11 October marks the International Day of the Girl Child, adopted at the United Nations General Assembly with resolution 66/170 in 2011, to raise awareness of the girls’ situation worldwide and recognize the need for empowerment and investment in girls. This year the topic of the IDGC is Empowering Adolescent Girls: Ending the Cycle of Violence.
Violence against girls and women is a common phenomenon, observed particularly in states where gender stereotypes persist and sexual and reproductive rights are not fully realized. The region of Central and Eastern Europe, which faces the increase of anti-choice initiatives and legal changes restricting access to information and health services, may serve as such inglorious example.
Globally, around 120 million girls experienced a forced sexual intercourse. 7 in 10 girls, who experienced physical and/or sexual violence, have never sought help. Almost 30% of adolescent girls in Central and Eastern Europe states that there are reasons for justification of wife-beating. 32 of every thousand births are unintended adolescent pregnancies.
Behind these numbers there are GIRLS, whose lives are affected due to persistent gender inequalities, homophobia, hindering or denying access to reproductive and sexual health service, lack of comprehensive sexuality education and stigmatization of violence survivors.
Experience of violence in private and/or public sphere puts girls’ health and lives at risk. Sexual violence entails serious psychological, physical, emotional and social consequences. It increases the risk of an unintended adolescent pregnancy and exposure to STIs infection, including HIV. Girls are at risk of dropping out of schools and very often are not able to continue education. Common stigma of violence survivors (including violence based on SOGIE) cause alienation of the victim, who doesn’t seek help and has to cope with the consequences alone.
Institutional violence towards girls prevails by blocking their access to sexual and reproductive health package. Still in many states girls cannot access affordable modern contraception and other health care services. Due to age restrictions and/or the need of parental consent when accessing abortion services, girls are denied to make decision on their own.
Comprehensive sexuality education, which is an essential tool to prevent violence, is still unrecognized as a crucial youth right and not implemented in many CEE countries. When introduced at schools in a holistic way, comprehensive sexuality education debunks harmful gender and homophobic stereotypes, promotes gender equality and empowers girls with communication skills helpful in protection from violence. It gives knowledge on reproductive and sexual health. CSE gives crucial information and skills, which enable to counteract violence and contribute to just and equal society.
Investment in girls, which is one of this year’s IDGC messages, means that basic steps such as the realization of sexual and reproductive health and rights of girls must be undertaken. Unless governments and key decision-makers ensure the access to comprehensive information and services on one’s health as well as support for violence victims, girls' lives won’t change.
,, UNICEF, Hidden in Plain Sight: A statistical analysis of violence against children, 2014.
Retrieved October 2014 at: http://files.unicef.org/publications/files/Hidden_in_plain_sight_statistical_analysis_EN_3_Sept_2014.pdf
 UNFPA, Focusing on Adolescents and Youth in Eastern Europe and Central Asia,2014.
Retrieved October 2014 at: http://eeca.unfpa.org/sites/default/files/pub-pdf/UNFPA_EuroAsia_Factsheet_20140902.pdf