UN reveals 100m women ‘missing’ in Asia

Morning Star Online,  March 8,  2010

An Ahmedabad, India, demonstration  against gender violence

An Ahmedabad, India, demonstration against gender violence

Nearly 100 million women across Asia “disappear” each year because bias towards boys has fatally deprived them of health care and food, the UN has said.

It warned that 96 million girls in 2007 died either because of gender-selective abortions or disparity in health services.

The number of girls born in the region trailed well behind the global average of 100 to every 107 boys. East Asia has the biggest gap, with 119 boys born each year for every 100 girls.

And once born many women have far less access to proper health care and nutrition, leading to far higher death rates than men in the region.

The UN blamed the gender gulf on deeply entrenched traditions favouring men and half-hearted government efforts to counteract them.

“The efforts of individual countries have not yet been broad, deep, sustained or serious enough to undercut the severe forms of discrimination that persist,” the United Nations Development Programme found in a report timed to coincide with International Women’s Day.

China and India each accounted for about 43 million of the “missing” women, while Pakistan accounted for 6.1 million and South Korea for 200,000.

But the UN warned that disparities were spread across Asia and were also present in wealthy countries such as Japan.

In South Asia 500 women die for every 100,000 live births, the second-worst rate in the world after sub-Saharan Africa.

And just over half of adult women in the region manage to learn to read and write – the lowest rate in the world.

The Asia-Pacific region also lags behind every region but the Arab world in terms of women’s participation in politics.

In impoverished Nepal they comprise a third of the national legislature, but in Japan and South Korea just 10 and 14 per cent of parliamentary seats are held be women, the UN said.

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