Statistics Gathering
Last updated May 2010

In partnership with UN Women, The Advocates for Human Rights created the following sections for UN Women's Virtual Knowledge Centre to End Violence against Women and Girls. This section, along with sections addressing other forms of violence against women and girls, may be found under Legislation at


       States should collect gender-disaggregated data on forced and child marriages on a domestic, regional and international level and cross-compare them to other statistics on crime, gender equality and migration. The UK government posts data on forced marriage on is inter-agency Forced Marriage Unit website.

       An important part of gathering statistics for forced and child marriages require the establishment of registration systems for births, deaths and marriages. (See: Registration of Marriage and Births) Also, drafters should establish a system for the registration of forced marriage cases by all agencies, neighborhood, local and regional authorities, public service providers and non-governmental organizations working on the issue.

       Reliable statistics on the prevalence of violence against women are essential to developing effective legislation and to developing strategies and protocols for the implementation of the legislation. Legislation should require the state to develop a methodology to obtain statistics on each of the types of violence against women. (See: Researching Violence Against Women: A Practical Guide for Researchers and Activists).

Organizations with expertise on forced and child marriage recommend that research broadly address the following guiding questions:  

o   What are the determinants of child marriages in hotspot areas?

o   What is the impact that laws have on the practice of child marriage?

o   What is the impact of child marriage on the health of young women and infants?

o   What indicators are needed to measure child marriage intervention programmes?

o   What are the links between child marriage and key development concerns including education, maternal and child health, gender equality, poverty and HIV?

See: IPPF, Ending Child Marriage: A guide for global policy action, 2006.

       Statistics on the frequency of acts of violence against women should be obtained from relevant government ministries, law enforcement, the judiciary, health professionals, and non-governmental organizations which serve survivors of violence against women. These acts should be disaggregated by gender, age, relationship between offender and survivor, race, ethnicity, and any other relevant characteristics. Monitors should note whether or not such data is publicly available and easily accessed. (See: Report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Yakin Erturk, Indicators on violence against women and state response, A/HRC/7/6, p.19, CENWOR in Sri Lanka, and CORE GAD in Philippines (ESCAP paper, p. 6)).

       Statistics should also be gathered on the causes and consequences of the acts of violence against women. (See: UN Handbook, 3.3.2, Guatemala’s Law against Femicide and other Forms of Violence against Women (2008), Mexico, Law on Access of Women to a Life Free of Violence (2007)) Data should also be collected on offenders, including whether and when an abuser re-offends. (See: UN Handbook 3.3.2).

       Monitors should also determine the number (per population statistics), geographic distribution and use statistics for hotlines, shelters and crisis centers. See: Report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Yakin Erturk, Indicators on violence against women and state response, A/HRC/7/6, p. 28, and We Can End VAW Campaign (South Asia); and Raising Voices (Uganda).

       Monitors must also determine the numbers of cases of all forms of violence against women and girls that are reported to law enforcement officials, and whether or not they are charged, if they go to trial, and how many convictions result.

       In some states, statistics on many of these issues will be readily available in administrative offices or national statistics or crime bureaus; in others, monitors will need to pose exact and strategic questions to government officials in law enforcement administration who are in a position to provide the information that is required.  This may involve a multi-step process of formal interview requests but it can be well worthwhile.

       For an analysis of national surveys carried out by the countries at the conference of European statisticians to measure violence against women, see the Economic Commission for Europe, Work session on gender statistics, (2006). 

(See: Addendum on Developing Transnational Indicators on Violence Against Women to Report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, 25 February 2008, A/HRC/7/6/Add.5, p. 12-13; and Monitoring of Laws on Violence against Women and Girls).

Promising Practice: National Survey on Forced Marriage in the United States

After noticing an increase in the number of requests for assistance with forced marriage cases, the Tahirih Justice Center in the United States conducted a national survey of service providers in 47 states on the prevalence of and response to forced marriage. Tahirih’s survey confirmed that forced marriage is a problem in the United States, with as many as 3,000 known and suspected cases identified by survey respondents from 2009-2011. Other key findings included:

       Forced marriage is being seen in immigrant communities from 56 different countries, and affects people of many different faiths. While many respondents reported encountering victims of Muslim family backgrounds, victims of Christian, Hindu, Buddhist and other backgrounds were also reported.

       Respondents who provided details on the age and gender of victims they encountered identified the majority as female, many of whom were girls under age 18. A small minority were identified as male.

       Two out of three respondents (67%) felt that there were cases of forced marriage not being identified in the populations with which they work—this finding suggests a significant population of “hidden victims” beyond the potentially 3000 cases identified through Tahirih’s survey.

       Less than 10% of respondents said they had a working definition of forced marriage at their agency, and less than a quarter of respondents (22%) said their agency’s screening and referral process enabled them to identify cases where forced marriage may be of concern.

       Less than one in five respondents (16%) said that their agency was properly equipped to help individuals facing forced marriage.

       Almost half of respondents (46%) who provided information on particular tactics used against victims reported that victims had been subjected to actual physical violence.

       13 respondents also reported murder attempts among the forced marriage cases they encountered, and 1 respondent reported an actual murder.

       42 respondents reported that they had encountered forced marriage victims who had contemplated or attempted suicide. 

The survey also identified an urgent need for additional research and increased support for coordinated response to the problem of forced marriage in the United States. Watch a video of Heather Heiman, attorney at the Tahirih Justice Center, discussing the results of the survey or read the survey summary report.