Right to Freedom from Violence
States Parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child.
- United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child Article 19 (1)
Violence against girls--from domestic sexual and physical abuse, infanticide, sexual exploitation and assault-- is a serious violation of girls’ rights globally.
Canadian girls face disturbingly high rates of violence. For homeless young women, domestic child sexual abuse is often the reason they have been removed or run away from their family homes and communities. Once they become homeless, male violence is a daily reality. On the street, young women are subjected to constant verbal, physical, and sexual violence. Girls who are sexually abused through prostitution are most vulnerable to all forms of violence including murder. Men who abuse homeless girls rarely face consequences for their attacks.
As a result of racist child welfare practices and colonial destruction of Indigenous communities, Indigenous girls make up a large percentage of teenage girls in poverty, including homeless girls. Indigenous girls are subjected to extreme rates of violence and constitute a shocking number of murder and suicide victims in British Columbia. Justice for Girls has observed that men who commit the most serious sexual violence against multiple teenage girls very often target Indigenous girls. We understand these to be hate motivated acts of sexual violence.
Whether it is past sexual abuse at home or in government care, rape by a current boyfriend, or repeated sexual exploitation and abuse by "johns", the effects of sexual violence against girls are severe and cumulative. In addition to physical injuries, girls experience chronic anxiety, panic attacks, depression, emotional numbness, flash-backs, sleep and eating disturbances, gastro-intestinal disorders, and more. In order to cope, young women sometimes use drugs, live "on the run," harm and mutilate their own bodies, act out anger on other girls, or attempt or commit suicide.
Low-income and homeless teenage girls have a right to live free from violence and to housing and services that are for girls only. Given the level of male violence that young women face and their marginalization through poverty, systemic racism, and other forms of oppression, programs and services for girls must respond to the compounding effects of multiple forms of oppression and repeated male violence.
States shall take measures, in conjunction with Indigenous peoples, to ensure that Indigenous women and children enjoy the full protection and guarantees against all forms of violence and discrimination.
- United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Article 22 (2)