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UN report calls for more efforts to end gender bias

By LIU XUAN | China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-07-10 10:07

[Photo/China Daily]

The world is still struggling in its fight against practices that harm women and girls, especially amid the pandemic, said a newly released United Nations report that calls on nations and individuals to take actions to end the harm.

Every year, millions of girls are subjected to practices that harm them physically and emotionally, according to the report. An estimated 4.1 million girls will be subjected to female genital mutilation in 2020.

The report, called Against my Will: Defying the Practices that Harm Women and Girls and Undermine Equality, focuses on three harmful practices against women and girls-female genital mutilation, child marriage and preference for a male child.

It is an annual report on the state of the world's population launched by the United Nations Population Fund to raise awareness of population issues and call for the full realization of sexual and reproductive health and rights for all.

Each day more than 33,000 girls under the age of 18 are forced into marriages, usually to much older men, while an extreme preference for sons over daughters in some countries has fueled gender-biased sex selection or extreme neglect that leads to their death as children, the report said.

To make it worse, the report indicated that the COVID-19 pandemic may have delayed countries' implementation of programs that are designed to end child marriage and female genital mutilation. Pandemic-related economic disruptions are also increasing the vulnerability of girls to harmful coping mechanisms, including these harmful practices.

"These harmful practices against girls cause profound and lasting trauma, robbing them of their right to reach their full potential," Babatunde Ahonsi, representative of UNFPA China, said on Wednesday during a launch event in Beijing.

Ahonsi suggested addressing the problem by tackling the root causes, especially gender-inequitable norms, as the UNFPA report stated that decades of experience and research show that bottom-up, grassroots approaches are better at bringing change.

"We must also do a better job of supporting communities' own efforts to understand the toll these practices are taking on girls, and the benefits that accrue to the whole of society by stopping them," he said.

Multiple plans

In China, a preference for sons still exists in some places, said Tang Mengjun, a researcher from the China Population and Development Research Center.

Such preference has caused big and long-term impacts on Chinese society and individuals, such as gender imbalance, discrimination and violence against women, and violation of the rights of women and girls, she said.

The Chinese government, together with the UN agency, has fostered a policy environment that is conducive to the protection of women and girls from gender discriminatory and harmful practices, and to increase public awareness and community engagement to change social norms.

Wei Yunpeng, deputy director-general of the Department of Population Monitoring and Family Development at the National Health Commission, said China has devised multiple plans to ensure people's reproductive rights as well as address the adverse male to female sex ratio at birth.

According to official data, this imbalance has been reduced over recent years. In 2009, 119.5 boys were registered as born for every 100 girls. That number dropped to 111.9 in 2017.

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