Over 60 mn women have fallen victim to sex discriminationASSOCIATED PRESS
LONDON, July 23: Some 60 million women who should be alive today are ``missing'' because of rampant sex discrimination according to the annual report presented by the United Nations International Childrens' Education Fund (Unicef) on Tuesday.
Some girls are aborted when parents discover they're female. Some are killed as children. Others die of neglect or abuse in childhood, Unicef executive director Carol Bellamy told a news conference.
These ``missing women are an example of violence against women and girls which ranks as the most pervasive violation of human rights in the world today,'' the United Nation's children's fund said.
``Unicef made violence against women and girls the centerpiece of its fifth annual report because sexual violence is a major obstacle to social and economic development and has corrosive effects on children,'' Bellamy said.
``It is everywhere, in every conceivable form, from assault, rape, sexual slavery and domestic abuse to torture, mutilation and disfigurement, even murder,'' she told a news conference launching the report, The progress of nations 1997.''
The 60 million figure cited in the report is based on country-by-country projections of what the size of a ``perfect population'' should be statistically, compared with the actual population, said Gareth Jones, chief of statistics at Unicef in New York.
This perfect population, derived by demographers, takes into account natural gender differences in birth and mortality rates where there would be no gender discrimination. The figure, however, is an estimate, and could range as high as 90 million or as low as 40 million, Jones said.
In China, the difference between this perfect population and the actual one shows 29 million missing females, in India, 23 million, Pakistan 3 million Bangladesh 2 million and West Asia 2 million, he said.
A 1994 World Bank report called The hidden health burden also came up with a 60 million missing figure.
In India, more than 5,000 women are killed every year by in-laws unhappy with the size of the dowries they receive, Unicef said. More than a million children, mostly girls in Asia, are forced into prostitution every year at ever younger ages, to accommodate men fearful of getting Aids. Every day, 6,000 girls are circumcised, the ritual cutting of girls' genitals that the report described as mutilation.
Catharine Way, who put the Unicef report together, said 250,000 girls die each year, primarily in South Central Asia and China, because they experience some sort of disadvantage relative to boys.
``What this is mainly related to is unequal access to health care. Boys get taken to doctors, girls do not,'' she said at the London news conference.
Bellamy said there was overwhelming evidence that these women died simply because they were female: ``Aborted after pre-natal tests revealed their sex, or murdered as infants, or deprived of the same medical care afforded their brothers, or otherwise abused and simply neglected to death,'' she said.
The 1995 UN women's conference in Beijing put the issue of violence against women and girls in the international spotlight, ``But,'' Bellamy said, ``there is still a great deal to be done''.
``The report challenges the denial and the passive acceptance that too often surrounds this subject,'' she said.
According to Unicef, crimes against women are vastly under-reported and most gender violence not only goes unpunished but is tolerated in silence.Both the Beijing conference and the 1994 UN population conference in Cairo said educating girls was the key to curbing the world's population explosion and achieving equality of the sexes.
Unicef said educating girls is also crucial to changing attitudes about sexual violence. It is promoting education for girls in 140 developing countries. Laws making gender-based violence a crime are also an important step, the report said, but only 44 of the 193 nations in the world have enacted legislation against domestic violence, only 27 have laws against sexual harassment, and only 17 regard marital rape as a crime.
Copyright © 1997 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.