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Revealed: the best and worst places in the world to be a girl

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Anna Pollitt
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A new index reveals the best and worst places in the world to be a girl - and the UK doesn't make the top 10.

Sweden ranks best for girls out of 144 countries, based on rates of child marriage, schooling, teen pregnancy, maternal deaths and the percentage of female MPs. 

The UK comes in at number 15 behind Denmark, Norway, Slovenia and Italy, while Niger ranks bottom in the index, compiled by Save The Children.

Britain’s position reflects low female representation in parliament and a teen pregnancy rate of 15.3 per 1,000 births.

Save The Children released its report, based on 2015 figures, on the International Day of the Girl (11 October) to highlight the extent of child marriage across the world.

One girl under 15 is married every seven seconds, according to the analysis, with girls as young as 10 forced to marry men in countries including Afghanistan, Yemen, India and Somalia.

Child marriage isn’t just a form of discrimination, it’s a form of violence.

 - Save The Children CEO Kevin Watkins.

“Forcing girls to marry much older men robs them of their freedom and amounts to sexual slavery,” Watkins says. “Instead of being in school, married girls face domestic violence, abuse and rape. They fall pregnant and are exposed to STIs including HIV. Bearing children before their bodies are ready means girls suffer complicated deliveries and even death.”

Save the Children's Every Last Girl report findings at a glance:

  • Girls from poor families are more likely to be married early than their richer peers
  • In Nigeria, 40% of the poorest girls are married by 15 compared to 3% of the richest
  • India has the highest number of child marriages, partly owing to its large population, with 47% of girls married under 18 - around 24.6 million
  • One girl under 15 is married every seven seconds
  • More than 700 million women in the world are married before their 18th birthday
  • During the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, schools shutting down led to an estimated 14,000 teen pregnancies
  • Most countries are struggling to achieve gender parity among MPs, regardless of how rich they are
  • Rwanda tops the table with 64% female MPs followed by Bolivia and Cuba
  • In the US, only 19% of Members of Congress are women and only 29% of MPs in the UK are women

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Anna Pollitt

Anna is a freelance writer and editor who’s been making her dime from online since 2007. She’s a regular at Stylist.co.uk, ITV News and Emerald Street and moonlights as a copywriter and digital content consultant. The baby is borrowed.

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