Vienna, 11 October 2012 – “I appreciate this first celebration of the International Day of the Girl Child that was declared by the General Assembly of the United Nations last December with the full support of Austria. Millions of girls in many parts of the world are still subject to continued discrimination and severe violations of human rights. We must continue our persuasion efforts and lend pro-active support to improving this disgraceful situation“, Vice-Chancellor and Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger said.
“The focus of this first International Day of the Girl Child is on the problem of child marriages; this widespread procedure has very serious effects, especially for the girls involved. In most cases they are denied school or vocational education after they have been married and marriages of this kind create dependencies that make girls prone to physical and sexual exploitation”, Spindelegger continued.
“The forced marriage of children constitutes a violation of human rights that must be ended with immediate effect. Education is one of the best strategies to protect girls from forced marriages and child marriages”, the Vice-Chancellor said. “This is precisely the approach of Austrian development cooperation that focuses on promoting the rights of children and women. In Ethiopia, for example, we are organising a mobile literacy and primary school project; more than 10,000 children and young people have already enjoyed the benefits of this project since 2005.”
“An especially appalling problem is the denial by force of access to education and other human rights. The Taliban attack committed against the peace activist Malala Yousafzai in Pakistan on 9 October, a girl who is only 14 years of age, is deeply shocking and must be condemned in the strongest. I hope that Malala, who showed such enormous courage in her demand for access to education for girls, among other things, will survive this despicable assault. Everything must be done in future to ensure the effective protection of people such as Malala who are prepared to stand up in the cause of human rights.”
Malala Yousafzai gained international recognition as an eleven-year old when she denounced the destruction of schools for girls and the terror regime of Maulana Fazullah on the BBC Urdu website during the reign of the Taliban in the Swat valley. In 2011, she received the first national peace prize of the Pakistan government. On 9 October 2012, on her way to school she was the victim of an assasination attempt by a Taliban gunman. The government of Pakistan clearly condemned the attack. The girl suffered head injuries and following emergency surgery she is now in a stable, yet critical condition. The Taliban has announced that it will again seek to kill her should she survive the attack.
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