October 11 marks the International Day of the Girl Child, a moment to focus on issues facing girls around the world. A recent study by UNICEF found that violence is a major problem for millions of them. Here are five surprising facts about how girls are affected.
1. A huge number of girls have been abused.
A quarter of girls report being victims of some form of physical violence. That includes girls ages 15 to 19 worldwide—approximately 70 million girls—who reported violence since the age of 15. That figure only includes reported cases; many more go unnoticed.
2. Sexual violence is a big problem.
1 in 10 girls have experienced forced sexual acts. That's about 120 million girls under 20 worldwide. A third of them are between the age of 15 and 19 and married, and have been victims of emotional, physical or sexual violence committed by their husbands or partners.
3. Most violence against girls goes unreported.
In some countries, as many as 70 percent of girls never seek help. Nearly half of girls ages 15 to 19 think a man is justified to beat his wife or partner under circumstances such as refusing to have sex, leaving the house without permission, arguing, neglecting children or burning dinner.
4. Child marriage is common.
More than 700 million women around the world were married before their 18th birthday. Around a third—about 250 million—married before the age of 15. And in some places, notably Syrian refugee communities, the incidence of child marriage is rising, not falling.
5. Bullying is widespread.
1 in 3 girls worldwide between the ages of 13 and 15 experiences bullying regularly. This includes direct bullying such as teasing or choving, indirect bullying such as spreading rumors, and cyber-bullying.
UNICEF works in many ways to prevent violence against girls, including providing shelters and protected spaces; promoting girls' education and helping girls develop life skills; supporting parents with programs like cash transfers that help reduce the risks faced by girls; and working with governments to strengthen judicial, criminal and social systems that are essential to keeping girls safe.
"We are all accountable for ending violence against girls," says Geeta Rao Gupta, UNICEF's Deputy Executive Director.