Zambian Schoolgirls Face Rampant Sexual Violence

by Project Censored
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Sexual violence against girls and women is all too common, but what researchers found when they interviewed 105 Zambian schoolgirls, ranging in age from twelve to 22, was shocking: 54 percent of the students interviewed said they had personally experienced some form of sexual violence or harassment by a teacher, classmate or men they encountered while traveling to and from school; and 84 percent reported having personally experienced such abuse or knowing of classmates who had.

These figures are from an October 2012 report, titled “They are Destroying Our Futures,” by Cornell Law School’s Avon Center for Women and Justice.  The Cornell report documents extensive sexual violence against Zambian girls attending school, but also emphasizes sexual violence in schools as “a worldwide problem.”

“It is a cycle of violence,” said Elizabeth Brundige, the study’s leader researcher. “Girls felt like if they reported [the incident] nothing would happen and the perpetrators wouldn’t be punished. Therefore they didn’t report it and their cases never came to light. That was an important finding of the study — the continuation of the problem because of an inadequate response system.”

Sexual violence in schools is not only a human rights issue.  Insofar as it impacts the girls’ education, it also affects the future of the country.  “Education is crucial to the growth of girls and families and the violence hinders girls from being able to go to school,” said Sital Kalantry, director of the Avon Global Center for Women and Justice. “It is extremely detrimental to people trying to rise up from their current situation.”


Maggie Freleng, “Zambian Schoolgirls Face Rampant Sexual Violence,” Women’s eNews, October 18, 2012.

“’They are Destroying Our Futures’: Sexual Violence Against Girls in Zambia’s Schools,” Women and Law in Southern Africa-Zambia, Avon Global Center for Women and Justice at Cornell Law School, Cornell Law School International Human Rights Clinic, October 2012.

Student Researcher:  Vanessa Silvera, College of Marin

Faculty Evaluator: Susan Rahman, College of Marin