Women and girls still suffer the lion’s share of violence, illness and lack of access to opportunity, according to two new studies.
A study from World Policy Analysis Center looked at women’s well-being in 197 countries and found that while legal protections for women had improved in some areas, some had actually grown worse since 1995.
One of those is child marriage. "We talk about child marriage, but overwhelmingly around the world, this is girl marriage," study author Dr. Jody Heymann told Newsweek. In Saudi Arabia and Yemen, there is no minimum age for marriage.
Fifteen million girls under the age of 18 are bound in marriage every year — which has “disastrous” effects on health and education, says the report. Girls married as children are unlikely to finish school and are much more likely to die in childbirth and experience sexual and physical abuse. According to Unicef, one out of three girls under 18 in South Asia are already married or in a union.
A U.N. study released last week found that violence toward women is on the rise, and that some conflicts are now actually targeting women. The rise of the extremist group Islamic State has put women in "the eye of the storm" of horrific violence and repression, said Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of U.N. Women, at a press briefing.
“The nature of the conflict now has actually changed for women,” she said. “It is even worse and more cruel now. It is indeed, in many parts of the world, more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier."
Women’s opportunities and wages continue to lag, according to the U.N. report, which found that women’s participation in the job market actually decreased to 50 percent in 2013 from 52 percent in 1990.
Part of the problem is parental leave policies, which allow moms to participate in the economy and help support their families, but the U.S. does not guarantee paid leave to new moms at the federal level. It’s the only high-income country without a paid leave policy, joining ranks with Papua New Guinea and Suriname. Most U.S. states don’t guaranteed paid leave.
Half of countries don’t guarantee any paid paternal leave, either.
"We've ignored this fact as if it’s natural, but this is the law stereotyping gender roles, legally facilitating women’s caregiving while making it hard for men to caregive,” Heymann told Newsweek.
Along the same lines, women also lag in equal pay, but the wage gap is worse for moms. In 2013, women working full-time in the U.S. averaged 78 cents for every dollar made by men according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.
But a closer look reveals that women without children earn 93 cents to childless men’s dollara, but mothers with at least one child under age 18 earn 76 cents to a married father's dollar, according to a 2014 study by Michelle Budig, a sociology professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
“Much of the wage gap in the United States that is reported as a gender gap is a gender gap, but it’s truly a maternity gap,” said Heymann.
Around the world, girls also still struggle to get an education; 65 million girls around the world are not attending school, according to the report.
In Somalia , for example, only 36 percent of girls go to school. Worldwide, girls make up over half of children not getting a primary education, and only 30 percent of girls are enrolled in secondary school. In many places, due to poverty, security, war or culture, male children will be educated while their female siblings won’t.
At the current time, “no country can claim to have gender equality,” said Mlambo-Ngcuka.