A report by Plan International and the Overseas Development Institute graphically illustrates the effect the financial collapse has had on girls and women. Global infant mortality has risen as economies contract, and more females are being abused or starved. According to research by the World Bank into previous crises, each 1 per cent fall in economic output results in an extra 7.4 deaths per 1,000 for females and 1.5 for boys.
The Plan International report found that as the recession bit and poverty spread older girls were increasingly removed from school. Worldwide 29 per cent fewer girls and 22 per cent fewer boys are now finishing primary school. As their mothers were having to work longer hours for less pay girls were being taken out of school to help at home, the report said.
Malnutrition is also growing as the main breadwinner, usually male, has to be given preference. Health cuts have also increased the risk of death in pregnancy and childbirth. Researchers observed an increase in child marriages to get rid of burdensome mouths to feed. Others are sent out to work as child labourers, including for sex.
This was highlighted by the case of Sri Lankan domestic worker Nafeek Rizana, who was beheaded in Saudi Arabia after being convicted of killing a baby in her charge. She claimed the baby choked but the court decided it had been strangled. The Saudi government said it was unable to pardon her because the baby’s family insisted the sentence be carried out.
Rizana was only 17 at the time and accordingly should have been classified as a child not allowed to work in Saudi Arabia or to face trial as an adult. Employment agents had falsified her age as 23 on her passport. Her family only heard of her execution through the media and were refused permission to retrieve her body. Human rights campaigners claim that at the trial she had no translator and a lawyer was not appointed until after the sentence was pronounced. The Saudis offered financial compensation to the Rizana family, which they rejected. ■