A human rights report released earlier this week reveals that girls in Zambia are five times more likely to be infected with the HIV virus than their male counterparts as a result of widespread sexual abuse. Human Rights Watch (HRW) completed a 121-page report entitled “Suffering in Silence,” which describes how young girls who suffer from sexual abuse often experience it at the hands of guardians.
According to Human Rights Watch, the widespread sexual abuse of Zambian girls is fueling the HIV/AIDS epidemic, as there is a dramatically higher prevalence among girls than boys. A recent report by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) underscores the importance of empowering women to stem the AIDS crisis, citing certain cultural and social beliefs about women as contributing to their vulnerability in this epidemic. HRW reports that Africa is on the only region in the world “where women and girls outnumber men and boys among persons living with AIDS. Zambia also has a large number of girls who have been orphaned as a result of the AIDS epidemic, and many of these girls are forced into prostitution, according to HRW. “Girls orphaned by AIDS face stigma and poverty and too often are unable to stay in school,” Janet Fleischman, author of the report, said in an HRW release. “They may have no recourse but to trade sex for survival — their own and sometimes that of their siblings — and they are rarely able to negotiate safe sex.”
HRW blamed the Zambian police and authorities for being ineffective in enforcing laws against sexual abuse, and held them accountable for girls being hesitant to report abuses. The organization warned that if the Zambian government failed to address the issue it will have a negative impact in the fight against HIV and AIDS, calling for support networks for victims and better training of law enforcement officials.