Since 1975, the world has observed International Women’s Day—a day to celebrate and honor the achievements of and for all women, past and present. This year’s theme is “A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women.”

Violence against women and girls is most often perpetrated by someone the woman knows. Child abuse, intimate partner violence, acquaintance and date rape, are all examples. It is estimated that as many as 76% of women experience physical or sexual violence perpetrated by an intimate partner over the course of their lifetime. It is estimated that 50% of all sexual assaults occur against girls age 15 or younger. Nonconsensual sex takes many forms, including forced sex, transactional sex, cross-generational sex, unwanted touch, and molestation and often goes unreported. Perpetrators can be strangers, peers, intimate partners, family members, and authority figures such as teachers. In 2002, 150 million girls under the age of 18 experienced sexual violence; too often, adolescents’ first sexual experience is forced or coerced.

Harmful traditional practices such as female genital cutting and early marriage are also examples of the widespread violence against adolescent girls. To date, over 130 million girls have undergone female genital cutting and an estimated 30 million are at still risk. Approximately 10 million adolescent girls become child brides each year. Child brides are denied the right to determine whom or when they marry. Furthermore, married girls are often forced to leave school at a young age as a result of early marriage and are at greater risk for sexual violence. The tradition of early marriage is sometimes associated with other forms of violence such as spousal rape and dowry- or honor-related violence. Each year, approximately 5,000 women and girls die because of dowry-related murders. An estimated 5,000 adolescent girls and women are killed by family members in the name of honor annually.

In any form, violence against adolescent girls and young women has negative consequences. This can mean the immediate physical consequence of a violent act or long-term mental health consequences. Other examples of the effects of GBV include unintended pregnancies, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, and death. “Every girl and woman should be able to live safely and free of violence. Violence against women must never be accepted, never excused, never tolerated.”—UN Women

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