States must listen to girls to end prejudices: UN experts

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Desk Report:

States around the world must take effective actions to end discriminations and gender-based violence faced by girls, say a group of UN rights experts on Tuesday.

In a joint statement marking International Day of the Girl Child that falls on October 11, the experts say prompt actions are needed so that girls can become full participants in all aspects of life.

It is essential, they argue, to protect the progress already made and keep up the momentum for a world in which girls will enjoy full equality, according to the statement UNB received from Geneva on Tuesday.

“Harmful stereotypes and prejudices relating to age and gender too often hold girls back and place them in harming way. We must recognise the unique circumstances and challenges faced by girls everywhere and do more to ensure that their human rights are achieved, while empowering them to grow as active participants in communities and societies,” the statement reads.

The UN experts are Karima Bennoune, Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights; Koumbou Boly Barry, Special Rapporteur on the right to education; Dainius Pūras, Special Rapporteur on the right to physical and mental health; Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Maud De Boer-Buquicchio, Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children; Urmila Bhoola, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences; Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children; Dubravka Šimonović, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences; Elizabeth Broderick, Alda Facio, Ivana RadačIć (Chair), Meskerem Geset Techane (Vice Chair), Melissa Upreti,Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice.

They said through the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goal 1 (no poverty), Goal 4 (quality education), Goal 5 (gender equality), Goal 8 (decent work), and Goal 16 (peace and justice) the global community has committed itself to creating a world where girls can grow up free from discriminations and gender-based violence, where their gender and age will not be a barrier to equal opportunity and empowerment at all levels.

“However, these commitments continue to be unfulfilled, and there’s a danger of regression, leaving too many girls behind,” the statement reads.

All around the world, girls are denied equality in education, health, cultural life, their families and their communities in ways that limit their choices and their opportunities, the experts observed.

According to Unicef, girls have lower literacy rates, receive less healthcare and are more impoverished than boys.

“Too many countries around the world maintain laws that discriminate against girls in matters like inheritance and the legal age of marriage. Too many families and communities persist in harmful practices like child marriage, menstrual seclusion and female genital mutilation.”

Too often, they said, girls face double discrimination that seeks to silence them and portray them as weak and powerless, but girls around the world are strong, brave, smart and capable.

“We must listen to what they have to say, give them opportunities to succeed, and must respect, protect and fulfill their human rights,” said the statement.
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