SEATTLE, Washington — Sexual violence against children is a global problem that affects more than 25 percent of girls and 10 percent of boys. H.Res. 723 seeks to end sexual violence against girls, in particular, through the expansion of data-based reforms that have already been successfully implemented in multiple African countries. As articulated in the House Resolution, ending sexual violence against girls is in the interest of the United States not only because it is the humane thing to do but also because it will benefit Americans and people of other nations economically, socially and politically.
What is H.Res. 723?
H.Res. 723 deems sexual violence against girls to be “a devastating global health, human rights and economic problem that is both unjustifiable and preventable and impedes peace and security.” The resolution offers several harrowing statistics about the prevalence and effects of violence against children including:
Girls between 15-19 years old face the greatest risk of sexual violence and “currently account for 75 percent of new HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa totaling 1,000 newly infected young women each day.”
The leading cause of death for girls 15-19 in sub-Saharan Africa is complications from pregnancy and childbirth.
Ninety percent of teenage pregnancies are the result of child marriages.
More than 200 million women and girls alive today have gone through an irreversible female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) procedure.
According to WHO, 3.9 million more girls are still at risk of FGM/C each year.
The resolution acknowledges the leadership of many African nations in implementing “data-driven, in-country, government-led, multi-sector reform[s].” Furthermore, it calls on all nations to end abuse, violence and exploitation of children. To combat sexual violence against girls, H.Res. 723 urges countries around the world to implement proven strategies such as Violence Against Children and Youth Survey (VACS) and INSPIRE, a WHO package of plans of action.
Violence Against Children Surveys (VACS)
VACS is a “survey that systematically measures the prevalence, nature and consequences of sexual, physical and emotional violence against children.” Eleven countries in Africa, Asia and the Carribean have implemented VACS as of September 2018. VACS provides these countries with a foundation of reliable data about the prevalence and nature of sexual violence against children. The survey contributes to the information currently available, and is in some cases, is the baseline for national population-level information on sexual violence.
According to the World Health Organization, despite the prevalence of violence against children, it is “often hidden, unseen or under-reported.” This violence can take multiple forms, including physical, sexual and emotional abuse, bullying and neglect. While some forms of violence are more prevalent with certain age groups, sexual and psychological violence remain common among all age groups. Violence against children has severe, long-lasting, effects not only on children who endure the violence but also on their society and future generations.
INSPIRE Ending Violence Against Children
In order to prevent violence against children, one must address its “ root causes and risk factors.” WHO recommends seven strategies. These strategies, called INSPIRE, were developed by ten trusted agencies. The WHO calls on nations worldwide to adopt these interventions in order to reduce violence against children. INSPIRE strategies are as follows:
- Implementation and enforcement of laws: This strategy involves passing laws to protect children, such as banning the violent punishment of children and criminalizing child sexual abuse and exploitation.
- Norms and values: This strategy is aimed at changing society by discouraging “harmful gender and social norms,” encouraging the establishment of community mobilization programs and intervention.
- Safe environments: This strategy seeks to reduce violence against children by improving the environments in which they live, specifically by targeting “hotspots.”
- Parent and caregiver support: This aid is achieved by visiting homes, creating comprehensive programs, having groups in community settings.
- Income and economic strengthening: This aid is delivered through cash transfers, loans and gender equity training.
- Response and support services: This strategy involves the provision of counseling services and treatment for adolescent offenders in the criminal justice system.
- Education and life skills: This strategy equips children with knowledge on how to protect themselves from sexual abuse, prevent intimate partner violence, provide training for life and social skills, increase enrollment at all educational levels and establish safe school environments.
Representative Susan Wild [D-PA-7] introduced H.Res. 723 on November 20, 2019. The resolution was then referred to the House Committee on Education and Labor and House Foreign Affairs Committee, which is the first step in the legislative process. After it is considered by the committees, the resolution may go to the whole House and Senate for consideration.
Sexual violence against girls is a global problem that plagues every country and society. H.Res. 723 seeks to end this violence through the promotion of proven strategies that have been effectively adopted by several African nations already. Through the use of strategies like VACS and INSPIRE, countries can come closer to eradicating violence against children. This will make those countries safer, more prosperous, more stable and more socially cohesive.
– Sarah Frazer