11 October: International Day of the Girl Child
By resolution 66/170 of 2011, the General Assembly of the United Nations designates 11 October as the International Day of the Girl Child and invites Member States, other organizations of the UN system and other international organizations to observe the day and to raise awareness of the situation of girls around the world.
Within this framework, the Inter-American Children’s Institute (IIN-OAS) proposes a reflection on the impact of gender constructions on the recognition, exercise and violation of the rights, in this case, of girls and adolescent women in the region.
Gender is a social construction based on the sexual difference between men and women; it constructs and determines the roles, attributes, appearances, behaviors and functions associated with the «feminine» and the «masculine», at a given historical and social moment. This gender configuration is produced by the environment even before the person is born and apprehended by the person throughout life, but particularly during childhood and adolescence, as part of the socialization process.
Contemporary societies are characterized by being adulcentric and patriarchal. Children and adolescents are in a position of subordination with respect to adults, who position themselves in a place of protection-control, with almost absolute power, often ignoring their status as subjects of rights, with the capacity for expression and exercise, depending on the evolution of their faculties. For its part, patriarchy is a social order in which there is a structural inequality based on the gender dimension; patriarchy determines the social attributes, roles and positions of men and women and establishes hierarchical relations between them, to the detriment of women.
In this context, girls and adolescent women are in a situation of double vulnerability, associated with the variables age and sex-gender: because they are not adults and because they are women.
Because of the attributes and positions assigned to women in the patriarchal order, linked to non-productive or domestic activities, girls and adolescent women may find their possibilities of development and access and exercise of rights limited or -at least- hindered. On the other hand, they are the main victims of violations of rights associated with the sexuality: harassment, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation.
These differences in the opportunities of girls and adolescent women, and the violations of which they are victims, make it indispensable to incorporate a gender perspective, and its articulation with a rights-based approach, in the formulation, design and implementation of public policies aimed at or involving them.
All actors of the Comprehensive Protection System must recognize girls as subjects of rights and value and promote their potential as subjects capable of thinking, questioning and recreating the environment, with a view to a more equitable social order.