Women and girls in the Middle East and North Africa region are particularly at risk of different forms of gender-based violence. At least forty percent of women in MENA have experienced physical or sexual intimate partner violence during their lifetime. Forms of violence include intimate partner violence, non-partner sexual violence, femicides, child and early marriage, female genital mutilation/cutting, and sexual harassment. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated GBV risks and affected access to services for survivors. Challenges are further compounded in fragile and conflict contexts, which result in higher levels of GBV, including sexual violence and forced marriage, and disrupted service provision.
Despite some political and legal improvements, major obstacles for effective prevention and response remain, including legal and policy gaps, weak institutional capacity, and inadequate protection and services for survivors. While most governments have signed international human rights treaties and conventions and announced steps to translate commitments into national legislation, strategies and action plans, progress in practice has been slow and inconsistent. Discriminatory social norms and behaviors continue to present a major obstacle for GBV survivors and those at risk.
GBV has devastating effects on individuals and societies and the cost of inaction is high. GBV can have severe impacts on individuals’ health and well-being and be a source of psychological trauma. In addition, GBV is costly for society. It affects the human capital potential of survivors, reducing labor market participation and civic activities. Estimates before the COVID-19 pandemic indicated that GBV can cost up to 3.7 percent of GDP in some countries – which is more than double than the amount that many governments spend on education.
To step up efforts to address different forms of GBV, the World Bank is launching a Regional Action Plan to address GBV in MENA. The Action Plan identifies concrete, actionable recommendations to prevent and respond to GBV through three pillars of action: (i) data and knowledge, (ii) policy dialogue, and (iii) operational engagement. The country diagnostics in the report serve to analyze prevalence, progress and gaps in GBV prevention and response in the region. An overview of rigorous evaluations of interventions provides best practices and lessons learned for WB engagement in the region. Existing WB engagement on GBV in MENA and examples from other regions represent building blocks for future engagement, guided by key principles for all GBV prevention and response efforts. Efforts to change social norms and behavior are integrated throughout the recommended actions moving forward.
The Regional Action Plan aims to serve as a call to action to increase our operational efforts and bring GBV to the forefront of policy dialogue in the region.