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Abuse of girls widespread - report

Nine out of 10 girls in eastern Africa have suffered physical or psychological abuse, including rape at the hands of relatives, a pan-African advocacy group said in a report. "In eastern Africa nine out of ten girls are abused on a regular basis by the people they trust most," Assefa Bequele, head of the African Child Policy Forum (ACPF), a child-advocacy group, said in a report released in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa on Wednesday, to coincide with two-day conference on violence against girls in Africa. According to the study, 99 percent of women interviewed in Kenya said they had been beaten, and this primarily by their mothers, while 94 percent of them in Uganda reported being victims compared with Ethiopia's 84 percent. Nearly one in two girls has been raped in Uganda, 29.7 percent in Ethiopia and 26.3 percent in Kenya, but reporting of sexual abuse to the police is low across all countries with Ethiopia as the lowest (1.5 percent) and 4 percent in Uganda, according to ACPF. "Violence against women and girls starts in homes where they should be protected," said Yakin Ertürk, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women. In Ethiopia, one in every two girls is a victim of unwanted sexual touching, 18.9 percent are regularly hit with a stick, while 55,2 percent sometimes. 21.2 percent women are usually hit on the head and 16.5 percent whipped with belts, according to the ACPF. "We must speak out against violence against children," Assefa said. "It is inexcusable that one in every two girls in Ethiopia will marry before their 18th birthday, that thousands of girls are abducted to serve as soldiers, domestic servants and sexual slaves in Uganda." The group interviewed 1,500 women aged between 18 and 24 in Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia. Each of them was asked to testify about abuses that might have happened during their childhoods. The report concludes with several recommendations on the way forward, including involving children as part of the solution, combating traditional often sexist attitudes that sanction violence and calling upon governments to develop effective policies and laws against violence. The conference organised in partnership with ACPF, the African Union, Unicef, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and Save the Children will gather experts, activists and African leaders to raise awareness of the problem of violence against children.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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