Nepal | October 22, 2020

UNFPA urges stakeholders to uphold rights of girls

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Voices of girls are too often silenced and the silence is enforced through gender-based violence, child marriage and other harmful practices, said United Nations Population Fund today.

Such practices violate a girl’s bodily integrity and autonomy, they steal her confidence and ability to make informed choices about her life, said UNFPA Executive Director Natalia Kanem, issuing a statement on the occasion of the International Day of the Girl. The day focuses attention on the need to address the challenges girls face and to promote girls’ empowerment and the fulfilment of their human rights.

This year’s theme of the day is, “My voice, our equal future” that reimagines a better future inspired and led by adolescent girls. Harmful practices against girls are happening in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Various studies showed pandemic could lead to an increase in child marriages and adolescent pregnancy.

“With the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda as our guide, we need to do better to ensure that girls are not left behind.

We cannot allow the current COVID-19 crisis to derail the future of an entire generation,” Dr Kanem said.

National data showed Nepal has one of the highest child marriage rates in Asia, with four in 10 Nepali girls marrying before the age of 18. The legal age for marriage in the country is 20.

According to UNFPA, there is an increasing imbalance in the sex ratio at birth in Nepal – from 103 male per 100 female live births in 2005 to 110 males in 2015 – and it is further evidence of the persistent gender discrimination that undervalues girls.

Menstruation is considered a taboo across the country.

Although criminalised, Chhaupadi, which prevents women and girls from participating in normal family activities when menstruating, still continues. “Let’s redouble our efforts towards a gender-equal world, where every girl has the power to make informed choices about her body and her life,” UNFPA chief said.

A version of this article appears in print on October 11, 2020, of The Himalayan Times.

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