Discrimination against girls 'still deeply entrenched'
By Terri Judd and Harriet Griffey
15 May 2007
Almost 100 million girls "disappear" each year, killed in the womb or
as babies, a study has revealed.
The report, "Because I am a Girl", exposes the gender discrimination
which remains deeply entrenched and widely tolerated across the world,
including the fact that female foeticide is on the increase in
countries where a male child remains more valued.
The report highlights the fact that two million girls a year still
suffer genital mutilation, half a million die during pregnancy - the
leading killer among 15 to 19-year-olds - every 12 months and an
estimated 7.3 million are living with HIV/Aids compared with 4.5
million young men. Almost a million girls fall victim to child
traffickers each year compared with a quarter that number of boys.
Of the 1.5 billion people living on less than 50p a day, 70 per cent
are female, with 96 million young women aged 15 to 24 unable to read
or write - almost double the number for males.
While many of the most shocking figures in the Plan International
report relate to developing nations, sexual discrimination is still
prevalent in the north.
In the UK, two women a week are killed by current or former partners.
The country also has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in Europe
and having a baby at a young age means women are more likely to miss
out on education and slip into poverty. There has also been a
substantial rise in obesity in young girls in the UK.
While girls in Britain often outperform boys in school, they are still
victims of discrimination in the workplace. The report points out that
a recent study found they were still woefully underrepresented in the
boardroom, in politics and the courts. While the pay gap between young
men and women is 3.7 per cent, it rises to 10.7 per cent for those in
"Even if you look at the UK, life is still difficult for some minority
girls," said Marie Staunton, chief executive of Plan UK. "More girls
are going to university but then it flattens off. They have broken
through the marble ceiling into management but not through the glass
ceiling into the boardroom."
The "Because I am a Girl" campaign launched today highlights
discrimination and will work towards improving gender equality
worldwide. Designed to run until 2015, the campaign will also follow
the lives of 125 girls born in 2006 until their ninth birthday.
Today's report is the first in a series of nine studies by Plan
International - a global child development agency.
Statistics show that 62 million girls are not even receiving primary
school education while an estimated 450 million have stunted growth
because of childhood malnutrition. "Why, in an era that saw the term
'girl power' coined, are millions of girls being condemned to a life
of inequality and poverty?" the report asks.
Graça Machel, the children's rights campaigner from Mozambique, said:
"The study shows that our failure to make an equal, more just world
has resulted in the most intolerable of situations. To discriminate on
the basis of sex and gender is morally indefensible; it is
economically, politically and socially unsupportable."
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