Prevalence
                                                                                                             

                                                                                                                                      Created June 2010

 

Forced/Child Marriage
The highest rates of child marriage are found in the world’s poorest countries, where one in seven girls is married under the age of 16 and almost 50% are married by the age of 20. 48% of women in South Asia and 42% of women in Africa between the ages of 15 and 26 were married before they turned 18. In parts of East and West Africa, as many as 60% of girls are victims of child marriage. 29% of girls under the age of 18 are married in Latin America and the Caribbean. Areas of the Middle East have high rates of child marriage with the child marriage rate in Yemen and Palestine approaching 50%. From: New Insights on Preventing Child Marriage, International Center for Research on Women (April 2007) (PDF, 60 pages). Early marriage has been increasing recently in areas of the former Soviet Union, such as Georgia, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan, where girls as young as 14 are married. From: Expert Group Meeting on Good Practices in Legislation to Address Harmful Practices against Women, United Nations (19 June 2009) (PDF, 19 pages).
 
 
Female Genital Mutilation
According to the World Health Organization, between 100 and 140 million girls and women in the world are victims of FGM, 92 million of them living in Africa. 3 million girls are at risk each year, more than 8,000 girls each day, for female genital mutilation in Africa alone. From: Eliminating Female Genital Mutilation: An Interagency Statement, World Health Organization (2008) (PDF, 47 pages); Female Genital Mutilation Fact Sheet, World Health Organization (February 2010). FGM is primarily performed on girls between infancy and age 15. The age at which FGM is carried out varies with local traditions and circumstances, but the age is decreasing in some countries. From: Female Genital Mutilation Fact Sheet, World Health Organization (February 2010).
 
Female genital mutilation is most common in the western, eastern and north-eastern regions of Africa, and some countries in Asia and the Middle East. In some countries such as Somalia, Guinea, and Egypt, over 95% of all women between the ages of fifteen and forty-nine are victims of female genital mutilation. From: Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: Data and Trends, Charlotte Feldman-Jacobs and Donna Clifton, Population Reference Bureau, (2008) (PDF, 9 pages). In other countries, such as Ethiopia, Mali and Mauritania, more than 60% of girls undergo female genital mutilation before their fifth birthday. From: Changing a Harmful Social Convention: Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting, Innocenti Research Center, United Nations Children's Fund, (6 May 2008) (PDF, 54 pages). In total, female genital mutilation has been documented in 28 countries in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Some forms have been reported from other countries, including among certain ethnic groups in Central and South America. From: Eliminating Female Genital Mutilation: An Interagency Statement, World Health Organization (2008).

Due to immigration from Africa to industrialized nations, there have been cases of immigrant communities in North America and Europe practicing female genital mutilation. For example, UNICEF has estimated that approximately 6,700 girls and women in Switzerland are victims of female genital mutilation or are at risk of undergoing the procedure. From: Changing a Harmful Social Convention: Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting, Innocenti Research Center, United Nations Children's Fund, 4 (May 2008) (PDF, 54 pages). In addition, some immigrant families bring daughters back to their native countries to subject their daughters to female genital mutilation. Certain nations, including Sweden, Norway, and Denmark, have outlawed female genital mutilation, even if it is performed in another country. These nations have prosecuted the perpetrators, usually parents of the girls, and have been successful in imposing jail time and monetary fines.
 
 
Sexual Exploitation, Prostitution, and Trafficking
Trafficking in persons, particularly women and children, impacts nearly every country. The problem has increased in recent years. Because of its hidden nature, it is difficult to determine the precise magnitude of the problem of trafficking in women. As is the case with other forms of violence against women, victims are often reluctant to report or make the fact of the violence known publicly. On the other hand, media reports frequently give estimates of numbers of women trafficked into the commercial sex industry for various regions and countries. Such statistics vary widely and are frequently unreliable or inaccurate. Furthermore, the methods by which such statistical data are gathered are seldom included, and statistics are generally not disaggregated by the sex of the victim.
 
UNICEF calculates that approximately 1.2 million children are trafficked annually, both inter- and intra-country. FromStop Child Trafficking Textbook, UNICEF (15 September 2009). Up to two million children have been subjected to prostitution in the global sex trade. From: Trafficking in Persons Report, United States Department of State (2009). These statistics vary widely, however, because of the black market nature of trafficking and the inherent secrecy involved in transporting undocumented children across country boundaries. Often, even the relatives of the trafficked child are unaware of the trafficking because they have given their child over to the care of unscrupulous relatives, or because parents have voluntarily trafficked a child themselves. Either way, the child’s disappearance and entry into sex trafficking goes unreported to authorities.
 
As many as one-third of all females in the sex trade in the Mekong region of Southeast Asia are under 18 years of age. Other countries such as Lithuania report that up to 50% of prostitutes are girls believed to be minors FromStop Child Trafficking Textbook, UNICEF (15 September 2009). Singapore also remains a trafficking destination for girls from China and Southeast Asia for prostitution. From: Human Rights Report Singapore, United States Department of State (2008). In Guatemala City, Guatemala, officials have estimated that 2,000 children are prostituted in 600 brothels, while as many as 500,000 girls are being trafficked and prostituted in Brazil and as many as 25,000 in the Dominican Republic. From: Trafficking of Women and Children for Sexual Exploitation in the Americas, Pan American Health Organization.
 
 
Prenatal Sex Selection
The rise in prenatal sex selection in certain parts of the world, specifically India and East Asia, can be observed via the Sex Ratio at Birth (SRB).
The practice of prenatal sex selection is most prevalent in India and East Asia. From: Sex-Ratio Imbalances in Asia: Trends, Consequences, and Policy Responses, United Nations Population Fund (29 October 2007) (PDF, 4 pages). The problem of “missing daughters” is indicated by a significant imbalance in sex ratios for the portions of the population aged 0-6. There are three explanations for the missing daughters phenomenon: undercounting of infant girls in census counts; postnatal neglect of daughters and infanticide; and prenatal sex selection. The number of missing daughters in the early 1990s was estimated at between 60 and 100 million, and sex-selective abortion accounts for a substantial number of these missing girls, specifically in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and South Korea. From: Are Sex Ratios at Birth Increasing in Vietnam, Daniele Belanger (2003).
 
China and India have received the most international attention for abnormally high SRBs and the practice of prenatal sex selection in part because of the high populations of these two countries. From: A Right to Choose? Sex Selection in the International Context, Ashley Bumgarner, Duke Journal of Gender Law & Policy (2007). In China, the overall nationwide SRB in 2005 was 120.5 male births for every 100 female births, and the SRB has steadily increased since 1982 with even higher rates for pregnancies later in the birth order. The high SRB rate in China is not limited to rural parts of the country, though the rates are higher outside of major cities. From: Imbalanced Sex Ratio at Birth and Comprehensive Intervention in China, United Nations Population Fund (29 October 2007) (PDF, 24 pages). India’s numbers are equally concerning; the United Nations Population Fund estimates that the SRB in India has risen to 115 boys per 100 girls. From: Characteristics of Sex-Ratio Imbalance in India, and Future Scenarios, United Nations Population Fund (29 October 2007) (PDF, 36 pages). Evidence from studies of hospitals and clinics in India also demonstrates the prevalence of prenatal sex selection. One UNICEF study showed that in 1984, all but one out of 8,000 abortions obtained after ultrasounds were conducted to determine the sex of the fetus resulted in the termination of a female fetus. From: A Right to Choose? Sex Selection in the International Context, Ashley Bumgarner, Duke Journal of Gender Law & Policy (2007).
 
 
Sexual Harassment in Schools and the Workplace
Girl child domestic workers are often isolated from their families and kept in confinement while being deprived of education, medical care, and good nutrition. They work in hazardous conditions and suffer severe psychological and physical abuse. Girl child domestic workers are at specific risk of sexual abuse, with sexual harassment occurring in 20% to 60% of domestic child labor situations. In India, an estimated one in four child domestic workers has faced sexual harassment. From: An Overview of Child Domestic Workers in Asia, Bharati Pflug, International Labour Organization (2002) (PDF, 73 pages); Violence against the Girl Child in the Pacific Islands Region, Shamima Ali, United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women (25 September 2006) (PDF, 26 pages); Bottom of the Ladder: Exploitation and Abuse of Girl Domestic Workers in Guinea, Human Rights Watch (June 2007) (PDF, 112 pages); Behind Closed Doors: Child Domestic Labour, International Labour Organization (2004) (PDF, 2 pages); Abuse among Child Domestic Workers: A Research Study in West Bengal, Save the Children (2006) (PDF, 34 pages); Child Domestic Work in India, Save the Children (PPT, 14 pages).
 
Many girl children are at risk of being sexually harassed or assaulted in school. From: Violence against the Girl Child in the Pacific Islands Region, Shamima Ali, United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women (25 September 2006) (PDF, 26 pages). A 2000 investigation conducted by Human Rights Watch in South Africa and Zambia documented reports of rape in school toilets, empty classrooms, hallways, and dormitories, as well as reports of sexual touching and other harassment, perpetrated by both male teachers and classmates. From: Violence against Schoolgirls, Human Rights Watch (20 February 2007). 50% of schoolgirls in Malawi report that they have been touched, by either a teacher or classmate, in a sexual manner without permission. From: Governments Must Take Action to End Violence against Schoolgirls, Amnesty International USA (28 February 2008).
 
 
Crimes Committed in the Name of "Honor"
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates that thousands of young women fall victim each year to "honor" killings, mainly in Western Asia, North Africa and parts of South Asia. From: Taking a Stand Against Practices that Harm Women, United Nations Population Fund, (2010). In its 2000 State of the World Population, UNFPA estimated that as many as 5,000 women and girls are murdered annually in "honor" killings, and cautioned that this number may be increasing. From: Ending Violence Against Women and Girls, United Nations Population Fund (2000). The U.N. General Assembly has noted that crimes committed in the name of "honor" occur “in all regions of the world.” Specifically, countries where these murders have occurred include Bangladesh, Brazil, Ecuador, Egypt, India, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Morocco, Pakistan, Sweden, Turkey, Uganda, the United Kingdom, Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Germany, and France. From: Working Towards the Elimination of Crimes against Women and Girls Committed in the name of Honour, United Nations General Assembly (15 October 2004). Although "honor" killings are more prevalent in countries with majority Muslim populations, they can and do occur in other countries as well. In 2008, the FBI in the United States labeled the murder of two teenage girls in Texas a potential "honor" killing. Relatives suggested the girls’ Egyptian-born father killed them because they dated non-Muslims and acted “too Western.” From: First Time FBI Calls Case an Honor Killing, Fox News (14 October 2008).
 
According to the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, "honor" killings are becoming more common as the concept of "honor" broadens and the types of behavior understood to damage it become more numerous. Economic and social issues are also factors in the increase in "honor" killings. Amnesty International has pointed to “the progressive brutalization of society due to conflict and war, increased access to heavy weapons, economic decline and social frustration.” Moreover, a girl child need not be a willing participant to be guilty, as even a rape victim is often considered to have dishonored her family. In 1999, a 16-year-old mentally disabled Pakistani girl who had been raped was killed for bringing shame to her family. From: Thousands of Women Killed for Family “Honor,” National Geographic (12 February 2002). Also, a girl child need not engage in sexual relations to bring dishonor, as merely having an unpermitted relationship can cause dishonor. In Iraq, a 17 year-old Kurdish girl was dragged into the street and kicked, beaten and stoned to death in 2007 for being seen with a Sunni Muslim boy. From: Four Arrested in Iraq Honor Killing, CNN News (21 May 2007). In addition, because any act of defiance will dishonor a girl child’s male relatives, activities such as talking back, bringing food late, having unpermitted conversations, making unpermitted visits, or marrying without permission may incite an "honor" killing.
 
 
Sexual Assault in Conflict and Humanitarian Situations
In 2009, there were ongoing armed conflicts in Afghanistan, Burundi, Chad, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gaza, Haiti, Iraq, Pakistan, the Philippines, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, and Yemen, to name just a few. Recent conflicts have also occurred in Bangladesh, Bosnia, Columbia, Eritrea, and many more. According to UN estimates, approximately 90% of current war casualties are civilians, the majority of whom are women and children. This is far different than just a century ago, when only 5% to 10% of those killed in armed conflicts were civilians. From: Women and Armed Conflict, United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Division for the Advancement of Women (May 2000). War also changed during the 20th century – internal conflicts now greatly outnumber interstate wars. All but three of the 56 major conflicts registered from 1990 to 2000 were internal. Populations of neighboring states often become involved in internal conflicts as a result of disputes among ethnic or religious groups that do not subscribe to geo-political boundaries, refugee dislocation overflow into neighboring nations, or economic, military and political assistance or intervention. Violence against civilian populations, especially against women and children, by both government and external forces is now the rule rather than the exception. From: Major Armed Conflict, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (2001).  
 
It was estimated that 2 million children were killed in conflict situations in the past decade. Over 6 million were seriously injured or permanently disabled. Over 20 million were displaced by war in the last decade of the 20th century. From: The Impact of Armed Conflict on Children: A Critical Review of Progress Made and Obstacles Encountered in Increasing Protection for War-Affected Children, Graca Michel, International Conference on War-Affected Children (26 August 1996, 2000). In a 2009 press release it was estimated that there are currently over one billion children living in countries or territories affected by armed conflict. From: New Machel Report Calls for Urgent Action to Protect Children Affected by Armed Conflict, Office of the Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict (16 June 2009). Sexual violence is especially prevalent in and around refugee camps and settlements for internally displaced populations. From: Sexual Violence against Women and Girls in War and Its Aftermath: Realities, Responses, and Required Resources, United Nations Population Fund (23 June 2006).  
 
 
 
Compiled from: New Insights on Preventing Child Marriage, International Center for Research on Women (April 2007); Expert Group Meeting on Good Practices in Legislation to Address Harmful Practices against Women, United Nations (19 June 2009);Female Genital Mutilation Fact Sheet, World Health Organization (February 2010); Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: Data and Trends, Population Reference Bureau (2008); Eliminating Female Genital Mutilation, An Interagency Statement, World Health Organization (2008); Changing a Harmful Social Convention: Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting, Innocenti Research Center, United Nations Children's Fund(May 2008); Scandinavia Fights Female Circumcision, GlobalPost (29 September 2009); Stop Child Trafficking Textbook, UNICEF (15 September 2009). Trafficking in Persons Report, United States Department of State (2009); Human Rights Report Singapore, United States Department of State (2008); Trafficking of Women and Children for Sexual Exploitation in the Americas, Pan American Health Organization; Sex-Ratio Imbalances in Asia: Trends, Consequences, and Policy Responses, United Nations Population Fund (29 October 2007); Are Sex Ratios at Birth Increasing in Vietnam, Daniele Belanger (2003); A Right to Choose? Sex Selection in the International Context, Duke Journal of Gender Law & Policy (2007); Imbalanced Sex Ratio at Birth and Comprehensive Intervention in China, United Nations Population Fund (29 October 2007); Characteristics of Sex-Ratio Imbalance in India, and Future Scenarios, United Nations Population Fund (29 October 2007); An Overview of Child Domestic Workers in Asia, International Labour Organization (2002); Violence against the Girl Child in the Pacific Islands Region, United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women (25 September 2006); Bottom of the Ladder: Exploitation and Abuse of Girl Domestic Workers in Guinea, Human Rights Watch (June 2007); Behind Closed Doors: Child Domestic Labour, International Labour Organization (2004); Abuse among Child Domestic Workers: A Research Study in West Bengal, Save the Children (2006); Child Domestic Work in India, Save the Children; Violence against the Girl Child in the Pacific Islands Region, United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women (25 September 2006); Violence against Schoolgirls, Human Rights Watch (20 February 2007); Governments Must Take Action to End Violence against Schoolgirls, Amnesty International USA (28 February 2008); Taking a Stand Against Practices that Harm Women, United Nations Population Fund, (2010); Ending Violence Against Women and Girls, United Nations Population Fund (2000); Working towards the elimination of crimes against women and girls committed in the name of honour, United Nations General Assembly (15 October 2004); First Time FBI Calls Case an Honor Killing, Fox News (14 October 2008); Integration of the Human Rights of Women and the Gender Perspective: Violence Against Women, United Nations Economic and Social Council (31 January 2002); Violence Against Women: Good Practices in Combating and Eliminating Violence Against Women, UN Division for the Advancement of Women (20 May 2005); Thousands of Women Killed for Family “Honor,” National Geographic (12 February 2002); Four Arrested in Iraq Honor Killing, CNN News (21 May 2007); Women and Armed Conflict, United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Division for the Advancement of Women (May 2000); Major Armed Conflict, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (2001); The Impact of Armed Conflict on Children: A Critical Review of Progress Made and Obstacles Encountered in Increasing Protection for War-Affected Children, Graca Michel, International Conference on War-Affected Children (26 August 1996, 2000);New Machel Report Calls for Urgent Action to Protect Children Affected by Armed Conflict, Office of the Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict (16 June 2009); Sexual Violence against Women and Girls in War and Its Aftermath: Realities, Responses, and Required Resources, United Nations Population Fund (23 June 2006).