52% of Girls in SHS Sexually Assaulted

– UNICEF Report

A report jointly published by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Girls Excellence Movement (GEM)has revealed alarming statistics regarding sexual assault against female students in Senior High Schools (SHS) between 2019 and 2021.

The report, titled ‘Sheltered yet Exposed,’ discloses that, 51.9% of female students in SHS experienced sexual assault during this period in Ghana.

According to the report, 54.3% of these victims were between the ages of 17 and 22, while 45.7% were aged between 11 and 16.

The report identifies various perpetrators of these acts, including friends, family friends, schoolmates, teachers and strangers.

It revealed that, friends accounted for the highest percentage at 24%, followed by family friends at 12%, schoolmates at 12%, teachers at 10%, and strangers at 9%.

In addition to sexual assaults, the report highlights that female students in SHS experienced other forms of gender-based violence, such as physical assault, bullying, verbal abuse and harassment, reports.

Madam Juliana Ama Kplorfia, the founder and executive director of GEM, shared these findings during a stakeholder engagement event in Accra.

She noted that academic, financial and mental challenges often made female students vulnerable to these forms of abuse.

The impact of such abuses, according to Madam Kplorfia, includes depression, trauma, bipolar disorder, anxiety and panic attacks, which can lead some victims to drop out of school.

She called on the Ministry of Education and the Ghana Education Service (GES) to provide resources for counselling units in schools to effectively tackle these issues.

Madam Kplorfia also urged parents and guardians to closely monitor their daughters while in school and provide them with positive role models.

She called for the government to make medical reports for rape and sexual harassment-free and advocated the elimination of taxes on sanitary pads, with the provision of free sanitary pads to schools.

According to the GEM director, abolishing all taxes on sanitary products will make them affordable to enable girls to have dignified menstrual cycle in a hygienic way.

Elaborating on the report, she said the theme was chosen because most girls have been duly sheltered, protected and shielded at home, but within the same spaces they are being abused.

“Period poverty”

Earlier, a media consultant with GEM, Mrs. Elizabeth Hayford Asare, said the tax on sanitary pads has made the commodity expensive, creating “period poverty” and further entrenching inequalities.

She said removing the tax will help enhance the health and education of Ghanaian girls.

Natural process

She said that the natural process for girls in the journey of monthly menstruation had been complicated by the high cost of sanitary pads, forcing them to resort to other materials that were not hygienic.

“Scrapping the tax will afford the girls the ability to purchase them. With the pads, they are comfortable and they are confident because they know that they are well protected so they are able to stay longer in school and in class. The government should definitely do something about the sanitary pads so the girls can stay in school,” she was quoted by Graphic Online to have stressed.

Free medical report

Mrs. Asare also advocated that victims and survivors of rape, defilement and other forms of abuse should not be made to pay before a medical report is issued for police to initiate action for justice.

She said that prevents victims of abuse from going to the police since many are unable to pay to obtain a medical report.

She lauded GEM for the holistic approach to girls’ development initiatives and implored the organisation to keep up the good work.

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