Women´s Issues After Beijing
Platform for Action of the Fourth World Conference on Women
Positions - Networks - Results
The Twelve Critical Areas of Concern of the Beijing Platform for Action: A Women´s Agenda for the Twenty-first Century
12 The girl-child: existentially disadvantaged
"The States Parties shall respect and ensure the rights set forth in the present Convention to each child within their jurisdiction without discrimination of any kind, irrespective of the child´s or his or her parent´s or legal guardian´s race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or status". These solemn promises are included in Article 2 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. For millions of girls they are still far from reality and inaccessible. In real life, girls are clearly discriminated against from the earliest stages of life.
Under-nourished, maltreated and under-educated
The Platform for Action of Beijing concludes: "Girls are often treated as inferior and are socialized to put themselves last, thus undermining their self-esteem. Discrimination and neglect in childhood can initiate a lifelong downward spiral of deprivation and exclusion from the social mainstream".
Raised to become second-class beings
In some parts of the world, men outnumber women by 5 in 100. The reasons
for this include abortions of female foetuses, female infanticide, discrimination
against girls in food allocations, hard work and neglect of their health.
These selective practices related to girls´ health and nutrition
have serious consequences: according to the Platform, 450 million adult
women are stunted as a result of childhood malnutrition.
Scholastic and domestic chores: a double burden on the shoulders of the young
The number of girls in secondary schools remains extremely low in many countries. Often they are not given the opportunity or the encouragement to pursue scientific and technical education and training, in particular. The Platform notes a tendency to exclude girls from social, political and economic life in early childhood. Boys are encouraged to participate, girls are not.
Exclusion from birth
Each year 15 million girls aged 15 to 19 give birth. Pregnancy and delivery in childhood or adolescence mean a particularly high risk for the mothers. Their children have a higher level of morbidity, and infant mortality is also higher. Early pregnancies and deliveries are obstacles to better educational, economic and social opportunities of women and their children.
Too much force, too little information: too many children become mothers
There is no protected space for girls, they are defenceless in the face of attacks. "Sexual violence and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV / Aids have a devastating effect on children´s health, and girls are more vulnerable than boys to the consequences of unprotected and premature sexual relations".
Violence and exploitation are ever-present
Girls are more vulnerable than their male opposites to all kinds of violence due to factors as youth, social pressures and lack of protective laws. Disabled girls face additional risks due to their disabilities. According to the Platform, some children need special protection, "especially the abandoned, homeless and displaced, street children, children in areas of conflict, or children who are discriminated against because they belong to an ethnic or racial minority group".
Strategies and actions to be taken
Against this background, the Platform formulates the first strategic objective in the name of gender bias in politics: "Eliminate all forms of discrimination against the girl-child". The following eight actions, proposed to the global family, are targeted towards concrete sets of problems:
The Platform proposes 58 specific actions with the aim of implementing these objectives.
Violence against the women of tomorrow must be stopped
Of all the international agreements which are binding under international law, the Convention on the Rights of the Child of 1989 has achieved the highest degree of ratification.174 States had ratified it by the end of 1994. In accordance with the Vienna Conference on Human Rights, the Platform for Action demands that the still-existing gap in ratification be closed.
Ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child and monitor its full implementation
The States that have ratified the Convention commit themselves to its
full implementation by "the adoption of all necessary legislative,
administrative and other measures and by fostering an enabling environment..."
Equal access to secondary schools by the year 2005
In line with the tasks related to violence against women, the Platform calls upon Governments to protect girls against violence more effectively. There is a lack of legislation "protecting girls from all forms of violence, including female infanticide and prenatal sex selection, genital mutilation, incest, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, child prostitution and child pornography...".
Effective prevention of violence
Girls who have become victims of violence need better and more assistance. It should be provided through age-sensitive, discreet and safe programmes which offer medical, social and psychological support services. In accordance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Platform demands active protection of children from economic exploitation. It advocats a minimum age for access to the labour markets for girls as well to be incorporated in national legislation.
More assistance for victims of violence
Health education must be clearly reoriented towards the needs and concerns of girls and must ensure intensive information regarding the physiology of reproduction, reproductive and sexual health. This applies also to information about the risks of HIV infection, Aids prevention and other sexually transmitted diseases.
Protect girls´ health
The Platform recalls the relevant agreements made at the International Conference on Population and demands their implementation. For the benefit of girls´ physical and mental health, discrimination in food allocation and health care must be eliminated. Primary health-care programmes must be augmented. In view of improved availability of prenatal sex determination, the Platform is afraid of a further increase of abortions of female foetuses, as long as son preference persists. It is therefore necessary to address the underlying economic and social causes of this preference in order to eradicate all existential disadvantages for girls.
Comply with Cairo agreements
© Friedrich Ebert Stiftung | technical support | Net Edition mv&ola | Oktober 1997