Dhaka, Bangladesh (BBN)– Young girls are being weighed down by social and cultural pressures from society as they reach puberty, although they are relatively free from discrimination up to the age of five in their own households reveals a UNICEF report launched on Tuesday.

Bias is manifested in different forms such as drop out from schools especially secondary school,  not allowing girls leave their home unaccompanied, being subject to sexual harassment (eve-teasing) and physical and psychological violence (e.g. acid throwing)

The report ‘A Perspective on Gender Equality in Bangladesh’ aims to bring a perspective on the situation of young girl in Bangladesh and how it changes as they transition into adolescence.

The report was launched by the Chief Guest Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury, State Minister of Women and Children Affairs, at a hotel in the capital Dhaka.

The program was attended by Iqbal Mahmood, Secretary Economic Relations Division, Ministry of Finance, Ms. Naheed M Ahmed, National Programme Manager of UN Women and UNICEF Advocate for Child Rights Ms. Arifa Zaman Moushumi as special guests while Carel de Rooy UNICEF Representative chaired the session.  

The report highlights that in Bangladesh the female under-five mortality rate (U5MR) is 20 per cent lower than that of boys and there is no sign of a non-natural gender bias in under-five mortality.

The report also sheds light on the ‘natural order’ of sex ratio which is 105 boys for every 100 females born. In Bangladesh, the sex ratio for the under one population is 107.5 males for every 100 females, but among the adult population it is 105 men for every hundred women, leading to the conclusion that “five million women are missing in Bangladesh”.

The report underlines this existing situation as a disturbing picture given that the Bangladesh sex ratio is worryingly higher than the normal human sex ratio. This is more evident in Bandarban, Comilla, Chuadnaga, Hobignj and Mulovi bazar districts.

As regards to the education of the girl child, the report reveals that there is a favorable education system for girls in Bangladesh, especially in primary education. However, the female dropout rate soars after puberty and legal adulthood (ages 10 – 19) which is caused by social conduct & norms, among which very prominently featured is early marriage.

The study report calls to improve efforts to raise awareness and educate on gender equality at all levels of society from grassroots initiatives to governmental policies and action. It is also recommended enhancing research to better understand the different forms of gender discrimination that lead to inequalities throughout the life cycle for evidence-based policy advocacy.

All these necessary actions require the collaboration and partnership of government with civil society organizations, the private sector, development partners and all other key stakeholders to promote gender equality goals the report recommends.

The report was presented by Ms. Luzma Montano, Officer-in-Charge of UNICEF’s Planning Section and Dr. Dirk Westhof, Consultant of UNICEF.

BBN/SSR/AD-25Oct11-3:02 pm (BST)