It’s The Day Of The Girl Again; Are We Doing Any Better?
Religion & Liberty Online

It’s The Day Of The Girl Again; Are We Doing Any Better?

Every year on October 11, the United Nations celebrates the Day of the Girl. This year’s theme focuses on technology and education. Many of the U.N.’s goals for highlighting education are admirable; after all, we’ve seen recently in the news how Malala Yousafzai, the 16 year old Pakistani, was shot in the face by the Taliban for promoting education for girls and women.

Cultural prejudices are not the only issues facing the education of girls. There are problems with transportation, family priorities (being able to afford to educate only one child – typically a boy), sanitary issues (girls missing school due to the lack of sanitary supplies for their menstrual cycle), and marrying off girls at young ages. It doesn’t take any leap of intellect to know that by educating girls, poverty recedes.

But how are girls and young women faring overall today? Are we doing a better job protecting them, welcoming their feminine contributions to the world, seeing them as valuable and precious? Unfortunately, the answer is no.

For instance, while it is illegal for sex-selective abortions to take place in Great Britain, ministers there admit they do.

Earl Howe, a Tory health minister, disclosed the government’s preliminary findings last night in answer to a parliamentary question by Lord Alton of Liverpool, a crossbench peer and former MP who campaigns against abortion.

He said: “For a very small number of countries of birth there are indications that birth ratios may differ from the UK as a whole and potentially fall outside of the range considered possible without intervention.”

We’ve come to know that China has, for years, practiced sex-selective abortions, and that country is now suffering from a gender imbalance in the millions.

In India, young women are hired as surrogates in an exploding industry. Couples (mainly from the U.S. and Great Britain) pay tens of thousands of dollars (of which the surrogate gets about $8500) for an Indian woman to carry a baby for them. One surrogate said bluntly, “I need the money,” as she and her husband struggle to raise two children, wanting them to have the education the parents did not. One writer bluntly calls the Indian surrogacy industry, “gestational serfdom.

For the United Nations, any education for girls must also contain education about “reproductive health,” which translates to birth control and abortion. Just as Planned Parenthood here in the U.S. focuses on reducing birth rates among minorities, the U.N. wants to make sure that birth rates in the developing world are controlled, even if it means risking women’s health.

A push to increase spending on contraceptives in developing countries by the United Nations Population Fund is at best misguided and at worst harmful to women and families,” Dr. John Brehany, executive director of the Catholic Medical Association…

UNFPA [United Nations Population Fund] included some population-control advocacy and depicted access to family planning as a “sound economic investment.” It also claims that the use of contraceptives will “improve” global health.

Brehany countered, however, that oral contraceptive pills “negatively impact women’s health in significant ways — by increasing the incidence of breast cancer, strokes and STDs.”

He also pointed out that an article in the January issue of The Lancet Infectious Diseases found that the use of injectable contraceptives in Africa has been shown to double the risk of HIV infection.

“Women’s greatest needs,” Brehany said, “are for education and health-care resources for prenatal care, safe childbirth and general health. Providing resources for natural methods of fertility awareness and regulation are not only cheaper than artificial contraceptives; they are better for women’s health and for the stability of marriages.”

As Carroll Ríos de Rodríguez, a Guatemalan development economist puts it,

It is extremely offensive that someone in an office in Europe will decide that no more black babies should be born or no more Latin American babies should be born, or that only one baby should be born.”

Girls as young as 12 are routinely trafficked into the sex trade, all over the world, including the U.S. It is estimated that females account for 75 percent of trafficked persons throughout the world. The state of Michigan is ranked as a “Tier 2” state, meaning the state has received a ranking of 2, on a 1-4 scale (one being the best), in dealing legally with trafficking. It is also a state that sees a relatively high amount of trafficking, yet local police are often reluctant to see girls as victims of trafficking. Even the law enforcement agencies with the most experience in this area admit that more training is needed to combat human trafficking.

We use sophisticated medical technology to identify and get rid of girls before they are even born. Once they are here, our world seems bent on reducing females to their “usefulness” or to objectify them: they produce babies, provide sexual pleasure, and earn money for others. We deny them education, but allow them to be used for sexual pleasure and reproduction for those who can afford to pay.

It’s the Day of the Girl; are we doing any better?

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Elise Hilton

Communications Specialist at Acton Institute. M.A. in World Religions.