Friday, December 01, 2006

Sex abuse of girls in Africa

By Michael J.W. Stickings

There's a horrifying article in today's Times on the widespread sex abuse of girls in Africa. To say that it's an enormous problem isn't to do it justice. Make sure to read the whole thing, but here's a key passage:

In much of the continent, child advocates say, perpetrators are shielded by the traditionally low status of girls, a lingering view that sexual abuse should be dealt with privately, and justice systems that constitute obstacle courses for victims. Data is sparse and sexual violence is notoriously underreported. But South African police reports give an inkling of the sweep of child victimization. In the 12 months ending in March 2005, the police reported more than 22,000 cases of child rape. In contrast, England and Wales, with nine million more people than South Africa, reported just 13,300 rapes of women and girls in the most recent 12-month period.

I'm not quite sure how anyone could write "just 13,300 rapes" -- rape is obviously a problem everywhere, including the U.K. -- but the point is taken. In Namibia, "more than one in five women... reported being sexually abused before age 15," according to a WHO survey. And "[h]alf of Malawian schoolgirls surveyed in 2006 said male teachers or classmates had touched them in a sexual manner without their permission". Efforts are being made in countries like South Africa and Madagascar, but, needless to say, much more needs to be done to protect girls and women from such prevalent abuse. Law enforcement will help, but an entire culture of abuse needs to be eradicated. And that won't come easily.

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