Sexual violence against girls is a global human rights violation of vast proportions with severe health and social consequences. Sexual violence includes sexual abuse, harassment, rape or sexual exploitation in prostitution and pornography. This scourge is not unique to one country or continent. Rich and poor nations, urban and rural populations, and women and men are all affected by the devastating impacts and long-term consequences.
- An estimated 150 million girls under the age of 18 are estimated to have experienced some form of sexual violence.
- As many as six out of ten sexual assaults are committed against girls ages 15 and younger - and this is an underestimate because most cases are never reported due to fear, stigma and discrimination.
- Millions of girls are exploited in prostitution and pornography every year, often lured or forced into these situations through false promises and limited knowledge of the risks.
- Boys are not immune, an estimated 73 million boys experienced some form of sexual violence.
Sexual violence alters the life path of many girls:
- They are three times more likely to have an unintended pregnancy - girls under 15 who are pregnant are five times more likely to die in childbirth than women aged 20 to 24.
- They are at increased risk of contracting HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections.
- They are more likely to be depressed and have high rates of substance abuse, high-risk behaviors and even suicide.
- They are less likely to go to school – and the lack of education hinders a girl's prospects of earning an income, often perpetuating and deepening the cycle of poverty for their families.
Societies pay a deep price because healthy, educated women are vital to the health and prosperity of countries. One study has shown that a 1 percent increase in girls attending secondary school adds 0.3 percent in economic growth in developing countries.