Gender Discrimination Across the Life Cycle

  • Birth histories and census date reveal an unusually high proportion of male births and male children under five in Asia, most notably in India and China, suggesting sex-selecting foeticide and infanticide in the world’s two most populous countries, despite initiatives to eradicate these practices in both countries.
  • More than 115 million children of primary school age do not attend school. For every 100 boys not attending primary school, there are 115 girls in the same situation.
  • Missing out on primary school deprives a girl the opportunity to develop to her full potential. Nearly one out of every five girls in primary schools in the developing world does not complete a primary education.
  • In the developing world an average of 43 per cent of girls of appropriate age attend secondary school. Research shows that educated women are less likely to die in childbirth and more likely to send their children to school.
  • A UNICEF survey of selected countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa finds that on average, children with uneducated mothers are at least twice as likely to be out of primary school than children whose mothers attended primary school.
  • More than 130 million women and girls alive today have been subjected to female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C), which can have grave health consequences, including the failure to heal, increased susceptibility to HIV infection, childbirth complications, inflammatory diseases and urinary incontinence.
  • The younger girls are when they first have sex, the more likely it is that intercourse has been imposed on them. According to a World Health Organization study, 150 million girls and 73 million boys under the age of 18 experienced forced sexual intercourse or other forms of physical and sexual violence in 2002.
  • Globally 36 per cent of woman between the ages of 20-24 were married or in union before they reached 18, most commonly in sub-Sahara Africa and South Asia, where it is often a long standing tradition and difficult to protest. Premature pregnancy and childbirth is often a dangerous consequence of child marriage.
  • An estimated 14 million girls between 15-19 years old give birth every year. If a mother is under 18 her baby’s chances of dying in the first year of life is 60 percent greater than that of a baby born to a mother over 19. Babies born to mothers under 18 are more likely to suffer from low birth weight, under nutrition and delayed physical and cognitive development.
  • Every minute, a woman dies as a result of pregnancy complications, adding up to more than half-a-million women per year. Some 99 per cent of all maternal deaths occur in developing countries, with over 90 per cent of those in Africa and Asia. In 2000, two-thirds of maternal deaths occurred in 13 of the world’s poorest countries. The same year, India alone accounted for one-quarter of all maternal deaths.
  • One out of every 16 sub-Saharan Africa women will die as a result of pregnancy or childbirth, compared to just one out of every 4,000 in industrialized countries. Motherless newborns are between three and 10 times more likely to die than newborns whose mothers survive.
  • In parts of Africa and the Caribbean, young women aged 15 to 24 are up to six times more likely to be infected with HIV than young men their age. Women are at greater risk of contracting HIV of men, partly because of physiological reasons. But gender discrimination also plays a role, denying women the negotiating power they need to reduce their risk of infection.
  • High rates of illiteracy among women prevent them from knowing about the risks of HIV infection and ways to protect themselves. A survey of 24 sub-Saharan African countries reveals that two thirds or more of young women lack comprehensive knowledge of HIV transmission.
  • Elderly women may face double discrimination on the basis of both gender and age. Women tend to live longer than men, may lack control of family resources and can face discrimination from inheritance and property laws. Very few developing countries have safety nets for older people.