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UN: Girls face rising violence in fight for education

Many attacks are done in the name of religion or culture, while others are gang-related.

FILE: Malala Yousafzai. Picture: AFP.

GENEVA - High-profile attacks such as the abduction 300 schoolgirls by Boko Haram in Nigeria and the shooting of Malala Yousafzai in Pakistan are a fraction of what is suffered by girls trying to get an education, the UN human rights office said on Monday.

Many of the attacks are done in the name of religion or culture, while others are gang-related, notably in El Salvador and other parts of Central America, Veronica Birga, chief of the women's human rights and gender section at the UN human rights office, said at a presentation to launch the report.

Such violence is on the rise, the UN report said, citing acid attacks and poisoning by the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan, girls from a Christian school in India abducted and raped in 2013, and Somali girls taken out of school and forced to marry al-Shabaab fighters in 2010.

"Attacks against girls accessing education persist and, alarmingly, appear in some countries to be occurring with increasingly regularity," the report said. "In most instances, such attacks form part of broader patterns of violence, inequality and discrimination."

Many of the attacks in at least 70 countries between 2009 and 2014 involved rape and abduction, the report said.

"The common cause of all these attacks, which are very different in nature, is deeply entrenched discrimination against women and girls," Birga told the news briefing.

In Mali, Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan "very strict dress codes have been imposed through the use of violence, including sexual violence on schoolgirls", she said.

Some attacks were based on opposition to girls' education as a means for social change and others because schools were seen as imposing Western values including gender equality, she said.

She warned that depriving girls of education has serious knock-on effects.

"They are more exposed to child marriages and forced marriages, they are more exposed to trafficking and the worst forms of child labour," she said.

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