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We’re failing girls. Here’s what to do about it. 

Cover of Girls' Rights Are Human Rights! black and white photo of girls in a football kit sitting on a bench. Zero Tolerance logo in corner. Text reads, "By Kate Nevens and Ellie Hutchinson from the collective in collaboration with Zero Tolerance 2024"

Scotland should be a place where all children reach their potential. We can achieve this by respecting, fulfilling, and protecting human rights.  

But, our new research shows how we’re failing girls. In collaboration with the collective, we found girls’ human rights to safety, education, play, health, and participation are not being met. 

Human rights policy and practice often focus on either improving the world for women or for children. Policy makers fail to consider how age changes women’s needs or gender changes children’s. This means girls fall through the cracks in legislation. 

Girls Rights are Human Rights! summarises alarming evidence on the state of girls’ lives. 

Girls are sexually harassed in public, face misogyny online, and experience sexual and domestic violence. Police Scotland found girls under 12 are the most likely to experience sexual abuse and 12 – 18 year olds the most likely to experience rape. 

In schools, girls continue to experience sexual harassment and other forms of violence, preventing them from concentrating on learning. Teachers and senior management do not have the skills or resources to respond to their violence and support girls through it. 

All children should have the freedom to play, but gender stereotypes limit the activities girls can take part in. Sexual harassment and feeling unsafe also limit girls’ ability to enjoy the outdoors and public parks, whilst misogyny stops them enjoying online gaming. 

This violence and lack of freedom to play impacts girls’ health. Girls’ happiness has been in decline over the past decade (particularly for girls aged between 7 and 10). Reports find young women are three times as likely as young men to suffer from common mental health problems. But when girls seek healthcare they are often labelled as attention seeking. Girls also feel dismissed when accessing physical health care and struggle to access reproductive healthcare. 

Girls feel their opinions are dismissed and silenced. Policy makers often fail to adequately engage girls. 

There is a simple solution. With the government’s plan for Scottish human rights legislation, we have an opportunity to ensure girls thrive.  

Consider girls.  

When talking about human rights, policy makers and activists must ask how a policy or practice will impact girls.  

What do girls need? 

How do we respect and fulfil these needs? 

By asking these questions and writing legislation with girls in mind, we can create a Scotland where all children reach their potential and thrive. 

Listen to a discussion of the reports' findings:

Learn more about how we can ensure girls rights.

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