Around 120 Million Girls Experience Sexual Violence, New UNICEF Report Shows

By Minggu Simon Lhasa

BANGKOK, Sept 5 (Bernama) -- Around 120 million girls under the age of 20 worldwide or about 1 in 10 have experienced forced intercourse or other forced sexual acts, according to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

One in three ever-married adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 (84 million) have been victims of emotional, physical or sexual violence committed by their husbands or partners, it said.

In the Philippines, where for 40 per cent of the adolescent girls who experienced forced sexual intercourse or sexual acts, the perpetrator was a current/former boyfriend, and for 25 per cent it was their current husband/partner, it said.

It is among major findings in the UNICEF report "Hidden in Plain Sight" which draws on data from 190 countries, documenting violence in places where children should be safe: their communities, schools and homes.

It said one fifth of homicide victims globally are children and adolescents under the age of 20, resulting in about 95,000 deaths in 2012.

Of these, 7,100 were in East Asia and the Pacific, with the highest rate in the region in Myanmar, followed by Cambodia.

Slightly more than one in three students between the ages of 13 and 15 worldwide are regularly bullied in school; in Samoa, the proportion is almost three in four, it said.

Over 20 per cent of students aged 13-15 surveyed in Myanmar, over 30 per cent in Thailand, and nearly 40 in Indonesia reported being physically attacked by other students in the past 12 months, it said.

About 17 per cent of children in 58 countries are subject to severe forms of physical punishment (hitting on the head, ears or face or hitting hard and repeatedly).

In Fiji, Kiribati, Laos, Vanuatu, Vietnam, and Solomon Islands, over 70 per cent of children aged 2-14 reported experiencing violent punishment in the previous month, it said, adding that in Mongolia, the figure was over 40 per cent.

Close to half of all adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 (around 126 million) believe a husband is justified in hitting his wife under certain circumstances, and the proportion rises to 80 per cent in Timor-Leste.

In 28 of 60 countries with data on both sexes, a larger proportion of girls than boys believe that wife-beating is sometimes justified, it said.

In Cambodia and Mongolia, girls are around twice as likely as boys to think a husband is sometimes justified in hitting his wife.

Data from 30 countries suggest that about seven in 10 girls aged 15-19 who had been victims of physical and/or sexual abuse had never sought help: many said they did not think it was abuse or did not see it as a problem, said UNICEF.

"These are uncomfortable facts - no government or parent will want to see them," said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake.

"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 mind-set that violence against children is normal and permissible. It is neither."


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