Attacks on girls’ education are increasing, UN report finds

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Malala Yousafzai. UN Photo/JC McIlwaine

The shooting of Malala Yousafzai by the Taliban in 2012 masks the extent of attacks and discrimination against schoolgirls – and the trend is growing, the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) says.

In a new report, the High Commissioner's office shows how fragile gains in promoting girls' access to education have been put at risk by such attacks.

The UN investigation highlights how there is a widespread belief that girls' education is a wasted investment and that it is more important for families to protect them — and their chances of getting married — than send them to school. Daniel Johnson reports.

Attacks on schools are happening more and more and girls are increasingly the target, according to the UN Office of the High Commissioner.

The UN report details attacks on schools in at least 70 countries from 2009 to 2014, and notes that violence against girls in education "persist(s)…with increasing regularity".

Presenting the findings in Geneva, human rights officer Veronica Birga cited high-profile attacks including the abduction of nearly 300 Nigerian schoolgirls in April 2014 by Boko Harem separatists.

"Basically the purpose of these attacks is to send a very powerful message to societies that the place of girls is not in school; that girls should not be educated because they have a specific role in societies."

She said that the lack of justice for victims reinforced the belief that such violence is acceptable, the knock-on effect being that parents preferred to keep their daughters at home to protect them.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations

Duration: 0"55

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