According to the report, gender inequalities in access to education, health and protection are significantly greater as children approach adolescence. While gender parity in primary education is now common throughout the world, it is less likely at the secondary level although this also depends on regions. For example, fewer girls go to secondary school in South Asia whereas the opposite is true in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Available data show that girls are significantly more likely to be married as children (under 18 years of age) and to begin having sex at a young age. In Sub-Saharan Africa, girls are also more likely to report that a husband is justified in beating his wife under certain circumstances. Young women are less likely to be literate than young men and are less likely to watch television, listen to the radio and read a newspaper or magazine. Young men are better informed about HIV/AIDS and are also more likely to protect themselves with condoms during sex. Ultimately, young women in sub-Saharan Africa are two to four times more likely to be infected with HIV/AIDS than young men.
However, children overall have reached parity in their early age. For examples, children are equally likely to be registered at birth irrespective of sex. Exclusive breastfeeding rates in the first six months of life are similar for both sexes in most countries with available data, and the likelihood of being undernourished is the same for boys and girls under age five. Boys and girls are equally likely to benefit from malaria interventions, and to receive proper care for diarrhoeal diseases and pneumonia – the two leading causes of under-five deaths. In most countries with available data, similar proportions of boys and girls attend pre-school education.
“Closing gender gaps in all stages of childhood and eliminating gender discrimination – whether against girls or boys – are fundamental to inclusive and sustained progress for countries around the world. In addition to the harmful and often-tragic effects of gender inequalities on children themselves, the kinds of persistent inequalities that we continue to see in the available data, especially in the adolescent years, are major barriers to the efforts of many nations to move out of long term poverty and achieve their development aspirations”, said UNICEF’s Geeta Rao Gupta at the presentation of the report in New York today.