Eliminating discrimination against women would substantially increase national income. This is according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

In releasing the UNFPA’€™s “The state of the World Population 2000” report last week, Dr Nafis Sadik, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund, said that the message of the report was simple: “the price of inequality is too high to pay.”

Some of the findings of the report include that:

Two million girls world-wide are at risk of female genital mutilation (circumcision) every year

At least one in three women world-wide has been assaulted or abused, most often by someone she knows.

Two million girls between the ages of 5 and 15 enter the commercial sex market each year.

A disproportionate share of medical research focuses on diseases that are specific to men.

The report argues that while equality is a human right and needs no justification, the economic dimension cannot be ignored.

The economic cost of gender discrimination is such that discrimination is a major barrier to sustainable development.

Gender inequality is also seen to be a primary factor at play in the alarming spread of HIV/AIDS.

The report argues that “governments create the conditions for gender equality.”

“National budgets should be examined to see how they respond to the needs and interests of women, tracing the effect of expenditure and revenue policies and especially how they affect poor women,” states the report.

It also recommends that domestic allocations to health care, especially reproductive health, should be increased.

The UNFPA report states that the problem of rape is bigger in South Africa than in any other country.

It maintains that while social change is always difficult, gender equality “is no less important than changes in spheres such as globalisation, governance, information technology and urbanisation.” ‘€“ Health-e news service