Day of the Girl Child 2020: Governments must act to protect adolescent girls from sexual violence
Every October 11th, the world comes together to celebrate the International Day of the Girl Child.
The world is facing unprecedented challenges. COVID-19 has swept the world, ushering in lockdowns, school closures, and economic turmoil. As existing support systems crumble, girls have become uniquely vulnerable to these devastating impacts. They are facing increased rights violations, including child marriage, female genital mutilation, and sexual violence. Remote learning and increased time online have left many girls at risk of sexual exploitation. In May, UN Women called for action to address rising gender-based violence across the world, describing it as a ‘shadow pandemic’.
Not only are adolescent girls specifically targeted for abuse, they often face additional barriers to justice, and in some countries, they are not fully protected by the legal system itself. Many girls lack a support system through which they can protest abuses and attempt to access justice, and with COVID-19 impacting justice systems around the world, they face even more barriers.
We remain committed to holding governments accountable for protecting and promoting the rights of girls throughout this period of turmoil. Throughout the pandemic, as we have done for over 28 years, our staff and partners across the world have been monitoring and responding to violations of girls’ rights, including by amending or repealing discriminatory rape laws.
We’ve been working with partners to document and analyze the barriers to justice faced by the survivors of sexual violence in Africa, in order to make clear what actions need to be taken to improve access to justice, ensure that authorities take steps to prevent violence and guarantee that all victims are treated equally and fairly under the law.