Violence against girls
Table of Contents
Violence against girls worldwide
Sexual and physical violence against adolescent girls is an enormous international problem, one that claims victims in practically every country and culture. The World Health Organization estimated in 2002 that 150 million girls under the age of 18 had experienced sexual violence, and further research shows that a majority of sexual assaults are committed against girls younger than 15. Studies have found that girls who are raped are three times more likely to have an unwanted pregnancy, and additionally, girls who become pregnant under the age of fifteen are five times more likely to die in childbirth than women. Young victims are also unlikely to continue their education, due to pregnancy, shame, or fear of their abuser and the reaction of their community.
Girls who are raped are especially vulnerable for getting HIV/AIDS. Even if she is not initially affected, factors such as depression or substance abuse stem from being sexually assaulted, and place the victim at a higher chance of becoming infected in the future.
Domestic abuse and violence between couples is not reserved to adults–adolescents, many of whom are girls, find themselves the victims of mental, physical, and sexual abuse at the hands of their partners. As of now, teen dating violence is primarily a concern in the United States and in Canada, where so far most of the research has taken place.
In the United States, this is a large problem, yet one that is often overlooked or ignored. Though studies have found that about 1.5 million high schoolers consider themselves to be in an abusive relationship, only one third of teenagers feel comfortable confiding to a third party. While both young men and women are affected by dating violence, girls are especially vulnerable and are about three times more likely to be subjected to abuse by their significant other.
This issue adversely affects both the abuser and the abused. The perpetrator will likely continue his or her behavior as an adult. 50% of teenagers who have experienced systematic sexual or physical abuse will attempt suicide. Many lawmakers do not consider this phenomenon to be domestic abuse, and therefore eight states currently do not allow victims to apply for restraining orders.
Many Latin American countries are imbued with a heightened sense of masculinity, and as a result, young girls are often victims of violence against either their behavior or their looks. For example, Guatemala has been ranked third in the world for violence against females, with an average of two women killed each day. Though there have been femicide laws passed in the Congress, they have not helped the situation much, especially because victims do not report violence for fear of retaliation from their communities. Colombia, like Guatemala, is plagued by domestic violence cases, with many of the younger victims deemed as too pretty or independent. The weapon of choice in Colombia is acid–in 2012, acid attacks were numbered at 150. Often, boyfriends will pay hitmen to do the deed for them. Acid attacks usually aren’t fatal, but they produce severe physical and psychological consequences.
In the past few years, lawmakers have implemented measures to combat the growing problem of femicide. Dr. Claudia Paz y Paz was elected as the attorney general of Guatemala in 2010, and has put gender based violence at the top of her agenda. The Criminal Court for Crimes of Femicide and Violence against Women seeks to provide a sympathetic and safer space where girls and women can report violence against themselves or others.
The fight against violence
The UN has established the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women as one of its Millenium Development Goals (MDGs). Systematic violence against girls is seen as a primary factor in keeping young children from attending school regularly or at all.