We recently recognized International Women’s Day and celebrated the achievements of women around the world and we also acknowledged the long road ahead in the journey for equality for women. Worldwide, the World Health Organization estimates that one third of all women will be victim to physical violence including sexual violence in their lifetime. In the homeless community women face far more danger and the risks are that much higher. While men outnumber women almost two to one in the homeless population, women are at far greater risk of violence, sexual assault, and sexual exploitation.
Homeless female youth are particularly vulnerable to violence. What is truly frightening is that it is young women who are at even higher risk for sexual violence and sexual exploitation. Research has shown that over 90% of the sex trafficking victims are female and that 42% of them were victims of trafficking before the age of 18. One Toronto shelter found that over 30% of their female residents were involved in the sex trade. It is clear that the vulnerability of young females is at frightening levels.
In the ground breaking 2016 National Youth Homeless Survey participants who identified as female accounted for 36.4% of the national homeless youth population. One of the factors that must be taken into consideration is that many young girls are exploited for what is known as survival sex. This is the practice of exchanging sexual acts for shelter and food. At some point we need to say that enough is enough. YWS is part of the effort to keep young women safe but it will take a far greater commitment and far wider efforts to make lasting change. Each of us can be that voice and keep these issues at the force of political and social debate. The journey for equality has a long road ahead but it is a journey that cannot be taken alone. Join us and other groups supporting the rights of women along this road.