How terrible is it to be born a girl in the world today? The almost daily headlines about another cruel act of violence and discrimination against women -- from the kidnapping of nearly 300 school girls in Nigeria last month, to the latest gruesome stoning of a woman in Pakistan -- provide plenty of reasons to be pessimistic about women's equality and safety in today's world.
The recent case of "misogynist extremism" in California, where a young man killed six people in "retribution" for all the girls who had rejected him, underscores the fact that all societies suffer from violence against women.
Indeed, the World Health Organization estimates that 35% of women worldwide experience intimate-partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime. A new World Bank report estimates that in some countries, the economic toll of violence against women exceeds a staggering 3% of GDP.
Also shocking in the 21st century is that the leading cause of death worldwide for girls ages 15 to 19 is complication related to pregnancy and childbirth, in many cases because girls are married and bearing children before their young bodies are ready. High rates of child marriage in some countries also limit the educational opportunities and economic independence of girls. Add in a persistent preference for sons in South, East and Central Asia that has resulted in millions of "missing girls," and the picture for girls today seems pretty grim.