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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 March 2008, 17:43 GMT
'Time to protect girls' in school
Children at a Baghdad school
Some girls are not as lucky as these at this Baghdad school
Governments around the globe are being urged to take action to stop girls becoming victims of violence in school.

Schoolgirls in many countries are not adequately protected, according to a report by the human rights charity.

They say girls run the risk of sexual assault, harassment or intimidation either in or on their way to school.

The Amnesty International initiative has been launched to coincide with International Women's Day.

Schools are a place where governments have direct responsibility and can start backing up their words with concrete actions
Widney Brown senior director, Amnesty International

Amnesty says some girls suffer violence more than others.

The Safe Schools: Every Girl's Right report says lesbians or girls with disabilities or those from ethnic minorities are particularly vulnerable.

At school, many girls face psychological violence, bullying and humiliation.

Some are caned or beaten in school in the name of discipline.

Girls are threatened with sexual assault by other students, offered higher marks by teachers in exchange for sexual favours, and even raped in the staff room, the report found.

A 2006 study of schoolgirls in Malawi found half of girls said they had been touched in a sexual manner without permission, by either their teachers or a fellow student.

A study in the USA found that 83% of girls in grades 8 to 11 (aged around 12 to 16) in public schools experienced some form of sexual harassment.

Amnesty's senior director Widney Brown said: "Governments are failing girls at the most basic level.

Corporal punishment

"Their failure to address violence against girls in schools is unacceptable.

"Virtually every government claims to abhor violence against women and girls.

"Schools are a place where governments have direct responsibility and can start backing up their words with concrete actions."

People interviewed by Amnesty International in Haiti agreed that violence was widespread in schools but was rarely reported.

Corporal punishment, the use of whips, beatings with electric cables, forcing children to kneel in the sun, food deprivation, sexual abuse, insults and psychological abuse of girls was common by teachers and administrative staff.

Amnesty International has drawn-up a six-point plan aimed at government officials and bodies, which includes:

  • Enacting and enforcing appropriate laws, policies and procedures prohibiting all forms of violence against girls, including corporal punishment, verbal abuse, harassment, physical violence, emotional abuse, and sexual violence and exploitation.
  • Creating national plans of action in order to create a safe environment for girls. Those should include guidelines for schools and compulsory training for teachers and students.
  • Teachers, school authorities and other state officials must promptly respond to reports of violence and ensure that a proper follow up mechanism is in place. This must include effective investigations and criminal prosecutions when appropriate and provide support services, including medical treatment, for victims and survivors.
  • International Women's Day is on 8 March.



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