against women around the world.

On the 15th year of this annual commemoration, designated by the United Nations to honour the memory of the Mirabal sisters, these disturbing statistics underscore the issues that women globally continue to face. 

1 in 3

Girls and women worldwide who have been victims of physical or sexual abuse at home, on the streets or during war, according to the World Health Organization. In most cases the perpetrator is an intimate partner, the WHO's research says. (World Health Organization, 2013)

20 to 24

The age range of women at greatest risk of experiencing violence by an intimate partner in Canada. In 2013 in this age group there were 1,128 incidents per 100,000 population. (Statistics Canada, 2013) 

4.5 million

Estimated number of people around the world are victims of forced sexual exploitation. Of those, 98 per cent are women and girls. (International Labour Organization, 2012)

700 million

Women worldwide who were married as children, 250 million of whom were married under the age of 15. Girls who marry before they are 18 are less likely to complete their education and more likely to experience domestic violence and complications in childbirth, according to UNICEF. The United Nations says child marriage is most prevalent in Niger, Bangladesh, Chad, Mali and the Central African Republic. (UNICEF, 2014)

133 million

Girls and women who have undergone genital mutilation. It is practiced in 29 countries, topped by Somalia, Guinea and Egypt. The UN says incidences of this type of physical abuse are about one-third lower than 30 years ago. (UNICEF, 2014)

1 in 2

Women murdered worldwide in 2012 who were killed by their partners or family members. In comparison, one in 20 murdered men died in such circumstances during the same period. (World Health Organization, 2013)


Women murdered in the U.S. by current or former male partners between September 2001 and June 2012, according to FBI records. That's nearly double the number of U.S. troops killed in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. (Upworthy/ Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2013)

Frank Elbers is a freelance reporter and a Fellow in Global Journalism at the Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto.