girls at risk
Throughout history, we see women fighting for liberation. These heroines didn’t stop until what they wanted was achieved. In America, the Women’s Suffrage Movement began in 1848 and quickly netted victories. Women gained the right to sue, and inherit property. Women fought for the right to vote in primary elections and eventually gained access to full voting rights in 1920 with the ratification of the 19th Amendment.

Today, gender inequality is heavily spoken of in terms of a work environment: equal pay and equal opportunity. Rarely is the issue of girls being sold into slavery highlighted in national headlines. Seldom is it publicly mentioned that nearly one-third of girls around the world that are married before the age of 18. Sadly, the fact that there are so many young girls at risk receives little attention.

In a recent report published by UNICEF, statistics show that about 120 million girls have been forced into a sexual act before reaching the age of 20.

The report shows that over 30 percent of girls were sexually exploited before reaching or in early adolescent years in eight out of 21 countries surveyed. Research shows that many girls become victims of sexual violence “through the use of physical force and/or psychological intimidation.”

While marriage is generally viewed as a joyous part of life, due to the normalcy of abuse in their lives, close to half of all girls worldwide, think that a man is justified in abusing his wife, UNICEF reports.

When one in three adolescent girls between 15 and 19 years of age have been victims receivers of physical, emotional or sexual violence committed by their significant other, is it any surprise that men aren’t seen as a loving and caring patriarch of the family? The data suggests that it is far too common for a man to get away with abusing the person he should love unconditionally.

UNICEF also reported that due to the abuse endured by young girls around the world, partner violence has been found to lead to “homicide, suicide, physical injuries, disability and reduced physical functioning,” The report also stated that substance abuse, mental health problems and aggression are results of partner violence.

Clearly, nobody wins when we ignore the violence that so many women experience.

Kori Withers

Photo: UN