Namibia: Half of Girls' First Sexual Experience Unwanted

The United Nations Population Fund has revealed that 54% of girls' first sexual experience in Namibia is unwanted.

United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) country representative Dennia Gayle revealed this during the launch of The State of World Population 2020 under the theme 'Against my will: Defying the practices that harm women and girls and undermine equality' in Windhoek on Tuesday.

Gayle said pressure to have sex mostly comes from peers, which accounts for 47% of incidents, while older sexual partners account for 32%.

Today, 33 000 girls globally will be forced to marry, she said.

Gayle explained what adolescent girls go through because of harmful cultural practices, which she has vowed to put an end to.

"As the UNFPA's State of World Population report shows, there's no need to imagine these scenes, because they are all real. And they play out tens of thousands of times a day. Every day. All over the world," she said.

The report cites at least 19 specific practices against girls and women that have been almost universally denounced as abuse and violations of human rights, ranging from breast ironing to virginity testing.

Other pracices which remain widespread include female genital mutilation, child marriage and gender-biased sex selection.

Gayle said some governments have already taken steps to end harmful practices, often by enacting and enforcing laws banning them.

"Laws are, however, just a starting point. And in some cases, laws can have the unintended effect of driving these practices underground."

In Namibia the incidence of child marriage is only prevalent in certain parts of the country.

While under civil law the age of marriage is set at 18, there is no prescription under customary law - hence the presence of child marriages.

Gayle said because of decades of gender-biased sex selection and the neglect of daughters relative to sons, a shocking 140 million girls are missing today from the world's population.

She said when men far outnumber women, social problems can emerge, exacerbating gender-based violence, including rape, coerced sex, sexual exploitation, trafficking and child marriage. "What these diverse harmful practices all have in common is that they are rooted in gender inequality and a desire to control women's bodies and lives. As the health, education and human potential of women and girls are diminished, so too is all of humanity," Gayle said. She said when so many girls and women are violated, the future of women is undermined.

Further statistics from the report show that 66% of sexually active adolescent girls do not use modern methods of contraception, particularly rural adolescents. Contraceptive use among people aged 15 to 19 is relatively low at 24%, and for young women aged 25 to 29 contraceptive use is at 62%.

"Respect, protect and fulfil - this can bring real change and real results for women and girls. We cannot stop until the rights, choices and bodies of all girls are fully their own. And we can't let anything, not even the Covid-19 pandemic, get in our way," Gayle said.

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