Canadian coalition calls for action on violence against children, girls in school

Latest global report by Plan Canada and the University of Toronto highlights bullying as part of wider school-related violence, recommends process for national action plan

TORONTO, Dec. 4, 2012 /CNW/ - A new report published by child rights organization Plan Canada, in partnership with the International Human Rights Program (IHRP) at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law, finds that school-related gender-based violence (SRGBV) is a major factor threatening the education of children, especially young girls, in many countries of the world, including Canada.

"Education is a fundamental human right for every child but it is too often denied or compromised, especially when it comes to young girls," said Rosemary McCarney, President and CEO of Plan Canada. "Both globally and here in Canada gender-based violence is causing psychological and emotional trauma, poor performance at school, high dropout rates and in the most severe cases, suicide among children. This issue needs to be addressed."

Today, Plan Canada and the IHRP launched the report on Parliament Hill in Ottawa with key partner organizations Canadian Women's Foundation, Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC) and White Ribbon Campaign (WRC). The report defines SRGBV as "acts of sexual, physical, or psychological violence inflicted on children in and around schools because of their sex or gender identity," and presents some startling statistics and findings from here in Canada and across the world.

Globally:

  • Between 500 million and 1.5 billion children experience violence every year, many in and around the institutions we trust most - our schools.
  • Around the world, incidents of sexual violence by teachers and staff against female students include a range of behaviours and misuse of authority, including rape, sexual assault, and bribing students with money or the promise of better grades in exchange for sex.

In Canada:

  • Nearly a quarter of Canadian girls, and at least 15 per cent of boys, have experienced sexual violence before they reach 16.
  • Many Canadian children, particularly girls from marginalized communities, continue to be vulnerable to different forms of violence within their school lives.
  • A national survey found that almost 2/3 of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Queer and Questioning (LGBTQ) students feel unsafe at school and many LGBTQ students, and other students who don't fit gendered norms, are suffering from frequent incidents of verbal, physical, and online violence within their school lives.
  • The lowest estimate is that 25 per cent of Aboriginal adults have been sexually abused before reaching 18 and an estimated 40-70 per cent of girls with intellectual disabilities will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday.

"Violence against children is unjustifiable, but it is also preventable," added Renu Mandhane, Director of the IHRP at the University of Toronto. "To that end, we're calling for a process to develop a national action plan to end violence against all children, with a strong focus on gender and the school context. This process must involve all provinces, all levels of government, civil society organizations, front-line service providers, and children themselves."

"Violence against girls in Canada is a serious issue with serious consequences," said Anuradha Dugal, Director of Violence Prevention at Canadian Women's Foundation. "Based on our many years of experience funding healthy relationships and violence prevention programs with girls across Canada, we support the call for a national action plan as a positive investment in Canadian girls."

"Today we know that violence is a fact in the lives of many Indigenous women and girls. But know that violence is not a part of our history or culture. With positive action and the will to change, violence will end today and not be part of our future," said NWAC President Michèle Audette. "Implementing the recommendations in this report is about making that positive change for today and for tomorrow."

"The White Ribbon Campaign is pleased that this report calls for the engagement of men and boys in positive, preventative roles to address a complex, society-wide problem," said Todd Minerson, Executive Director of WRC. "This is a problem that requires all of us to be involved in meaningful solutions. In their roles as parents, teachers, fellow students, community leaders and engaged bystanders men and boys can help to prevent violence against women and girls."

The report includes significant contributions and endorsements from leading Canadian rights-based organizations including the Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children, and was launched today with multi-party support through a Parliamentary Breakfast in the House of Commons.

Plan Canada and the IHRP emphasized that the report does not just highlight problems but is focused on solutions drawn from the experiences of countries leading on these issues.  It includes specific recommendations for the Canadian government that are consistent with recent observations on Canada made by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child.

About Plan and the 'Because I am a Girl' initiative
Founded in 1937, Plan is one of the world's oldest and largest international development agencies, working in partnership with millions of people around the world to end global poverty. Not for profit, independent and inclusive of all faiths and cultures, Plan has only one agenda: to improve the lives of children. Because I am a Girl is Plan's global initiative to end gender inequality, promote girls' rights and lift millions of girls - and everyone around them - out of poverty. Visit www.plancanada.ca and www.becauseiamagirl.ca for more information.

About the International Human Rights Program (IHRP)
The International Human Rights Program at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law enhances the legal protection of existing and emerging international human rights obligations through advocacy, knowledge-exchange, and capacity-building initiatives that provide experiential learning opportunities for students and legal expertise to civil society.

SOURCE: Plan Canada

For further information:

For media inquiries, contact:

Abigail Brown, Media and Public Relations Manager, Plan Canada
T: 416 920 1654 ext 277  |  C: 647 971 3764  |  abrown@plancanada.ca  

Kristy Payne, Director of Strategic Communications, Plan Canada
T: 416 920 1654 ext 211  |  C: 416 568 6525  |  kpayne@plancanada.ca