Does Keeping Adolescent Girls in School Protect against Sexual Violence? Quasi-experimental evidence from East and Southern Africa
We examine the relationship between educational attainment in adolescence on young women's lifetime experience of sexual violence in Malawi and Uganda.
Exposure to Universal Primary Education policies in the mid-1990s serves as a natural experiment to estimate the causal effect of schooling on women's subsequent experience of sexual violence using an instrumented regression discontinuity design and Demographic and Health Survey data.
We find a one-year increase in grade attainment leads to a nine-percentage point reduction (p < .05) in the probability of ever experiencing sexual violence in a sample of 1,028 Ugandan women (aged 18–29 years), an estimate which is considerably larger than observational estimates. We find no effect of grade attainment on ever experiencing sexual violence among a sample of 4,413 Malawian women (aged 19–31 years). In addition, we find no relationship between grade attainment and 12-month sexual violence in either country. Analysis of pathways indicates increased grade attainment increases literacy and experience of premarital sex in Malawi and reduces the probability of ever being married in both countries.
Keeping girls in school results in a number of benefits for young women; however, protects against lifetime experience of sexual violence only in Uganda. It is possible that overall higher grade attainment, particularly at secondary school levels is driving this effect in Uganda. More research on this relationship is needed, as well as on effective interventions, particularly those which can be taken to scale related to enhancing the quality and quantity of education.