World|opinion & analysis|September 6, 2014 / 11:01 AM
One in 10 girls worldwide face serious sexual violence

AKIPRESS.COM - child abuse About one in 10 girls around the world experiences serious sexual violence, the UN children’s agency has said in a major report detailing the “staggering extent” of sexual, physical and emotional abuse faced by young people.

The UNICEF report found that 120 million girls and female adolescents under 20 had endured rape or other forced sexual acts, with such experiences especially common in some developing countries around 70 per cent of girls suffer sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Equatorial Guinea, and around 50 per cent in Uganda, Tanzania and Zimbabwe, UNICEF said.

The report also pointed to problems in richer countries, with many girls reporting “sexual victimisation”, for example, by harassment or exposure to pornography.

Many young victims did not report abuse, the authors found, with data showing that nearly half of all girls aged 15-19 who said they had faced physical and/or sexual violence had never told anyone about it.

The report also highlighted the high numbers of young people murdered every year, totalling around 95,000 deaths in 2012. In some countries, for example Panama, Venezuela, Brazil and Colombia, murder is the leading cause of death for males aged 10-20. Nigeria alone had 13,000 child and adolescent homicides in 2012, with around 11,000 in Brazil.

More widely, the researchers found the widespread use of violent forms of discipline against even very young children; a significant problem of violent bullying by peers; and very divergent views on physical and sexual abuse.

Violence against children occurred “every day, everywhere”, said Anthony Lake, Unicef’s executive director. “And while it harms individual children the most, it also tears at the fabric of society, undermining stability and progress. But violence against children is not inevitable. It is preventable, if we refuse to let violence remain in the shadows.”

Of the findings in the report, Lake said: “These are uncomfortable facts no government or parent will want to see them. But unless we confront the reality each infuriating statistic represents the life of a child whose right to a safe, protected childhood has been violated we will never change the mindset that violence against children is normal and permissible. It is neither.”

The report, Hidden in Plain Sight, takes in data from 190 countries. On sexual violence, it identifies a particular problem with countries in sub-Saharan Africa: more than 10 per cent of all girls in 13 of the 18 nations for which there is data report being forced to have sex. Sexual violence against girls takes place mostly in adolescence, but in many of these countries at least one in five girls reports suffering sexual abuse between 10 and 14.

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