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Older women are speaking out about elder abuse

Women from 19 countries have shared their personal experiences of elder abuse in order to break the taboo.

Published on 15 June 2017 06:00 AM

Women from 19 countries have shared their personal experiences of elder abuse - in order to break the taboo.

All over the world women are being beaten, raped, attacked, humiliated, bullied, neglected, robbed and cheated – merely because they are female and older.

Their stories have been published anonymously in a report which aims to highlight the abuses that older women suffer - and explore what can be done to tackle the abuse. 250 women were consulted, from varying social and economic backgrounds.

Reports of shocking physical violence

Many women said they had been beaten, threatened with weapons, and even threatened with death.

‘They threatened to kill me and even showed me a sword. They forced me to leave my village,’ said one woman in Nepal.  

Older women bullied by women and men

The need to control and subjugate older women  -even by other, younger, women - is exposed in the report, as older women discuss times they were humiliated and infantilised:

‘If I want to wash my clothes, then I have to ask [my] daughter-in-law for the soap. Sometimes she hides [the soap]… she usually does not allow me to enter her room. Even my movement in the house is restricted,' said a woman in Nepal.  

‘I would like to escape but I have to take care of so much in the house. I feel like one of my dogs,’ reported one grandmother from Chile. 

Older women face abuse and neglect 

Women said they were denied food, prevented from bathing regularly. Their clothes and bedding were not washed, they were not taken to the doctor and children failed to visit.

‘There’s no one to even see me, no one to bring me a glass of water when I need it. I am old and alone now, no one needs me,’ explained a woman from Serbia.

Widows are targeted

Older widows can be seen as being ‘bad luck’; they are sometimes forbidden from attending family events or religious ceremonies.

Widows also find themselves being accused of witchcraft by people who say they murdered their partner using magic. Women who are accused of witchcraft are often violently attacked and kicked out of their homes, as ‘retribution’. These attacks are usually financially motivated – it is a way to take land from women who have no one to defend them.

‘My in-laws started to discriminate against me after the death of my husband. They took my husband’s land and urged me to leave my village,’ one widow said. 

Report hopes to protect women

The report has been published by Age International's partner charity - HelpAge International. Age International is the face of HelpAge in the UK. 

By shedding a light on the kinds of abuses older women face, Age International and HelpAge International hope that older women will become more protected - because the abuse they face will be better understood and harder to ignore.   

Download the report

What older women say about their rights to non-discrimination and equality, and to freedom from violence, abuse and neglect

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Last updated: Aug 22 2018

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