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Gaps between girls, boys in developing world widen as they get older: UN report

(Xinhua)

10:35, September 14, 2011

UNITED NATIONS, Sept. 13 (Xinhua) -- As boys and girls in developing countries get older, gaps are widening between them in areas like education and health, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said in a report released here Tuesday.

The report, titled "Boys and Girls in the Life Cycle," is the most comprehensive set of sex-disaggregated statistics on children and young people in the developing world.

It suggested that gender differences are generally "small" in the beginning years of life which examined such areas like education, health, nutrition and protection.

"While there is little difference between boys and girls in early childhood with respect to nutrition, health, education and other basic indicators, differences by gender appear increasingly more pronounced during adolescence and young adulthood," said Geeta Rao Gupta, UNICEF deputy executive director, in a news release.

Equally, children are likely to be registered at birth irrespective of sex, exclusive breastfeeding rates in the first six months of life are similar for both sexes, and the chances of being undernourished is the same for boys and girls under age five, said the report.

Most countries that have available data have similar proportions of boys and girls that attend pre-school education, said the report.

But it revealed that gender inequalities exist in access to education, health and protection, which are significantly greater as children approach adolescence.

The report said that girls are significantly more likely to be married as children from under 18 years of age and to have sex at a young age.

Young men are more informed about HIV/AIDS, while young women in sub-Saharan Africa, are two to four times more likely to be infected with HIV/AIDS than young men, said the report.

"Closing gender gaps in all stages of childhood and eliminating gender discrimination -- whether against girls or boys -- are fundamental to inclusive and sustained progress for countries around the world," Gupta said in the news release.

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