(HealthDay News) — The worldwide prevalence of non-partner sexual violence is estimated at 7.2%, with regional estimates ranging from 3.3 to 21%, according to a review published online February 12 in The Lancet.

Naeemah Abrahams, PhD, from the South African Medical Research Council in Cape Town, and colleagues conducted a systematic review to estimate the prevalence of non-partner sexual violence against women. A total of 7,231 studies were identified and 412 estimates were obtained for 56 countries.

The researchers found that 7.2% of women worldwide had ever experienced non-partner sexual violence. Central and southern sub-Saharan Africa had the highest estimates (21.0 and 17.4%, respectively), while the lowest prevalence was seen in south Asia (3.3%). Limited data were available for the following specific areas: central sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa/Middle East, eastern Europe, and high-income Asia Pacific.

“Sexual violence against women is common worldwide, with endemic levels seen in some areas, although large variations between settings need to be interpreted with caution because of differences in data availability and levels of disclosure,” the authors write. “Nevertheless, our findings indicate a pressing health and human rights concern.”

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