United Nations, March 5 (IANS) More girls were getting education now than ever before but this gain made little headway in helping shape a more equal, less violent environment for females, the UN said in a report.

The report, released on Wednesday ahead of the 64th session of the Commission on the Status of Women of the UN, noted that the number of out-of-school girls has dropped by 79 million in the last two decades, Xinhua news agency reported.

In fact, girls became more likely to be in secondary school than boys in just the last decade.

Yet, violence against women and girls was still common. In 2016, for example, women and girls accounted for 70 per cent of detected trafficking victims globally, most for sexual exploitation.

One in every 20 girls aged 15 to 19 — around 13 million — has experienced rape in their lifetimes.

“Access to education is not enough — we must also change people’s behaviors and attitudes towards girls. True equality will only come when all girls are safe from violence, free to exercise their rights, and are able to enjoy equal opportunities in life,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore.

The report, ‘A New Era for Girls: Taking stock on 25 years of progress’, was issued to mark the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action — the historic blueprint for advancing women’s and girls’ rights.

The report notes that harmful practices such as child marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM) continue to disrupt and damage the lives and potential of millions of girls globally.

Each year, 12 million girls are married in childhood, and 4 million were at risk of FGM.

Globally, girls aged 15 to 19 were as likely to justify wife-beating as boys of the same age.

The report also points to negative trends for girls in nutrition and health, many of which were unimaginable 25 years ago.

For example, globalization, a shift from traditional diets to processed, unhealthy foods and the rapid expansion of aggressive marketing techniques targeting children, have resulted in increased consumption of unhealthy foods and sugar-sweetened beverages.

Between 1995 and 2016, the prevalence of overweight among girls aged five to 19 has nearly doubled from 9 per cent to 17 per cent, resulting in nearly twice as many overweight girls currently (155 million) than in 1995 (75 million).

Meanwhile, the last 25 years have seen growing concerns about poor mental health fueled in part by excessive use of digital technologies.

The report notes that suicide was currently the second leading cause of death among adolescent girls aged 15 to 19, surpassed only by maternal conditions.

Girls also remain at high risk of sexually-transmitted infections, including HIV, with 970,000 adolescent girls aged 10 to 19 living with HIV currently compared to 740,000 girls in 1995.

–IANS

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