Amnesty reported on Friday that up to one billion women-one in three-had been beaten, forced to have sex or otherwise abused, often by a friend or family member.

The group revealed its findings in a report, “It’s in our hands. Stop violence against women.”
 
"This is not something that just happens 'over there.' It happens here," said Amnesty's secretary general Irene Khan, launching a campaign to end violence against women.

"Until all of us, men as well as women, say 'no, I will not let this happen' it will not stop," she said. 

In Zambia, five women a week were murdered by a male partner or family friend, while around the world one woman in five would suffer a rape or attempted rape at some point, and the practice had even become a weapon of war.
 
"Armed conflict is having a devastating and desperate impact on women that goes far beyond the inherent violence of war," Khan said.
 
Each year two million girls between the ages of five and 15 were forced into prostitution and the traffic in women was worth up to $7 billion a year, Amnesty said.

Global problem

The problem was by no means confined to developing regions. 

“The effects of economic globalisation are leaving more and more women trapped in poverty on the margins of society"

Irene Khan,
Secretary General,
Amnesty International

In the United States, a woman was beaten by her husband or partner on average every 15 seconds and one was raped every 90 seconds, while in France 25,000 women were raped each year, the report said.

But such was the stigma attached to rape victims - some of whom might later be murdered by a family member in so-called honour killings -that the level of reporting was a fraction of the truth.
 
In sub-Saharan Africa, the epicentre of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, nearly 60% of infected people were women - a rising trend exacerbated by the belief in some countries that raping a virgin would cure the perpetrator of the disease.

Worldwide more than 135 million girls and women had undergone female circumcision, and the number was rising at a rate of two million a year, Amnesty said.

“The effects of economic globalisation are leaving more and more women trapped in poverty on the margins of society," Khan said.