TORONTO, ONTARIO -- (Marketwired) -- 04/09/13 -- Children make up the majority of victims of sexual violence in many conflict and post-conflict zones, Save the Children has said, in a new report released ahead of a crucial G8 meeting in London aimed at tackling the issue.
In its new report Unspeakable Crimes Against Children, the charity has collated figures and testimonies from a range of countries affected by conflict over the past decade, including Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia and Colombia.
Reliable data on the issue is limited, as much sexual abuse goes unreported, but taken together, the figures collated in the report indicate that children frequently make up the majority of sexual abuse survivors in war and its aftermath.
For example, a study in Liberia - still recovering from a vicious civil war that ended a decade ago - found that more than 80% of survivors of gender-based violence in 2011-12 were younger than 17. Almost all of them were raped.
Among testimonies gathered from survivors and witnesses for the report, Save the Children heard of children being killed after being raped, both girls and boys kidnapped and abused by armed forces and groups, and children as young as two being attacked by opportunistic sexual predators, including teachers, religious leaders, peacekeepers, and family members.
Despite this, programmes to prevent children falling victim to sexual violence and help them recover from attacks remain chronically underfunded. The most recent complete global figures show that less than a quarter of the budget needed to protect children and women in emergencies was available, the charity said.
Patricia Erb, Save the Children's Chief Executive said: "The rates of sexual violence against children in conflict zones are horrifying. War is brutal, but all parties in conflict have the duty both moral and legal to protect children."
"The psychological scars are often far deeper and longer lasting than the physical effects of sexual violence. In too many cultures children are cast out of their families and communities if they go public with their experience. For these reasons it is imperative that world leaders commit to improving child protection and support systems for survivors as well as hold the abusers accountable."
Testimonies of witnesses and survivors of sexual violence in conflict and post-conflict settings around the world reveal the devastating impact such incidents have on children's lives:
-- "Rebels were raping women, they took two girls: one was 13 and the other was 14. Then they took a 15-year-old. There were 15 or 16 (men). The one who was 13 died because they beat her so badly." Barakissa, aged 29, describing the abduction and rape of young girls in Mali, 2012.-- "I still remember the day when I was raped the first time. I was raped three times that night. I wanted to escape from them but didn't get a chance." Aditya, remembering the 3 years she spent (from the age of 13) captive of the Maoist militias in Nepal.-- "It was horrible. My daughter got sick because she had been injured by what the man had done when he molested her." Maria, recounting the medical effects after the rape of her five-year-old daughter Diana in Colombia.
During its leadership of the G8, the UK government has vowed to prioritize the issue of sexual violence in conflict. Save the Children is calling on G8 leaders to take the following concrete actions to help children who are affected:
-- Fund child protection in emergencies to make sure that vulnerable children are kept safe and given help to recover from their experiences.-- Ensure that programmes aimed at dealing with sexual violence in conflict zones are focussed on children, who often make up the majority of survivors.-- End impunity for sexual violence against children, making sure that those responsible are brought to account.-- Ensure that the UN has the resources and mandate to put measures in place to effectively protect children in conflicts.
To read the report visit: http://www.savethechildren.ca/document.doc?id=332
Notes to editors:
-- Statistical assessments of the prevalence of sexual violence against children in conflicts are very difficult to come by. The data in Save the Children's Unspeakable Crimes Against Children report is drawn from our own programmes and country-specific information available through other international agencies.-- The following samples were used to say that the majority of survivors of sexual violence were children: -- In post-conflict Sierra Leone, more than 70% of the sexual violence cases seen by the International Rescue Committee were girls under 18, and more than a fifth of those were girls under the age of 11. -- In post-conflict Liberia, 83% of survivors of gender-based violence in 2011-12 were younger than 17, and almost all of these cases involved rape. -- In Democratic Republic of the Congo nearly two thirds of sexual violence cases recorded by the UN in 2008 involved children, mostly adolescent girls. -- In Colombia, more than half of the survivors of sexual violence helped by the International Committee of the Red Cross in 2009 were children. -- Almost one fifth of girls in Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince, were raped during an armed rebellion in 2004 and 2005
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