March 4 (UPI) -- A United Nations report Wednesday said that despite significant gains in access to education by women and girls around the world in recent decades, many are still subjected daily to discrimination and violence.
The report by the United Nations Children's Fund said little progress has been made to create a more equitable and less violent world for females.
The 40-page report, titled "A New Era for Girls: Taking stock on 25 Years of Progress," analyzes advancements following the 1995 Beijing women's conference, which is regarded a landmark event in advancing equal rights.
Wednesday's report said the number of girls without access to education has dropped by 79 million over the last two decades. Girls are now as likely as boys to attend secondary school, it noted.
Researchers said violence against females, however, is still common and widely accepted; 70 percent of known trafficking victims are female -- and one in 20 girls between 15 and 19 has been raped.
"The world's governments made a commitment to women and girls [in Beijing in 1995], but they have only made partial good on that promise," said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. "While the world has mustered the political will to send many girls to school, it has come up embarrassingly short on equipping them with the skills and support they need not only to shape their own destinies, but to live in safety and dignity.
"Access to education is not enough. We must also change people's behaviors and attitudes towards girls. True equality will only come when all girls are safe from violence, free to exercise their rights, and are able to enjoy equal opportunities in life."
The study said 12 million girls each year are married as children and suicide is the second-leading cause of death girls in the 15-19 group. Also, nearly 1 million girls between 10 and 19 are living with HIV, a 24 percent increase from 1995.
"After 25 years, the world is still a very violent place for girls and women," said Peter Hawkins, Nigeria's ambassador to the United Nations. "We need to invest in protection services and support programs that give survivors of violence an opportunity to speak up and to heal."
The U.N. Commission on the Status of Women conference begins in New York City next week, and at least 12,000 people had been expected to attend. The global spread of the coronavirus, however, has cut the conference to one day on March 9. Only delegations and non-government organization representatives already in the city can attend.