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UN Report reveals one in 10 girls sexually abused

On Friday, September 5th, UNICEF released a disturbing report revealing that about 120 million girls around the world , slightly more than one in 10 – have been raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 20.

The UNICEF report found that such sexual abuse among girls was especially common in some developing countries. 70% of girls suffer sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Equatorial Guinea, and an estimated 50% in Uganda, Tanzania and Zimbabwe, UNICEF said. Furthermore, the report also pointed to problems in richer countries, with many girls reporting “sexual victimisation”, for example, by harassment or exposure to pornography.

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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 experienced  sexual violence had never told anyone about it.

The report also found that 30% of girls, between the ages of 15 and 19, who had at some time been in cohabiting relationships, had been victims of emotional, physical or sexual violence committed by their husbands or partners, the report said.

Even more disturbing, is that violence against children in some countries remained the norm or tacitly condoned, and quite often victims were too afraid to report the abuse. The research revealed this in the form of a large-scale survey in six eastern Caribbean states which found that a majority of people did not think male attitudes towards women was a cause of such abuse, while 75% of them thought the way a girl dressed could draw sexual attention.

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UNICEF executive director Anthony Lake stated that the violence “cuts across boundaries of age, geography, religion, ethnicity and income brackets”. 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 concludes with this statement, “Ending violence against children is in our hands. With reliable data, we will know when this human rights imperative is finally achieved.”. Although data has converted the reality of these children into facts, what steps can be taken to reduce and dissolve such harsh numbers?  Furthermore, what approaches- if any- can be made to change the attitudes of those who accept such acts as the norm?

Written by: Abi Ogunmwonyi



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