Whether it’s sex, health care or using contraception, women in developing countries lack control over decisions affecting their bodies, the UN says. Attacks includes rape, forced sterilization and genital mutilation.

Almost half of women in 57 countries around the world are denied the freedom to decide on what to do with their own bodies, the United Nations said in a report on Wednesday. This includes issues around sex, contraception and health care.

The My Body is My Own study lists attacks on women, including rape, forced sterilization, virginity tests and genital mutilation.

The head of the UN’s sexual and reproductive health agency (UNFPA), Natalia Kanem, said: “In essence, hundreds of millions of women and girls do not own their own bodies. Their lives are governed by others.”

Those other decision-makers may include partners, family members, society and government.

Rape ‘not always prosecuted and punished’

The underlying issues are often based on structural, societal problems, such as social taboos around sex (for women) and entrenched patriarchy, she said. This leads to male relatives having power over women’s choices, Kanem said.

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