According to a Unicef report, one in every ten girls worldwide is raped or sexually assaulted before they reach the age of 19. In South Asia, Bangladesh has the highest rate of girl abuse. Here almost one of every two (47 percent) married girls (15 to 19 years old) is abused by her husband or partner.

The report published yesterday, Hidden in Plain Sight, draws data from 190 countries.

Speaking about the report, State Minister for Women and Children Meher Afroze tells Prothom Alo that it cannot be denied that child marriage takes place in Bangladesh. Victims of child marriage are subject to physical, mental and sexual abuse after marriage. They have no previous idea of marriage or about other families. However, the government is working extensively to prevent child marriage.

The government is about to introduce a new law. Various programmes of the government will make it possible to protect these child marriage victims from abuse.

Rukhsana Sultana, Executive Director of the NGO Breaking the Silence, says that such abuse is mostly carried out by close relatives within the family. These incidents are generally revealed among friends and those of the same age group.

Abuse by husband or partner: The report states that, worldwide one in every three married young girls (15 to 19 years old) is victim of physical, sexual or mental abuse. This rate is highest in Equatorial Guinea, 73 percent; and lowest in Ukraine, two percent.

South Asia is in a very vulnerable position in this regard. Here one in every five women who were married or had partners was subject to sexual abuse by her husband or partner. In South Asia the rate was highest in Bangladesh, 47 percent. Among 190 countries, Bangladesh comes ninth in this regard. Next come India, Pakistan and Nepal, at 34, 28 and 23 percent respectively.

The situation of 15 to 19-year-old girls being physically abused by their partners is almost the same worldwide. Here too Equatorial Guinea tops the list at 71 percent. And from the data available in four countries of South Asia, Bangladesh is at the top, 40 percent. Then come India, Pakistan and Nepal with 25, 23 and 17 percent respectively.

Equatorial Guinea also has the highest rate of girls undergoing mental torture, 57 percent. In South Asia, the rate in India, Pakistan and Nepal is 25, 13 and 10 percent respectively. No data in this regard was available on Bangladesh.

After-marriage abuse: The report says that marriage under 18 years of age is contrary to fundamental human rights. In many countries it is a violation of the law. Even so, this continues to take place often. Research shows that girls married at a young age are most abused by their husbands and other members of the family. Quoting from a report of Bangladesh, it is said that girls married before the age of 18 here are physically and sexually tortured more than others. This propensity exists in India and Nepal too.

Seeking help after abuse: In most countries girl children (15-19 years) are behind women (20-49 years) when it comes to seeking assistance from others after being sexually abused. In Bangladesh, though, the rate of seeking assistance is almost same among girls and women, around 50 percent. In this regard Bangladesh is ahead of other countries. Most backward in this regard are countries like Colombia, Kyrgyzstan and Tanzania.

Killing: According to the report, one fifth of all the persons who are victims of murder worldwide, are under 19 years of age. In 2012 a total of 95 thousand infants and children were killed.

The report says that in 2012 in Bangladesh, a murder occurred among one in every 100 thousand infants and children (up till 19 years old). The highest rate in this regard in South Asia was in Afghanistan, eight in every 100 thousand; and then Pakistan, four in every 100 thousand. In the world the highest rate of infant and child murder is in El Salvador of Latin America, 27 in every 100 thousand. The next two countries from the top are also of this region, Guatemala 22 and Venezuela 20.

"These are uncomfortable facts -- no government or parent will want to see them," said Unicef Executive Director Anthony Lake, while launching the report. “But unless we confront the reality each infuriating statistic represents — the life of a child whose right to a safe, protected childhood has been violated — we will never change the mind-set that violence against children is normal and permissible.  It is neither. Yet everyone has a right to a safe and protected childhood."

Recommendations: The reports recommends six strategies to end violence against children. These include, establishing friendly relations with parents and educating children in life skills, behavioural changes; ensuring action is taken against crimes against children, dealing with crime and reforming social systems; increasing awarnesss about violence and its socio-economic impact and brining about changes in social norms.

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