Nearly half of all female murder victims are killed by intimate partners or family members, according to a new United Nations report, while the same is true of about one in every 20 male victims.

In 1995, the Fourth World Conference on Women highlighted the human rights violations experienced by girls and women. However, in the 20 years since then, only limited advances have been made toward even a jagged equality. “Overall progress,” the report states, “has been unacceptably slow, with stagnation and even regression in some contexts.” Sadly, even a simple reduction in violence against women appears far beyond humanity’s grasp right now.

All regions of the world have what the UN describes as "unacceptably high" rates of violence against women. While 35 percent of women worldwide report being physically or sexually violated, the greatest prevalence occurs in low- and middle-income regions. Nearly 46 percent of women living in Africa report at least one experience of physical or sexual violence. In Southeast Asia, 40.2 percent of women reported the same; in Eastern Mediterranean, 36.4 percent; in the Americas, 36.1 percent; in the Western Pacific region, 27.9 percent; and in Europe, 27.2 percent.

“The most common form of violence experienced by women is intimate partner violence, which often leads to injuries and at times, results in death,” the report states. Though it may boast the lowest numbers, a recent survey conducted in Europe found slightly more than half of men surveyed agreed that women’s behavior was a cause of domestic violence against them.

Alarmingly, many women blame themselves for the violence directed against them. One in every five women believe a husband is justified in beating his wife if she argues with him, while another one in four believe he is justified in doing so if she neglects the children, data from 37 countries reveals. While direct harm to victims may be obvious, violence also exerts a subtle, more insidious influence on the lives of all women.

Freedom is lost.

Liberty and Truth

Half of all women in the European Union avoid certain situations or places at times for fear of being physically or sexually assaulted, notes one of the underlying studies quoted in the UN report. By comparison, far fewer men restrict their movements. Shockingly, 14 percent of women avoid leaving home alone for fear of assault — and even there they may not feel entirely safe, with three out of every 10 women confessing to a refusal to open their front doors when alone. Three percent of women also avoid being alone with a colleague or boss for fear of assault. Nearly one in every five (18 percent) of all women have been stalked. Stalking is calculated, the researchers are careful to state, only after a woman has reached age 15.

“Across the EU as a whole, just under one in 10 women feel the need to carry something for self-defense purposes,” this same report concludes.

President Theodore Roosevelt is said to have been fond of quoting an African proverb he learned while on safari: "Speak softly and carry a big stick." Most women naturally fulfill the first half of this policy. Maybe it's time to implement the second half?