issue 240 - February 1993
There are few reliable facts about girls because most research still
doesn't distinguish them either from women or from boy children.
If girls were valued and given the same care as boys there would be at least another 100 million women in the world. 1
. In India the proportion of girls to boys surviving infancy has declined since 1901. In China the one-child policy begun in 1979 caused a dramatic rise in infant girl deaths; from 38 per 1000 in 1978, to an estimated 58 in 1982.2
In South Asia, Africa and Middle East, girls get much less education than boys.
. In developing countries fewer girls than boys go to school and they spend fewer years there. Out of 100 million children not in primary school, two-thirds are girls.4
THE GENDER GAP IN PRIMARY SCHOOLS5
GIRLHOOD: A PERILOUS PATH
Tests that tell the gender of a foetus are used by parents in India and China to abort unwanted females. Of 8,000 foetuses aborted in a Bombay clinic during the late 1980s only one was male.7
An unwanted girl baby may be killed at birth or allowed to die when she falls ill. In parts of Hunan Province China, 60% more girls die than boys.10
Girls are biologically more resilient than boys but shorter breastfeeding and less health care threaten girls' survival chances. In Jordan 100 girl infants die for every 85 boy deaths.11
EARLY CHILDHOOD (1-5 years)
Less food and care for girls leads to illness and stunted growth. Girls in Tunisia are twice as likely as boys to die of diarrhoeal infection.12
CHILDHOOD (6-12 years)
Child labour and domestic duties rob girls of childhood and disrupt their education. Girls as young as eight commonly go into domestic service in Nepal and Bangladesh.13
Girls who are unschooled and an economic burden are married off at an early age, by arrangement and sometimes for cash. Half the girls in Bahrain are married by the age of 15.12
Babies born to irls younger than 18 are often bom too early, are too small, and cause extra health risks to their mothers. A quarter of the 500,000 women who die in childbirth annually are teenage girls.9
Working girls have fewer opportunities, work harder and earn less than boys - and are rarely noticed by researchers.
. In Java, girls spend 30% more hours per day working than boys.5
. In Chinese and Indian households in Malaysia, girls aged 7-9 work 120-150% more hours than boys.5
. In India, the rural girl child works 9 hours a day for an average of 315 days a year.7
. In Thailand, 200,000-400,000 girls under the age of 16 earn money by selling sex.8
Girls live longer than boys - but in every other way their chances in life are worse, and worsen as they get older.
1 Amartya Sen, 'More than 100 Million Women are Missing' NY Review of Books, 20 December 1990
2 Judith Banister, China's Changing Population, Stanford University Press, 1987.
3 UNICEF Information Kit, SAARC Year of the Girl Child 1990.
4 UNDP, Human Development Report 1991.
5 Elizabeth E King, Educating Girls and Women: Investing in Development World Bank, 1990
6 Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, Work burden of a girl child in Nepal, Kathmandu 1990.
7 Ministry of Human Resource Development, The Lesser Child: the Girl In India, India, 1990.
8 The Centre for Protection of Children's Rights, Thailand quoted in First Call for Children, UNICEF. April-June 1992.
9 The Girl Child, UNICEF, 1991.
10 Guangming Daily, Central China, quoted by Reuters, 14 October 1988.
11 WHO, Health Implications of Sex Discrimination in Childhood, 1986.
12 UNICEF MENA, Sex Differences in Child Survival and Development, 1990.
13 Anti-Slavery International, internal report, 1992.