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 Tuesday, 28 January, 2003, 06:39 GMT
Abuse spreads HIV among Zambian girls
Zambian orphaned baby
Young Aids orphans are particularly vulnerable
Girls in Zambia are five times more likely to be infected with the HIV virus than their male counterparts due to widespread sexual abuse, a human rights organisation has reported.

Young girls are preyed upon by older men, including those who dare call themselves guardians or caretakers of these girls, and the government fails to protect them

Human Rights Watch's Janet Fleischman
New York-based Human Rights Watch described in its report - entitled Suffering in Silence - how young girls who suffer abuse often experience it whilst in the hands of an elder or a guardian who is supposed to protect them.

It says girls are also often raped on long walks to school, or abused by teachers.

Others, orphaned as a result of Zambia's high rate of HIV infection, are forced to become prostitutes or to form sexual relationships with much older men.

Authorities condemned

The organisation condemned Zambian police and authorities for often being insensitive and ineffective in enforcing anti-sexual abuse laws in Zambia, leading to girls being reluctant to report any such abuse.

"Young girls are preyed upon by older men, including those who dare call themselves guardians or caretakers of these girls, and the government fails to protect them," Washington director for HRW Africa Division Janet Fleischman said.

The organisation warns that attacks on girls - some as young as eight-years-old - are now so common that unless the Zambian Government begins to address the issue little will be achieved in the fight against HIV and Aids.

It called for better training for police and court officials regarding the issue of sexual abuse and said those who commit such offences should be vigorously prosecuted.

And the organisation also said that money the Zambian Government will soon receive from the Global Health Fund should be spent on strengthening support networks for victims.

An estimated 21.5% of Zambia's adult population is infected with HIV, the virus which causes Aids, and about 120,000 children are also thought to be infected.

See also:

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