Across the globe, 150 million girls under 18 years are victims of sexual violence. Many of these young people suffer from Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs), difficulty sleeping, depression, and alcohol consumption habit. Being children of the communities where they belong, their parents, guardians, relatives, and neighbors bear the primary responsibility over the fate of these children.
Whether as a weapon of war, as punishment, or for the simple belief of some that man has the right to use the woman when and how he pleases, the reality of sexual abuse of minors is a global health problem and a violation of fundamental rights of women. Sexual abuse has put women’s lives at risk, as well as their families’, because women are the backbone of the household in many cultures, not to mention of the economic and social development of poorer countries.
According to the World Health Organization, approximately 20% of women and 5%-10% of men have suffered sexual abuse during their childhood. Globally, there are an estimated 150 million girls under 18 years who suffer sexual violence in the form of touching and forced sex.
Sexual abuse during childhood has long-term effects on the victim. Psychological trauma is just one of them. This is the highlight of a study conducted by researchers on sexually abused female youth in Swaziland. The study is featured this month in the journal The Lancet.
The figures can produce chills. One in three girls suffers at least one episode of sexual violence before age 18. Most likely, the offender is a male relative, neighbor, or boyfriend. At least 40% of these children have been subjected to such abuse more than once. 13% of the time, the episode happened in school. These data are some of the results of the said study funded by UNICEF in Swaziland.
In sub-Saharan Africa, sexual violence is starting to be a concern, but there have been few reliable studies on the situation in the region. The study published in The Lancet on the situation in Swaziland, the second smallest country of continental Africa and the one most affected by HIV in the world, paints a very discouraging picture.
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