A Girl's Right to Learn Without Fear

Cover of Right to Learn without Fear ReportThis report published by International Human Rights Program (IHRP) and child-rights organization Plan Canada finds that school-related gender-based violence (SRGBV) is a major factor threatening the education of children, especially young girls, in many countries of the world, including Canada. The report, A Girl’s Right to Learn Without Fear: Working to End Gender-Based Violence at School is available  in English here (and French here).  

The report was covered by the Toronto Star and endorsed by the Honourable Irwin Cotler in an op-ed.

A Girl's Right to Learn Without Fear was co-authored by Krista Stout (LL.M. '13), who was an IHRP-Plan Canada intern this past summer.  The report also includes significant contributions and endorsements from leading Canadian rights-based organizations including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children, and was launched today with multi-party support through a Parliamentary Breakfast in the House of Commons. 

The IHRP and Plan Canada emphasize that the report does not just highlight problems but is focused on solutions drawn from the experiences of countries leading on these issues.  It includes specific recommendations for the Canadian government that are consistent with recent observations on Canada made by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child.

“Education is a fundamental human right for every child but it is too often denied or compromised, especially when it comes to young girls,” said Rosemary McCarney, President and CEO of Plan Canada. “Both globally and here in Canada gender-based violence is causing psychological and emotional trauma, poor performance at school, high dropout ratesand in the most severe cases, suicide among children. This issue needs to be addressed.”

“Violence against children is unjustifiable, but it is also preventable,” added Renu Mandhane, Director of the IHRP. “To that end, we’re calling for a process to develop a national action plan to end violence against all children, with a strong focus on gender and the school context. This process must involve all provinces, all levels of government, civil society organizations, front-line service providers, and children themselves.”

The report defines SRGBV as “acts of sexual, physical, or psychological violence inflicted on children in and around schools because of their sex or gender identity,” and presents some startling statistics and findings from here in Canada and across the world.


  • Between 500 million and 1.5 billion children experience violence every year, many in and around the institutions we trust most – our schools.
  • Around the world, incidents of sexual violence by teachers and staff against female students include a range of behaviours and misuse of authority, including rape, sexual assault, and bribing students with money or the promise of better grades in exchange for sex.

In Canada:

  • Nearly a quarter of Canadian girls, and at least 15 per cent of boys, have experienced sexual violence before they reach 16.
  • Many Canadian children, particularly girls from marginalized communities, continue to be vulnerable to different forms of violence within their school lives.
  • A national survey found that almost 2/3 of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Queer and Questioning (LGBTQ) students feel unsafe at school and many LGBTQ students, and other students who don’t fit gendered norms, are suffering from frequent incidents of verbal, physical, and online violence within their school lives.
  • The lowest estimate is that 25 per cent of Aboriginal adults have been sexually abused before reaching 18 and an estimated 40-70 per cent of girls with intellectual disabilities will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday.

The report, press release and related information can be found on the Plan Canada website here.