No place for violence I

While the importance of a broad-based and strong peace movement with continuity in its functioning is widely realized, what exists in the name of peace movements is much more limited and fragmented.

No place for violence I

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While the importance of a broad-based and strong peace movement with continuity in its functioning is widely realized, what exists in the name of peace movements is much more limited and fragmented. Instead of having continuity this fragmented movement tends to be active only at the time of emergencies. However, it is not realized that it can be effective in tackling even emergency situations only if strength and a broad base are being built all the time.

The peace movement should be as much concerned with reducing violence in the daily life of people as it should be with reducing the possibilities of wars and relentless arms race. In fact it is only by checking violence in everyday life that the peace movement can acquire the much broader base and continuity that it needs for being much more effective than it presently is. Violence in daily life brings death, serious injury and other tragic consequences on a massive scale and with continuity. According to WHO data, the number of children in the 2-17 age group who have suffered physical, sexual, and emotional violence and neglect in the past one year is staggering – it is one billion or almost one-half of the total number of children in this age-group. According to UN Women, in the age-group above 15, as many as 736 million women and girls, or 30 per cent of the total, have been subjected to physical or sexual violence at least once in life. Less than 40 per cent of women who experience violence seek help of any kind. At least 200 million women in 31 countries have undergone female genital mutilation.

According to the World Report on Violence and Health (WRVH), studies from Australia, Canada, Israel, South Africa, and the USA show that 40-70 per cent of female murder victims were killed by their husbands or boyfriends, frequently in the context of an ongoing abusive relationship. This report also tells us that “each year hundreds of thousands of women and girls throughout the world are bought and sold into prostitution or sexual slavery.” There were 458,000 homicides worldwide in 2021, 52 per hour.


The highest rate of homicides was recorded in the Americas – 15 per 100,000 compared to 2.3 in Asia. According to the latest available data, 176,000 youth in the age-group 15-29 die in homicides in a year, the vast majority being males dying at the hands of males. In this age-group, homicides are the third leading cause of death. Further, as the WRVH tells us, “Studies of non-fatal violence reveal that for every youth homicide there are around 20-40 victims of non-fatal youth violence receiving hospital treatment.” According to the WRVH, among adolescent males in secondary schools, the percentage reporting involvement in physical fighting in the past year ranged from 22 per cent in Sweden and 44 per cent in the USA to 76 per cent in Jerusalem, Israel. A survey in the Netherlands revealed that 21 per cent of secondary school students admitted to possessing a weapon. A national survey of students in grades 9-12 in the USA found that 17 per cent had carried a weapon in the previous 30 days, 7 per cent in school premises.

In a survey of 40 developing countries in schools nearly 42 per cent of boys and nearly 37 per cent of girls were involved in bullying. In a year over 700,000 people die in suicides. However the number of suicide attempts is many times higher, and these attempts also result frequently in very serious injuries and disabilities (in several countries even in imprisonment). In the USA there are over 1.2 million suicide attempts compared to 48,000 suicides, or the number of suicide attempts is over 24 times higher than self-inflicted deaths.

The WRVH report says regarding the ratio of fatal to nonfatal suicides – “in young people under 25 years the ratio may reach 1:100-200.” There are a very large number of other cases of self-harm of various kinds. Suicides are much more common in men than in women. There is a tragic increase of incidents involving violence and neglect of elderly people. One out of six persons in the age-group over 60 are likely to suffer from this. At places, the situation in nursing homes has been found to be worse. Violence in the workplace is much higher than is generally realized.

The WRVH informs us that in the USA, “official statistics have placed homicide as the second single leading cause of death in the workplace – after road traffic injuries – for men, and the first for women… Research in UK has found that 53 per cent of employees have suffered bullying at work and 78 per cent have witnessed such behaviour.” In Sweden repeated acts of workplace violence and harassment have been a factor in 10-15 per cent of suicides.

Looking only or mainly at violence-related mortality does not convey a complete sense of the enormous tragedy of violence in daily life. As the WRVH says, “In all parts of the world, deaths represent only the ‘tip of the iceberg’ as far as violence is concerned.” Violence data is often based mainly on police records. However, according to the WRVH, a survey in South Africa revealed that 50 to 80 per cent victims of violence who received medical treatment for violence-related injury did not report the incident to the police.

In another survey in the USA, 46 per cent of victims who sought emergency treatment did not make a report to the police. A single act of violence causes distress not just to the victim but to many persons, for example to the near and dear ones of the victim. Clearly there should be a great sense of urgency to make the best possible efforts to reduce and minimize this enormous and continuing tragedy.

War has always been a source of immense human distress. What is more important to point out is that its capacity to cause distress and destruction has been increasing in very dangerous ways. The WRVH report has provided the following information on deaths caused by war and conflict during the last five centuries:

16th century – 1.6 million

17th century – 6.1 million

18th century – 7.0 million

19th century – 19.4 million

20th century – 109.7 million

Of course population has also been increasing but the almost six fold increase from the 19th to the 20th century is deeply disturbing. This figure indicates that over a million perished per year on an average during the 20th century in wars and conflicts. What is more, this figure may not include all of the mortality caused by many indirect impacts of wars and conflicts.

(The writer is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Protecting Earth for Children, Planet in Peril and A Day in 2071.)