Protect the Girls

Zalambessa Girls

After my mother died, I went to my mother’s mother. In 2001, she died, so I stopped school. Then we went to my auntie, my mom’s younger sister. Most girls find that they start keeping up with [having sex with] stepfathers or uncles. Most are raped. They have no say. They think if you bring them to the police, there will be no one to keep me. So they keep quiet. -Patricia M., age 16 from Human Rights Watch Interview, Lusaka, Zambia May 22, 2002

Through girls’ own testimonies, this report shows sexual assault of girls in Zambia in the era of HIV/AIDS to be widespread and complex. It documents several categories of abuse that heighten girls’ risk of HIV infection, including (1) sexual assault of girls by family members, particularly the shocking and all too common practice of abuse of orphan girls by men who are their guardians, or by others who are charged to assist or look after them, including teachers, (2) abuse of girls, again often orphans, who are heads of household or otherwise desperately poor and have few options other than trading sex for their and their siblings’ survival, and (3) abuse of girls who live on the street, of whom many are there because they are without parental care.

This is one story that can be multiplied over and over in every nation with AIDS orphans. You feel helpless when you read of the millions of orphans at risk, what can we do? St. Lucy worked tirelessly to help young girls in similar situations more than three hundred years ago! We, too, must continue her work. Pray, sacrifice, do whatever you can to make this world a better place.

God bless you,

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