Are Schools Safe Havens for Children? Examining School-related Gender-based Violence
All children deserve a school environment that is safe and nurturing – one that will allow them to grow, thrive, and maximize their full potential. Yet many students in the developing world face a different daily reality. The physical, psychological, and sexual violence they experience in and around school compromises their ability to fully realize the benefits of education. It impacts whether students enroll in and attend school and whether they are engaged, motivated, and able to concentrate and learn while there. Gender violence can occur in classrooms, dormitories, boarding houses, administrative buildings, teachers’ residences, other parts of school grounds, and on the way to and from school. It can have short and long-term impacts on students’ health and well-being, including reproductive health problems, broken bones, cognitive impairment, substance abuse, depression, and suicidal behavior, among others.
Despite these consequences, there is limited understanding of the depth and breadth of school-related gender-based violence (SRGBV) in the developing world. This report reviews the literature on SRGBV in order to improve understanding about its causes, prevalence, and consequences. It examines how gender norms, poverty, and a culture of violence contribute to SRGBV. The report explores violence that is perpetrated by both male and female students and teachers. While much of the literature focuses on sexual violence, this report also highlights the prevalence and impact of physical and psychological abuse. It examines barriers to preventing and responding to SRGBV, including silence around the issue, inadequate laws and codes of conduct, enforcement problems with existing laws, shortages of teachers and guidance counselors, and flaws in the design and implementation of existing interventions. The report also presents examples of what is being done to address SRGBV, including legal and policy changes, training for teachers and school personnel, counseling and support systems for students, community engagement, and programming that addresses life skills and gender norms with boys and girls. The final section of the report presents recommendations for research and action at the national, institutional, local, and individual levels. Annexes highlight findings from select research studies reviewed for this report and practical tools for addressing SRGBV.
Although there is no global data on the prevalence of school-related gender-based violence, the literature reviewed for this report indicates that physical, sexual, and psychological abuse in and around schools is a worldwide problem. Addressing SRGBV is a critical element in ensuring that all children are able to attend school in an environment that allows them to flourish.