259. The Convention on the Rights of the Child recognizes that "States Parties shall respect and ensure the rights set forth in the present Convention to each child within their jurisdiction without discrimination of any kind, irrespective of the child's or his or her parent's or legal guardian's race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or status" (article 2, para. 1). 10/ ["States Parties shall respect the responsibilities, rights and duties of parents or, where applicable, the members of the extended family or community as provided for by local custom, legal guardians or other persons legally responsible for the child, to provide, in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the child, appropriate direction and guidance in the exercise by the child of the rights recognized in the present Convention" (article 5). 10/] However, in many countries available indicators show that the girl child is discriminated against from [conception/infancy,] through her childhood and into adulthood. [In some areas of the world, men outnumber women by 5 in every 100. The reasons for the discrepancy, for the millions of missing women, include, among other things, harmful attitudes and practices, such as female genital mutilation, son preference - which results in female infanticide [and foeticide/ prenatal sex selection] - early marriage, violence against women, prostitution, sexual abuse, discrimination against girls in food allocation and other practices related to health and well-being. As a result, fewer girls than boys survive into adulthood].
260. Girls are often treated as inferior and are socialized to put themselves last, thus undermining their self-esteem. Discrimination and neglect in childhood can initiate a lifelong downward spiral of deprivation and exclusion from the social mainstream. Initiatives should be taken to prepare girls to participate actively, effectively and equally with boys in all levels of social, economic, political and cultural leadership.
261. Gender-biased educational processes, including curricula, educational materials and practices, teachers' attitudes and classroom interaction, reinforce existing gender inequalities.
262. Girls and adolescents may receive a variety of conflicting and confusing messages on their gender roles from their parents, teachers, peers and the media. Women and men need to work together with children and youth to break down persistent gender stereotypes [recognizing the rights, duties and responsibilities of parents and other persons legally responsible for children, and consistent with the Convention on the Rights of the Child.]
263. Although the number of educated children has grown in the past 20 years in some countries, boys have proportionately fared much better than girls. In 1990, 130 million children had no access to primary school; of these, 81 million were girls. [This can be attributed to such factors as customary attitudes, child labour, early marriages, lack of funds and lack of adequate schooling facilities, and teenage pregnancies.] [In some countries the shortage of women teachers can inhibit the enrolment of girls.] In many cases, girls start to undertake heavy domestic chores at a very early age and are expected to manage both educational and domestic responsibilities, often resulting in poor scholastic performance and an early drop-out from schooling.
264. The percentage of girls enrolled in secondary school remains significantly low in many countries. Girls are often not encouraged or given the opportunity to pursue scientific and technological training and education, which limits the knowledge they require for their daily lives and their employment opportunities.
265. Girls are less encouraged than boys to participate in and learn about the social, economic and political functioning of society, with the result that they are not offered the same opportunities as boys to take part in the decision-making processes.
266. Existing discrimination against the girl child in her access to nutrition and physical and mental health services endangers her current and future health. An estimated 450 million adult women in developing countries are stunted as a result of childhood protein-energy malnutrition.
267. [The International Conference on Population and Development recognized, in paragraph 7.3 of the Programme of Action, 13/ that "full attention should be given to the promotion of mutually respectful and equitable gender relations and particularly to meeting the educational and service needs of adolescents to enable them to deal in a positive and responsible way with their sexuality".] [Recognizing the rights, duties and responsibilities of parents and other persons legally responsible for children, and consistent with the Convention on the Rights of the Child,] [responsible sexual behaviour, sensitivity and equality in gender relations, particularly when instilled during the formative years, enhance and promote respectful and harmonious partnerships between women and men. Support should be given to integrating sexual education for young people with parental support and guidance that stresses the responsibility of males for their own sexuality and fertility and that help them exercise their responsibilities.]
268. More than 15 million girls aged 15 to 19 give birth each year. Motherhood at a very young age entails complications during pregnancy and delivery and a risk of maternal death that is much greater than average. The children of young mothers have higher levels of morbidity and mortality. Early child-bearing continues to be an impediment to improvements in the educational, economic and social status of women in all parts of the world. Overall, early marriage and early motherhood can severely curtail educational and employment opportunities and are likely to have a long-term adverse impact on their and their children's quality of life.
269. Sexual violence and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS, have a devastating effect on children's health, and girls are more vulnerable than boys to the consequences of [unprotected sexual relations/premature and irresponsible sexual behaviour]. Girls often face pressures to engage in sexual activity. Due to factors such as their youth, social pressures, lack of protective laws, or failure to enforce laws, girls are more vulnerable to all kinds of violence, particularly sexual violence, including rape, sexual abuse, prostitution, trafficking [including trafficking in human organs and tissue], and forced labour.
270. [Besides living with all the problems peculiar to girls, the disabled girl child has to cope additionally with discrimination for being disabled.]
271. Some children are particularly vulnerable, especially the abandoned, homeless and displaced, street children and children in areas in conflict, and children who are discriminated against because they belong to an ethnic or racial minority group.
272. All barriers must therefore be eliminated to enable girls [in all their diversity] to develop their full potential and skills through equal access to education and training, nutrition, physical and mental health care and related information.
273. [In addressing issues concerning children and youth, Governments should promote an active and visible policy of mainstreaming a gender perspective into all policies and programmes [so that before decisions are taken, an analysis is made of the effects on girls and boys respectively].]