Adolescent girls in Zambia face frequent sexual violence and harassment at school, the Avon Global Center for Women and Justice, the Cornell International Human Rights Clinic, and Women and Law in Southern Africa-Zambia said in a report released on October 18, 2012. The report was launched at the opening event of the Avon Global Center's 2012 Women and Justice Conference at Cornell Law School and at a simultaneous event at the United States Embassy in Lusaka, Zambia.
The report, "They are Destroying Our Futures": Sexual Violence Against Girls in Zambia's Schools, is based on interviews conducted in Lusaka Province, Zambia with students at seven public schools, teachers, school administrators, magistrates, police officers, representatives of civil society organizations and others. Of the 105 girls who were interviewed for the report, 54 percent said that they had personally experienced sexual violence or harassment by a teacher, student, or man they encountered while traveling to or from school, while 84 percent reported that they had experienced or knew of classmates who had experienced such abuse.
"Children in Zambia and throughout the world deserve a chance to grow up and pursue an education free from the threat of sexual violence. Sexual violence against girls in schools is a devastating human rights problem globally, as recent debates over sexual abuse in U.S. schools make clear," says Elizabeth Brundige, executive director of Cornell's Avon Global Center.
Sexual violence in schools has negative effects on girls' education and health, including pregnancies that, in one case described by an interviewee, resulted in a girl's death due to an unsafe abortion and in many others meant the end of the girl's school career. Most cases of sexual violence at school never come to light because of the multiple obstacles to redress that girls confront.
The report calls upon the Zambian government to strengthen its prevention and response efforts in order to protect girls from sexual violence in schools and provide them with a meaningful remedy where it occurs. According to Maimbo Ziela, National Coordinator for WLSA-Zambia, "Inadequate responses at many levels have contributed to a culture of silence, where girls do not report, perpetrators act with impunity, and the cycle of violence continues. The Zambian government has recently taken some promising measures to break this cycle, and we hope that our report and the recommendations it offers will contribute to these efforts."
Cornell law students Sepi Tofigh and Sergio Rudin, Avon Global Center Executive Director Liz Brundige, and WLSA staff members Francis Matika, Dongo Ndhlovu, and Rudo Mooba, outside of the WLSA-Zambia office in Lusaka. Photo: Karen McClendon
* To read the report, please click here.