HRC 13: Youth Statement on Sexual Violence Against Children in School

Summary: Youth statement delivered during the annual full-day meeting on the rights of the child on behalf of Plan International, Defence for Children International, International Catholic Child Bureau, SOS Children's Villages, World Vision International, NGO Group for the Convention on the Rights of the Child*, War Child Holland*, Child Helpline International* and WAO Afrique (World Association for Orphans and Abandoned Children).

Thank you, Mr. President,

The UN Study on Violence Against Children and other studies have revealed that school-based sexual abuse is a major problem in many countries. The main perpetrators of sexual violence against children in school are people who are responsible for our upbringing such as teachers, older relatives, parents and our own peers.

In contrast to corporal punishment, girls are at greater risk of sexual violence
than boys – although many boys are also abused. In many schools girls face
a twin threat of sexual violence from both male teachers and older male
students. Studies show that girls are most likely to be abused on their journey
to or from school, in or near toilets, empty classrooms, computer rooms,
libraries or dormitories or near the perimeter of school grounds.

Victims are often reluctant to report sexual violence because of concerns of stigmatisation, lack of confidence that schools will take action, and limited willingness to confide in teachers for fear of reprisals. Few perpetrators are held accountable and therefore a lot of people in the society perceive sexual abuses as an acceptable norm in their day-to-day lives. In some contexts school authorities and even parents do not
necessarily disapprove of sexual relations between pupils and teachers.

Victims of sexual violence in schools suffer physical and psychological trauma and are at risk of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. Young girls may also face the consequences of unwanted pregnancy. These include unsafe abortion, social stigma and being forced to leave school. Teenage pregnancy often leads to the child becoming a laughing stock among peers and in the community. In the majority of cases, the girls do not return to complete school after delivery and are therefore unable to complete her basic education. The threat of sexual violence is a powerful factor in influencing parents to keep girls out of school, for girls themselves avoiding school and for girls’ underperformance in the classroom.

We call for a strengthening of the international commitment to end sexual violence in and around schools and for full implementation of the UN Study’s recommendations.

From my personal experience, sexual violence against children can be minimized and eradicated completely especially in developing countries if these recommendations and additional measures are taken into consideration.

Our youth group in Ghana is trying our best to combat violence against girls. Sexual abuse of girls at school and in the community is a real problem where I live and we girls are scared to become victim. But our club embarks on peer education and uses radio to sensitize people on this menace. We also held sensitization programmes at the school and in the community, using drama, float and teen talk shows where, inviting resource persons from the Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit of the Police Service. They talk to community members about the effects of such acts on the child as well as the punitive measures and sanctions of perpetrators of such acts. We feel that acting against violence is our best protection.

We are convinced that there has been a decrease in sexual abuse of girls thanks to these awareness raising activities. The girls and boys in my club now feel stronger and better protected and adults see us with different eyes.

We would like all governments and others to intensify law enforcement and to make sure that perpetrators are severely punished. Sensitization of the public should also continue. Girls are exposed to sexual abuse because of how boys and men – and we and our mothers – think about us. And finally, we need more support and training in our group to become even more efficient with our advocacy work. We recommend that children and youth get the chance to be involved in finding solutions for ending violence against children.





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