Gender discrimination is not just a barrier to career advancement and social activity. In various countries around the world, it has been linked to the death of female girls.
In a study published Tuesday in the journal BMJ Global Health, which analyzed gender inequality and child mortality using data from 195 countries, researchers found that unequal treatment is “linked to more deaths than expected among girls under the age of 5” compared with boys the same age, reported CNN.
"We are not sure we can generalize these findings. However, at [a] country level, the highest gender inequality led to more girls dying," said lead researcher Valentina Gallo, professor of epidemiology at Queen Mary University of London's Centre for Primary Care and Public Health, in an interview with CNN.
The circumstances play out such that in settings where sexist attitudes value boys over girls, a greater proportion of young girls are dying due to reduced access to basic health care, greater exposure to health risks, and lower vaccination rates than in boys, noted the report.
The numbers were extrapolated from UNICEF's database of child mortality worldwide and the UN's Gender Inequality Index, which measures gender inequality based on reproductive health, female empowerment, and economic status.
According to the study, the higher the gender inequality index, the lower the sex ratio for children under the age of 5 dying — illustrating that in the world's least gender-equal societies, such as Yemen, which received the lowest score of the 195 countries quantified — more girls were dying than boys.
"These girls are also further exposed to this risk via their mothers, who may themselves be penalized and valued less than mothers of sons and less able to provide for their daughters," Gallo noted in the interview.
While the study does not paint a complete picture due to the limitations of the data used, it does inspire greater urgency in response to exacting gender equality.
In 2015, 5.9 million children around the globe died before they turned 5, noted CNN. Factors besides gender included being born in rural areas, in poor households, or to mothers denied basic education.