An estimated 60 million girls around the world are sexually assaulted on their way to school every year, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) said this week, adding that many boys and girls also face such violence in their classrooms and playgrounds.
“This heinous human rights violation carries significant human, social, and economic costs to our societies,” UNHCR boss António Guterres said in remarks posted on the organisation’s website.
In 2012, UNHCR registered about 12 000 incidents, but many more cases never come forward, Guterres said, deploring the ‘deeply disturbing” scale of this sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV).
Some experts believe that the UN refugee agency and its partners have been fighting a losing battle, as the crime goes on unabated due to what legal minds believe the leniency of many countries’ legal justice systems, which let culprits out unnecessarily to commit the same sin.
Some analysts believe there is an urgent need to reform many of these ‘useless’ legal justice systems before even thinking of fighting this crime.
Guterres, who seems to have admitted his organisation’s failure to curb the scourge despite its multiple efforts, said however that the UNHCR has focused in 2013 on integrating its strategies in the three core protection areas of SGBV, child protection and education.
“Many operations are already developing mutually reinforcing programmes to protect girls and boys of concern from SGBV in school settings,” he said.
Furthermore, the Geneva-based organisation said it was working closely with local partners and national authorities to scale-up efforts to ensure safe learning environments.
This, it said, will be done through parent-teacher associations, youth clubs, extracurricular activities, the enforcement of codes of conduct, and confidential referral mechanisms for students to access health and psychosocial services.
The UNHCR also said that its offices across the world, including its headquarters in Geneva, were holding events to mark the 16 Days of Activism to eradicate violence against women.
Many countries across the world, including South Africa, spend millions of their hard-earned dollars to hold similar events year in and year out without any success of eradicating this heinous human rights abuse.
Nobody knows when this will end!
Photo: Oprah Winfrey with female students in Souh Africa. Credit: Telegraph.co.uk