Overview of SRGBV
What is the scale?
We do not yet have evidence of the full extent of gender-based violence in schools, and data remains limited in both coverage and scope. Many agencies, governments and researchers have worked to capture information on incidents of SRGBV, and the data collected so far reveal a scenario that needs to be urgently addressed.
UNICEF’s (2014a) report Hidden in Plain Sight contains the largest-ever compilation of data on violence against children. It shows the disturbing extent of physical, sexual and emotional abuse, much of it occurring within schools. Certain forms of abuse appear very prevalent:
- Bullying is the most prevalent form of violence in schools, regularly affecting more than one in three students between the ages of 13 and 15 worldwide.
- Around 120 million girls (one in 10) under the age of 20 worldwide have experienced sexual violence. Although this data is not disaggregated according to where the violence took place, high rates of sexual harassment have been reported in many countries. For example, two out of five school principals in Southern and Eastern Africa acknowledged sexual harassment occurred between pupils in their primary schools, according to research from the Southern and Eastern Africa Consortium for Monitoring Educational Quality (SACMEQ) (cited in UNESCO /UNGEI, 2015).
- Millions of children live in fear of physical abuse under the guise of discipline: more than 80 per cent of students in some countries suffer corporal punishment at school (Greene et al, 2013). Half of all children worldwide live in countries where they have no legal protection from corporal punishment.
- Marginalized groups are at increased risk. In a survey of 3,706 primary schoolchildren from Uganda, 24 per cent of 11 to 14-year-old girls with disabilities reported sexual violence at school, compared to 12 per cent of non-disabled girls (Devries et al, 2014).
- Homophobic bullying is one of the most common forms of bullying. Studies by UNESCO (2012a and 2014) found over 60 per cent of LGBTI children in Chile, Mexico and Peru were bullied while over 55 per cent of self-identified LGBTI students in Thailand reported that they were bullied; in the UK, more than 90 per cent of secondary school students reported homophobic bullying in their schools. In New Zealand, lesbian, gay and bisexual students were three times more likely to be bullied than their heterosexual peers and in Norway, 15–48 per cent of lesbian, gay and bisexual students reported being bullied compared to 7 per cent of heterosexual students, revealing that LGBT students report a higher prevalence of violence at school than their non-LGBT peers (UNESCO, 2016).
- Cyber-bullying often overlaps with school bullying and is a growing concern. A study of 20,426 US high school students found that a majority (60 per cent) of cyber-bullying victims were also bullied at school. The same study also found that girls were more likely than boys to report that they had been victims of cyber-bullying (Schneider et al, 2012).
Some challenges in measuring the scale of SRGBV
The evidence base for the global scale and nature of SRGBV is limited as a result of multiple factors:
- Lack of a common conceptualization of SRGBV.
- Most violence goes unreported or unrecognized, particularly where social and gender norms make it hard for children to report or recognize certain behaviours and actions as violence.
- The most vulnerable children also have the least support and links to report abuse.
- Data analysis and tracking systems are usually at their lowest capacity in areas and countries where children are most vulnerable.
Further studies are needed to identify and understand the scale of children’s experiences of less visible types of violence, such as psychological bullying, which can be under-reported or discounted by teachers or policy-makers (UNESCO/UNGEI, 2015).