A Statistical Snapshot of Violence against Adolescent Girls

Posted by Share-Net Burundi on October 11, 2016 at 7:21 pm


Every 10 minutes, somewhere in the world, an adolescent girl dies as a result of violence. Yet these deaths represent only the most extreme and irrevocable assaults in a long continuum of violence faced by adolescent girls on a daily basis, usually at the hands of people closest to them – caregivers, peers and intimate partners.

Violence can take many forms, including physical, sexual and emotional violence, and varies in its severity. While all adolescents may experience violence, being a girl presents unique vulnerabilities
– some with consequences that can last a lifetime . Gender discrimination, norms and practices mean that adolescent girls are likely to experience certain forms of violence, such as sexual violence, at much higher rates than boys. Girls are also more likely to be exposed to certain harmful practices, such as child marriage and female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) – both of which are direct manifestations of gender inequality.

Puberty intensifies the vulnerability of girls to violence. During the transition into womanhood, sexuality and gender roles begin to assume greater importance in how adolescent girls are viewed socially. Fr many girls, the first experience of sexual intercourse is unwanted or even coerced. Young brides face especially high risks of physical, emotional and sexual violence along with curtailed personal freedom and decision-making power. Puberty is also a time in which girls are more likely to engage in risky behaviours – such as drug and alcohol abuse and unprotected, unsafe sex – that increase their susceptibility to violence. Girls’ low status in society and within the family, along with the tendency of men and boys to wield power, especially over girls’ sexuality, are key factors in the high rates of violence against adolescent girls. When such factors remain at play into adulthood, they tend to reinforce recurring patterns of violence and the restrictions placed upon women.

Gender inequality contributes not only to the pervasiveness of violence against girls, but also to its acceptability. In some societies, for example, sexual violence, child marriage and FGM/C are not regarded as forms of violence, or even as problems to be addressed. And many girls themselves do not identify these violations as violence or abuse.

The right of adolescent girls to be protected from all forms of violence and discrimination is guaranteed under the convention on the rights of the child, its optional protocols and the convention on the elimination of all forms of violence against women. Moreover, many countries have legal frameworks that make sexual and physical violence against girls punishable by law. Similarly, child marriage and FGM/C are legally prohibited in many countries where these harmful practices still prevail. Ending the cycle of violence against adolescent girls, however, requires more than the passage and enforcement of laws and conventions. Systems and services need to be reoriented with a view to reducing the risk of harm to girls. For example, transportation options that emphasize safety and accessibility to girls need to be provided. Similarly, lighting, water and sanitation services need to be structured to give girls greater mobility and access to schooling, enabling them to establish essential daily routines.

Most importantly, girls must be empowered with the knowledge, skills, resources and options they need to reach their potential and serve as their own advocates. Educating girls and boys in an environment that is responsive to gender differences and free from all forms of violence, neglect and abuse is a key strategy in breaking the cycle of violence. Providing adolescent girls with life skills education can help them develop critical thinking, build self-esteem, communicate and negotiate effectively, and solve problems in a cooperative way. It can also build skills required to cope with violence if and when it does occur

Helping reduce girls’ vulnerabilities and expand their opportunities, including increasing their access to social, health and economic resources, is an integral component of empowerment.

Ending violence against adolescent girls involves action at every level. Governments, the private sector, civil society organizations, communities and ordinary individuals all have a role to play in stopping the cycle of violence and in contributing to the empowerment of adolescent girls .

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