New research from Plan shows the shocking truth about adolescent girls in developing countries. In one of the largest studies ever undertaken of its kind, we talked to 7000 adolescent girls and boys in 11 countries about girls' opportunities. The findings are overwhelming. These girls are some of the most disadvantaged people on earth.
Psychological abuse and coercive control are just as damaging as physical abuse and even though our laws don't yet reflect this, they now have a chance to catch up to the common morality. Moreover, our government is now aware of the fact that our laws are leaving victims of a domestic violence vulnerable at the hands of their abusers.
This summit, attended by Heads of State, ministers and experts from all over the world is an opportunity to do so. While I am there, I will be thinking of women like Aliah from Yemen, who tried to run away from her new 30-year-old husband when she was 16, only to have her family beat her and force her back. Years later, those same widespread beliefs and traditions held in her community then forced her to marry off her own 16-year-old daughter. As we gather at the summit we must remember stories like these. These practices violate the fundamental rights of women and girls. Making child marriage and FGM illegal is critical. But it's not enough if nothing is done to challenge strong-held beliefs passed down through generations.
The story of two teenage girls raped and murdered in India this spring while looking for a discreet place to relieve themselves outdoors made headlines around the world. Sadly, their situation is far from unique. Half a billion women and girls - 15% of females worldwide - are forced to do this every day simply because they do not have access to a toilet. This crisis risks women's health, and threatens their safety. The new Indian government was moved to act following the tragedy of the two Dalit girls in Uttar Pradesh, pledging zero tolerance for acts of violence against women. Their statement is welcome. However, protecting women from harassment and attack will not happen overnight.
The horrifying reality of domestic abuse is that it happens in the home, often over a period of time in which abuse may escalate into severe violence. However because of the ongoing nature of this sort of crime, it becomes inexcusable that there is a deficiency in effective intervention and prevention.
The effect of living in a world where people of one sex are treated - in myriad tiny, indistinguishable, invisible ways - completely and utterly differently from people of another sex is enormous. You don't need to directly experience each individual component for this level of combined violence and oppression and prejudice to have a huge impact on you - on your life and your lifestyle, your ideas and ideals, and your fundamental perception of yourself and of the world around you. We think of men and women as living and working in the same world, and experiencing it similarly. But in many ways the manifestation of an identical event or activity by one might be entirely unrecognizable to the other.
I was horrified to hear about the recent attacks in the coastal town of Mpeketoni - it just highlights how vulnerable poor communities are in the country and, in particular, women and girls. With the ongoing plight of the 300 abducted schoolgirls in Nigeria and the horrific killings of two teenage girls in India and now Pakistan, never before has there been a greater time, to raise funds and awareness to put a stop to such cruel practices and to safeguard the lives and education of girls across the developing world.
We owe it to ourselves, and to women and girls worldwide, not to turn away. And thankfully I hear the voice of the world saying enough. People of all nationalities are bringing to light what has historically been one of the most silent and hidden human rights abuses of our time. For this I am grateful and proud.
I had formed an image that this man was not human, that he existed as a singular force of pure evil who somehow emerged from the ether. Something about his ability to weave together nouns, verbs and pronouns to form real, intelligible sentences forced a refocus, one that required a look at the spectrum of men's violence against women.
I've been supporting an amazing lady called Afusat since the New Year. With her solicitor's help, we have followed all procedures correctly. Fresh evidence and recent case law was submitted. Yet two weeks later, a short response came back, to say that her case had 'No merit', that she cannot appeal from within the UK and that she must return to Nigeria.
Hold onto your horses, this is not a men-bashing blog; I just want to offer some (hopefully) constructive criticism on why many men shy away from discussing FGM and all other forms of violence against women and girls (VAWG)... Before you attack me, I'd like to make it clear that I don't believe all men are guilty from shying away from such conversations and I certainly don't believe that all men who do avoid them condone FGM and other forms of VAWG. The point I want to make is that men need to recognise they have a responsibility to fight against such practices.