Badiul Alam Majumdar
Gender discrimination is all pervasive. Beginning from the dawn of civilisation, it has been continuing over centuries. Although it shows up in different forms and manifestations in different cultures, it exists in every society. It encompasses every segment of the society, irrespective of economic condition and social standing. Discrimination exists throughout the entire lifecycle of women, beginning from conception to death, and it has ominous consequences.
Gender discrimination begins early, even before the birth of a girl child. Modern diagnostic tools make it possible to determine a child's sex in the earliest phase. In many societies, these techniques are often misused for female feticide. Although there is no conclusive evidence to confirm it, birth histories and census data reveal an unusually high proportion of male births and male children under-five in China and India, indicating sex-selective feticide and infanticide in the world's two most populous countries, despite commitments to eradicate these practices in both countries. Fortunately, these are not serious problems in Bangladesh.
A principal priority for the early years of childhood and adolescence is ensuring access to, and completion of, quality primary and secondary education. With some exceptions, it is mostly girls who are deprived of educational opportunities.
Among the greatest threats to adolescent development are abuse, exploitation and violence, and the lack of vital knowledge about sexual and reproductive health, including HIV/AIDS.
Two critical periods in many women's lives, when the pernicious effects of both poverty and inequality can combine, are motherhood and old age.