Background paper on attacks against girls seeking to access education

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Attacks against girls’ education occurring with “increasing regularity” – UN human rights report

GENEVA (9 February 2015) – Attacks on schools in at least 70 different countries were documented over a five-year period, between 2009 and 2014, with many of the attacks specifically targeting girls, parents and teachers advocating for gender equality in education, a new UN human rights paper has found.

“While significant progress has been made towards guaranteeing education for all in many countries, girls still face additional barriers to the full enjoyment of their rights to, within and through education,” the paper notes. “Attacks against girls accessing education persist and, alarmingly, appear in some countries to be occurring with increasing regularity.”

Several recent cases of attacks against girls accessing education have highlighted the fragile nature of achievements in increasing the accessibility, availability, adaptability, acceptability and quality of education for all, the report notes, citing: the cold-blooded killing of more than 100 children in a Pakistani Taliban attack at an army school in Peshawar in December 2014, the abduction of nearly 300 schoolgirls in April 2014 by the Boko Haram movement in northeast Nigeria, the 2012 shooting of education activist Malala Yousafzai by members of the Taliban in Pakistan, several incidents of poisoning and acid attacks against schoolgirls in Afghanistan between 2012 and 2014, the reported forced removal of girls from schools in Somalia to become ‘wives’ of Al-Shabaab fighters in 2010, and the abduction and rape of girls at a Christian school in India in July 2013.

In other contexts, attacks are not explicitly motivated by the desire to deny girls an education but reflect, instead, the violence experienced by girls and women in all areas of their public and private lives, the report notes.

“Attacks involving sexual violence against teachers and girls in educational facilities or during the journey to or from them have been reported in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, El Salvador, Haiti, Indonesia, Iraq, Mali, Myanmar, the Philippines and Syria,” the paper notes.

“Attacks on girls’ education have a ripple effect - not only do they impact on the lives of the girls and communities who are directly concerned, they also send a signal to other parents and guardians that schools are not safe places for girls. The removal of girls from education due to fears for their security and concerns about their subsequent marriageability may result in additional human rights violations such as child and forced marriage, domestic violence, early pregnancy, exposure to other harmful practices, trafficking and sexual and labour exploitation.”

The paper analyses the occurrence, impact and human rights dimensions of attacks against girls seeking to access education, and makes a number of recommendations to Governments and the international community to combat such attacks. The full report is here:


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