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Day of the Girl Child: rapporteurs call on parliaments to combat ‘an emerging backlash against the rights of girls and women’

Béatrice Fresko-Rolfo (Monaco, ALDE), PACE’s General Rapporteur on Violence against Women, and Baroness Doreen Massey (United Kingdom, SOC), rapporteur on addressing sexual violence against children, issued the following statement to mark the International Day of the Girl Child, 11 October:

“25 years after the UN Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action provided a roadmap to ‘advance the goals of equality, development and peace for all women everywhere’, girls and young women still suffer from systematic inequalities in all walks of life. Child marriages are on the rise in Europe, female genital mutilation is still practiced, and sexual and reproductive rights are regularly denied.

In recent years the Assembly has adopted a series of recommendations to member States on how they should combat violations of the rights of women and young girls, while the Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence – inspired and actively supported by the Assembly – has become a household name for defending women and girls against violence.

Yet unequal access to education and employment continue to blight the lives of girls and young women, as do situations of crisis and conflict. The COVID-19 pandemic has only worsened their plight, as they now face increased domestic violence, as well as greater family responsibilities and domestic work. It’s estimated that in March 2020 most of the world’s student population were out of school or university, while even before the pandemic, two-thirds of the world’s young people not in employment, education or training were young women.

This year’s theme for the International Day of the Girl Child is ‘My Voice, Our Equal Future’, focusing on empowering adolescent girls to assert their power as change-makers and to shape their own futures. In a 2009 resolution, the Parliamentary Assembly stressed the absolute priority which should be given to access to education at an early age, and to creating a safe environment for girls to develop. The Assembly is currently working on including children's voices in its own work, and promoting meaningful child participation in national parliaments and governments at all levels. The rapporteurs stress the need to include both girls and boys in all policies and action.

We call on all parliaments to combat the emerging backlash against the rights of girls and women observed in many areas and in many countries, especially in the current context of tension or conflict and against the backdrop of the global health crisis. We have the structures, we have the tools, we know the problems – bold policies and powerful action must follow.”