The cost of societal violence

What’s the biggest killer in our societies now? Wars? Diseases? Religion? Road accidents? Snake bites? Guess what takes the cake?

study by James Fearon of Stanford University and Anke Hoeffler of Oxford University’s Centre for the Study of African Economies argues that societal violence – homicides and especially violence against women and children – is a much bigger problem than civil wars. Nine people are killed in interpersonal violence for every battlefield death in a civil war, and one child is killed for every two combatants who die.


Me too.

I thought I am more likely to die in a road accident here in crazy Dhaka traffic. Or wait, with all the plane crashes, maybe on the plane. Or worse case scenario, maybe get buried under my building if Dhaka gets a BIG earthquake.

Nope….. It seems that me.. and you… and most people we know….. are far more likely to die from societal violence.

From living in close quarters with other people. People just like you and me.

Bleak isn’t it?

While we still don’t know enough, two points are certain. First, domestic violence against women and children imposes a social cost of $8 trillion each year, making it a huge – and vastly under-reported – global issue. Second, there are solutions that can help to tackle some of these problems very cost-effectively. That is why reducing domestic violence belongs on the shortlist for the world’s next set of development goals.

This is part of a global report authored by: Bjørn Lomborg, an adjunct professor at the Copenhagen Business School. You can read more about the Economic of Violence here

Since I am a woman, my chances of dying from societal violence just went up, along with my mother’s, my sisters, my cousins, my friends and our children. Basically, almost every other woman whom I know and the children I know, has a bigger chance of being affected vs. the men in my life.

While the picture is bleak, the report mentions at least two ways of reducing violence that are cost-effective and targeted.

Stronger social services can reduce violence against children. Studies in Washington State show that home visits from trained staff can reduce child abuse, improve children’s quality of life and physical and mental health, and reduce child-welfare and litigation costs. One dollar spent on this programme produces benefits of $14, making it a highly cost-effective policy.

In the United Kingdom, a pilot study on stronger enforcement of existing rules showed that assaults could be reduced in a very cost-effective way, with the benefits outweighing the costs by 17 to one.

So if we know that investing in prevention of violence can save the countries of the world trillions, why is the biggest expenditures still on the army?

If our chances of dying from societal violence is higher than by any other means, shouldn’t we be campaigning & pushing for a higher allocation of state resources dedicated to reducing violence?

Since violence affects 1 out of every 3 women world-wide and 9 out of 10 women in Bangladesh, it’s time to realign our priorities. It’s time to stop thinking ‘it’s not going to happen to me‘.

I worried more about eating the wrong food, getting cancer or diabetes even…. but I guess my priorities are not based on facts….

Posted on February 11, 2015, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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