One in 3: far more than a statistic

Written by Helen Parry, Senior Advisor on Sexual and Reproductive Health with the International HIV/AIDS Alliance on the DFID blog.

At the International HIV/AIDS Alliance’s recent 20th anniversary convention, Jackline Kemigisha, the founder of the Girls Awake Foundation in Uganda, shared her own compelling personal story of the impact of gender-based violence. She was conceived through rape, and then at 15 was raped herself, contracting HIV as a result. “After this I not only needed to learn to live with the health issues associated with HIV but also the social stigma it carried with it. One of the hardest obstacles for me was being ostracised by my family, namely my father who then refused to help fund the university education I had been hoping for.”

Jackline was forced to leave home at the age of 19 with nowhere to go and no job. It was because of her own personal conviction that she has got to where she is today, a global advocate for the rights of young people living with HIV, establishing her own organisation to help other girls and women in similar situations.

Globally, 1 in 3 women will experience physical and/or sexual violence at some point in their lifetimes, most commonly by an intimate partner. Among most at risk groups such as women selling sex, women who use drugs and transgender women, the figure is even higher. South Africa has one of the highest rates of sexual violence in the world. It’s a similar story in Asia. A recent UN multi-country study on men and violence in Asia and the Pacific revealed that almost 1 in 4 men had “forced a woman… to have sex”. As Phumzile Mlambo-Ngucka, the Executive Director of UN Women concludes: “It means that in the world, the beating up of women is a pastime.” Every girl and woman, boy and man has the right to live free from violence and abuse.”

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