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Being aware is just not enough: girls must be empowered to end violence for good International Day of the Girl Child - Saturday 11 October 2014

GENEVA (11 October 2014) – A group of United Nations human rights experts* call on States to step up a gear in the fight against all forms of violence against girls by moving beyond awareness raising to empowering adolescent girls through knowledge, skills, resources and life options.

On the occasion of the International Day of the Girl Child, the UN experts stress that empowering adolescent girls and helping them reach their potential is a key step to ending violence against women and girls.

“When an adolescent girl experiences violence, her choices and opportunities are limited, and its effects can last throughout her lifetime and extend to future generations.

For girls, violence – physical, sexual and emotional – is prevalent in adolescence and is often perpetrated by those closest to them, including relatives and partners. It is reported that around 120 million girls under the age of 20 around the world (about 1 in 10) have experienced forced intercourse or other forced sexual acts, and one in three ever-married adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 (84 million) have been victims of emotional, physical or sexual violence committed by their husbands or partners.

Violence against adolescent girls is far too common, frequent and tolerated, often because of discrimination and pervasive gender inequality. Deeply entrenched gender discrimination and social norms put adolescent girls at risk of abuse and violence, compromising their safe transition from childhood to adulthood.

Whether in times of peace, conflict, post-conflict or transitions, violence against girls and women occurs on a continuum. It is during adolescence that girls may become more vulnerable to fall victims of abuse and violence, including its worst forms, such as rape, trafficking, sale, exploitation and slavery. In addition, girl victims of sexual violence are at high risk of unwanted pregnancy and of contracting sexually transmitted diseases, and girls who are pregnant are five times more likely to die in childbirth. These violations of the girls’ rights defeat the very essence of their aspirations and opportunities.

Empowerment is key for preventing this from happening. Empowerment through skills and education of girls to prevent them being trapped in contemporary forms of slavery, child marriages and domestic servitude, among others, is critical to the advancement of their human rights.

Efforts need to be taken to the next level in order to end all forms of violence against girls, moving beyond awareness-raising to supporting adolescent girls as key actors in shaping the present and the future. It’s in our hands to collectively ensure that the environment in which girls live is safe and supportive, and provides them with opportunities to thrive.

We call on Governments, the UN system, civil society, and public and private institutions to focus on the critical period of adolescence, when key investments and support can set girls on a path towards empowerment, through among others, access to education, reproductive and sexual health, social and economic support, and participation in civic, economic and political life.

We urge all relevant stakeholders, including youth associations and children’s organizations, to join forces and reaffirm their commitment to end violence against adolescent girls by increasing efforts for making this scourge visible, unacceptable and punishable both in private and public domains, and also providing victims with access to justice and holding perpetrators accountable.

We appeal to all stakeholders to consolidate existing good practices and focus on action and results, paving the way for a more gender-equitable and child-centred post-2015 development agenda.

When adolescent girls are empowered, it benefits all. Empowered girls grow into empowered women who can serve as active and equal citizens and change agents, who make valuable contributions to the growth of their communities and nations.

Society as a whole will benefit from the increased role of girls as leaders, agents of change and active participants in economic and development opportunities.”

(*) The experts:

Urmila Bhoola, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, its causes and consequences
Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography
Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially in women and children
Rashida Manjoo, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences
Frances Raday, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice

The United Nations human rights experts are part of what it is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights, is the general name of the independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms of the Human Rights Council that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Learn more, visit: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/Pages/Welcomepage.aspx

For further information and media inquiries, please contact Ms. Nekane Lavín (+41 22 917 94 02 / nlavin@ohchr.org) or write to srsaleofchildren@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)  

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