Gender and violence against women and girls in South Asia
At our first ever public symposium, held in June 2019, at the Australian National University, we were delighted that one of the speakers was Associate Professor Shanti Raman, a paediatrician who is originally from South Asia, and a BODHI advisor since 2005. Shanti's talk reminded us of some of the shocking facts about the lives and risks of girls and women, including in South Asia. Risks faced by females include foeticide, infanticide, girlhood neglect, early and forced marriage, and femicide including from "honour" killings and acid attacks. A recent report by UNICEF found a highly encouraging (almost unbelievable) improvement in the rate of child marriage in India (comparing (2015-16 to 2005-06), however, even according to this, 1.5 million girls in India are still married each year before they reach 18, even though this is technically illegal.
Shanti's slides are available here (currently embedded as slides 10-44, with all the other slides presented at our symposium).
A beautifully photographed essay published in National Geographic mentions that in Shravasti, Uttar Pradesh (a city where the Buddha once walked) the average woman has five children over her lifetime. The essay shows photos of a married girls aged only nine. It also clearly describes the links between high fertility, poverty, child marriage and exploitation. A recent report in the Economist points out that Pakistan (also in South Asia) accounts for one in every 13 of the world's unschooled, and that most are girls. BODHI's work has always tried to reduce such risks to girls and women by focusing especially on the education of girls, and by encouraging the empowerment of their mothers.