news News

Gender bias is a pervasive problem worldwide
by UNDP, OHCHR, UNFPA, UN Women, agencies
9:17am 4th Jul, 2023
Nov. 2023
The killings of women and girls represent the lethal end point of a continuum of gender-based violence, and they usually follow prior experiences of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse.
Nearly 89,000 women and girls were killed intentionally in 2022 across the globe, according a new research paper, “Gender-related killings of women and girls (femicide/feminicide)”, from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and UN Women.
This year's recorded figures are the highest yearly number of intentional killings of women and girls in the past two decades, and women and girls in all regions across the world are affected by this type of gender-based violence.
In 2022, 55 per cent of the intentional killings of women (around 48,800) were committed by intimate partners or other family members. This means that, on average, more than 133 women or girls were killed every day by someone in their own family.
“The alarming number of femicides is a stark reminder that humanity is still grappling with deep-rooted inequalities and violence against women and girls”, said Ghada Waly, Executive Director of UNODC.
“Each life lost is a call to action—a plea to urgently address structural inequalities, to improve criminal justice responses, so that no woman or girl fears for her life. Governments must invest in institutions that are more inclusive and well-equipped to end impunity, strengthen prevention, and help victims, from frontline responders to the judiciary, to end the violence before it is too late.”
Women and girls in all regions experience this gender-based violence. For the first time since UNODC began publishing regional estimates in 2013, Africa surpassed Asia in 2022 as the region with the highest number of total victims (20,000). Africa also witnessed the highest number of victims relative to the size of its female population, although the estimates are subject to uncertainty due to limited data availability.
Femicides committed by intimate partners or family members in North America increased by 29 per cent between 2017 and 2022, in part due to improved recording practices.
* Globally significant data gaps remain and the published figures are considered a most conservative estimation of the true extent of the disturbing reality.
The urgency to end violence against women and girls has never been greater. UN Women's Gender Snapshot 2023 report reveals that 245 million women and girls continue to face physical and/or sexual violence from their intimate partners each year.
A staggering 86 per cent of women and girls live in countries without robust legal protections against violence, or in countries where data are not available.
Additionally, the impacts of economic crises, conflicts, and climate change have heightened the vulnerability of women and girls to violence.
Sima Bahous Executive Director of UN Women: "It is time to get serious and fund what we know works to stop violence against women and girls. Invest in reforming and implementing laws and multisectoral policies. Provide services to survivors. Scale up evidence-based prevention interventions.
With the will and contributions of all stakeholders and sectors, we can unlock financing, track budget allocations, and increase gender-responsive budgeting. We have the solutions to end violence against women and girls. It is our choice".
A strong and autonomous feminist movement is also a crucial part of the solution. Women's rights organizations play a pivotal role in preventing violence, advocating for policy change, and holding governments accountable.
However, they remain severely underfunded, and significant efforts are needed to increase financial support for women's rights organizations. UN Women is calling for increased long-term investments from states, private sector, foundations, and other donors to women's rights organizations working to end violence against women and girls in all their diversity.
Violence against women and girls
Violence against women and girls is one of the world’s most prevalent human rights violations, taking place every day, many times over, in every corner of the globe. It has serious short and long-term physical, economic and psychological consequences on women and girls, preventing their full and equal participation in society.
The magnitude of its impact, both in the lives of individuals and families and society as a whole, is immeasurable.
Conditions created by humanitarian, health and environmental crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic, conflicts, and climate change have further intensified violence against women and girls, exacerbated existing challenges and generated new and emerging threats.
Intimate-partner violence
Intimate partner violence refers to behaviour by an intimate partner or ex-partner that causes physical, sexual or psychological harm, including physical aggression, sexual coercion, psychological abuse and controlling behaviours. This is one of the most common forms of violence experienced by women globally.
Intimate partner violence includes acts of physical violence, psychological violence such as fear by intimidation or forced isolation, and economic violence by maintaining total control over financial resources, withholding access to money, and/or forbidding attendance at school or employment, among others.
Sexual violence
Sexual violence is any sort of harmful or unwanted sexual behaviour that is imposed on someone. It includes acts of abusive sexual contact, attempted sexual acts with a woman without her consent, sexual harassment, verbal abuse, threats, unwanted touching.
Rape is any non-consensual penetration of a sexual nature of the body of another person with any bodily part or object, including through the use of physical violence and by putting the victim in a situation where they cannot say no or complies because of fear. This can be by any person known or unknown to the survivor.
Sexual violence in conflict:
Acts of violence against women include violation of the human rights of women in situations of armed conflict, such as systematic rape, sexual slavery and forced pregnancy, as well as forced sterilization, female infanticide and prenatal sex selection.
Femicide is the intentional killing of a woman or a girl because she is a woman or a girl. The gender-related motivation of the killing may range from stereotyped gender roles, discrimination towards women and girls, to unequal power relations between women and men in society.
Gender-related killings of women and girls (femicide/feminicide) are the most extreme and brutal manifestation of violence against women. They can take place in a wide range of situations within the private and public spheres, and within different contexts of perpetrator–victim relationship.
They include for instance cases with previous record of physical, sexual, or psychological violence/harassment, killings occurring in situation of trafficking in persons, forced labour or slavery.
Gender-related killings can also include so-called honor killings, which are the murder of a family member, a woman or girl, for the purported reason that the person has brought dishonor or shame upon the family. These killings often have to do with sexual purity, and supposed transgressions on the part of female family members.
Human trafficking
Human trafficking is a global crime that trades in people and exploits them for profit. Physical and sexual abuse, blackmail, emotional manipulation, and the removal of official documents are used by traffickers to control their victims. Exploitation can take place in a victim's home country, during migration or in a foreign country.
Human trafficking has many forms. While men, women and children of all ages and from all backgrounds can become victims of this crime, women are the primary targets and girls are mainly trafficked for sexual exploitation.
Female genital mutilation
Female genital mutilation (FGM) refers to all procedures involving partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. It is most often carried out on young girls between infancy and age 15.
FGM has no health benefits and can lead to serious, long-term complications and even death. Immediate health risks include hemorrhage, shock, infection, HIV transmission, urine retention and severe pain.
Psychological impacts can range from a girl losing trust in her caregivers, to longer-term feelings of anxiety and depression. In adulthood, girls subjected to FGM are more likely to suffer infertility or complications during childbirth, including postpartum haemorrhage, stillbirth and early neonatal death.
Numerous factors contribute to the persistence of the practice. Yet in every society in which it occurs, FGM is an expression of deeply rooted gender inequality. In every form in which it is practiced, FGM is a violation of girls’ and women’s fundamental human rights, including their rights to health, security and dignity.
Child, early and forced marriage
Child marriage is any marriage where at least one of the parties is under 18 years of age. Forced marriage is a marriage in which one and/or both parties have not personally expressed their full and free consent to the union. A child marriage is considered to be a form of forced marriage, given that one and/or both parties have not expressed full, free and informed consent.
It is widely recognized that child marriage is a violation of children’s rights and has several harmful effects on the lives of children (overwhelmingly girls), including early and frequent pregnancies, higher risks of maternal mortality and morbidity, limited decision-making in family matters and school dropout.
Online or technology-facilitated violence
Technology-facilitated violence against women is any act that is committed, assisted, aggravated, or amplified by the use of information communication technologies or other digital tools, that results in or is likely to result in physical, sexual, psychological, social, political, or economic harm, or other infringements of rights and freedoms.
It can occur in online spaces, and it can be perpetrated offline through the use of technological means, such as controlling a woman’s whereabouts by using a GPS tracker.
Technology-facilitated gender-based violence exacerbates existing forms and patterns of violence against women, such as intimate-partner violence, and also comes with new forms of violence such as online stalking and image-based abuse through artificial intelligence like deepfake videos.
While all women and girls who are online or who use digital tools may face violence online, some groups are at greater risk. These include women who are most visible online, including women in public life, journalists, human rights defenders, politicians and feminist activists.
Online violence can include the following: Cyberbullying: involves sending intimidating or threatening messages. Non-consensual sexting: sending explicit messages or photos without the recipient’s consent. Doxing: public release of private or identifying information about the victim.
June 2023
Gender bias is a pervasive problem worldwide
According to the U.N. Development Program (UNDP) new Gender Social Norms Index report, 9 in 10 people worldwide hold biases against women.
Without tackling biased gender social norms, we will not achieve gender equality or the Sustainable Development Goals. Biased gender social norms—the undervaluation of women’s capabilities and rights in society—constrain women’s choices and opportunities by regulating behaviour and setting the boundaries of what women are expected to do and be. Biased gender social norms are a major impediment to achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls.
Covering 85% of the world's population and incorporating data from 2017-22, the report shows "a decade of stagnation" across four dimensions explored by researchers: political, educational, economic, and physical integrity.
"Nearly half the world's people believe that men make better political leaders than women do, and two of five people believe that men make better business executives than women do," the publication states, highlighting how few women hold roles in both areas.
"Only 11% of heads of state and 9% of heads of government are women, and women hold only 22% of ministerial posts," while "in the paid economy women hold only 28% of managerial positions". "Even when women reach leadership positions, gender biases lead to unequal treatment and judgment," the report underlines.
"All biased gender social norms are potentially harmful, but perhaps none has a more direct impact on women's agency and well-being than those leading to violence against women and girls," the report stresses.
Over a quarter of people "believe that it is justifiable for a man to beat his wife," and a similar share of women and girls over age 15 have endured intimate partner violence.
The report highlights that "the world is not on track to achieve gender equality by 2030," which is among the 17 sustainable development goals adopted by the U.N. in 2015. Targets on the gender equality goal include ending all forms of discrimination against women and girls, including violence and harmful practices such as forced marriage, ensuring access to economic resources and reproductive healthcare, recognizing unpaid domestic work, and boosting female leadership in politics and beyond.
“These views persist because of social and cultural norms that devalue women and reinforce men’s power, control and feelings of entitlement, as well as promoting beliefs that trivialise and normalise violence against women and even blame victims for their own abuse,” said Andrea Simon, director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition. “It is these attitudes that can drive violent acts and behaviours and we can only truly prevent this violence by shifting these attitudes.”
Anam Parvez, head of research at Oxfam Great Britain, responded with alarm to the UNDP report.
"This is truly alarming and explains why the world is completely off track in achieving gender equality by 2030," she told The Guardian. "In 2021, 1 in 5 women were married before they turn 18, 1.7 billion women and girls live on less than $5.50 a day, and women continue to take on three times as much unpaid care and domestic work as men around the world."
"At the current rate of progress it will take 186 years to close gaps in legal protections," Parvez pointed out. "It also explains why, while there has been some progress on enacting laws that advance women's rights, social norms continue to be deeply entrenched and pervasive."
The report says that "the gender-based biases we carry into voting booths, board meetings, interview panels, and assemblies present barriers to women's ability to fulfill their full potential. Policies to achieve comprehensive gender equality have to be designed and implemented to address biased gender social norms."
Raquel Lagunas, director of UNDP's Gender Team, explained that "an important place to start is recognizing the economic value of unpaid care work. This can be a very effective way of challenging gender norms around how care work is viewed."
"In countries with the highest levels of gender biases against women," Lagunas noted, "it is estimated that women spend over six times as much time as men on unpaid care work."
Pedro Conceicao, head of UNDP’s Human Development Report Office, emphasized that "social norms that impair women's rights are also detrimental to society more broadly, dampening the expansion of human development."
"In fact, lack of progress on gender social norms is unfolding against a human development crisis: The global Human Development Index (HDI) declined in 2020 and again the following year," he said. "Everyone stands to gain from ensuring freedom and agency for women."
The UNDP report calls for women’s economic contributions to society to be better recognised, including unpaid work, for laws and measures that ensure political participation to be enacted, and for more action to fight stereotypes.
June 2023
Women and girls are disproportionately represented among the world’s poor
The United Nations Working Group on Discrimination against Women and Girls in a new report calls for a Feminist Human Rights-Based Economy to tackle the disproportionate representation of Women and Girls Living in Poverty Globally.
In discussions with State representatives the Working Group was applauded for highlighting the structural inequalities that perpetuated and deepened gender inequalities and threatened the realisation of women’s and girls’ rights to fully enjoy an adequate standard of living and other interrelated economic, social, and cultural rights.
Many shared the Working Group’s concern that women and girls were disproportionately represented among the world’s poor, noting that multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination against this group were still widespread across the globe, resulting in gendered socioeconomic inequality and poverty.
A number of speakers believed the persistence of discriminatory and negative social norms and gender stereotypes affected women and girls across all areas of life, from families to communities, in businesses and in all branches of the public sector, and contributed to maintaining and deepening socioeconomic inequalities.
Women and girls continued to experience structural gender discrimination in both formal and informal employment on the grounds of gender, pregnancy and caring responsibilities. The report highlighted the unequal and inadequate remuneration, precarious employment, lack of union representation, and violence and harassment in the workplace, which were all factors that increased sex- and gender-based inequalities, and entrenched poverty for women and girls.
Dorothy Estrada-Tanck, Chair of the United Nations Working Group on discrimination against women and girls, presenting the report on gendered inequalities of poverty, said that globally, women and girls were disproportionately represented among those living in poverty.
The report demonstrated that poverty and socioeconomic inequality were the result of blatant systemic failures leading to a vicious cycle of exclusion and discrimination.
Women’s and girls’ inequality and poverty were the result of historical and continuing economic policy choices at the global, regional and national levels.
Policy priorities had been developed within patriarchal systems that ignored the specific experiences and rights of girls and women. The COVID-19 crisis had also prompted a re-evaluation of mainstream economic ideologies, including recognition of the central role of care in societies, as well as revaluing the State’s position vis-a-vis the market as an actor in defining and resourcing public policies.
In many jurisdictions, criminal laws were disproportionately applied to women and girls because of their economic or social status, and due to the costs of accessing the formal justice system.
Those particularly affected were women and girls living in poverty seeking reproductive health care and services, including abortion; indigenous, migrant and ethnic minority women and girls; women and girls who were experiencing homelessness; women and girl street vendors; sex workers; and members of sexual minority groups.
Poverty and gender-based violence, including sexual violence and denials of bodily autonomy, interacted in a vicious, mutually reinforcing cycle.
Women and girls facing sexual harassment at work, violence at home or violence on the streets were unable to participate on an equal basis in the labour market, were discriminated against in connection with contributory social security benefits, and were more likely to experience poverty, violence and homelessness in old age.
The report called for a feminist human rights-based economy that enabled and constructed substantive equality, solidarity, and socioeconomic and environmental justice.
The right to be free from poverty could not be realised in isolation from individual and collective rights to substantive equality. The meaningful participation of diverse groups of women and girls in implementing socioeconomic strategies was a core part of this process.
The right to substantive equality also required resource mobilisation and redistribution within and between countries. Wealthy countries need to assist low-income countries in the realisation of economic, social and cultural rights for everyone without discrimination to ensure gender equality, and to cooperate to reduce inequalities between and within nations.
The report includes recommendations to States, international economic institutions and corporations, to negotiate a new human rights-based feminist social consensus. Access the report:
June 2023
The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and its Optional Protocol: Handbook for Parliamentarians
More than four decades after its adoption, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women remains an essential and ambitious guide for achieving gender equality across the board – from the family and the classroom to executive boards and political leadership roles.
Despite considerable progress since the Convention came into force, no country can yet claim to have fully achieved gender equality. This revised edition of The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and its Optional Protocol: Handbook for Parliamentarians is a joint collaboration undertaken by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
Twenty years after the publication of the first edition, this updated edition seeks to provide parliamentarians with detailed and practical guidance, relying on the important recommendations and good practices developed by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in translating the Convention into concrete action that addresses all forms of discrimination and gender-based violence against women and girls.
It also builds on the indispensable contribution of parliaments in advancing gender equality as a fundamental element of sustainable development and peace, as well as on the perspectives of civil society and government as key allies to this work.
The handbook aims to highlight the importance of women’s rights and gender equality in overcoming global challenges, from the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change, to armed conflict and displacement, and the rise of authoritarianism. It also reinforces the significance of the Convention as a solid foundation for building a more resilient world and more inclusive societies.
June 2023
Her Land. Her Rights: Advancing Gender Equality
For more than 3 billion people, land is core to their survival, well-being, and dignity -- it is the principal asset of the rural poor.
Women make up around half of agricultural workers in developing countries and produce 60-80 per cent of food grown in these regions yet own less than one-fifth of all land worldwide.
When legal barriers to women owning and inheriting land are removed, women are able to make decisions on how to manage land, and both soil health and agricultural yields improve. Women are also more likely to invest in their family’s nutrition, health and education which benefits the whole of society.
UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw said: “Investing in women's equal access to land is not just an act of justice. It is an investment in our future, a commitment to the prosperity of our planet. It is an affirmation that we value not only the land beneath our feet, but the hands that work it.”
UNCCD analysis revealed in a new report; "Her Land. Her Rights: Advancing gender equality to restore land and build resilience" shows:
Despite comprising nearly half the world's agricultural workforce and producing up to 80 per cent of food in developing countries, women’s rights to inherit their husband’s property continue to be denied in over 100 countries.
Discriminatory practices related to land tenure, credit access, equal pay and decision-making often impede their active participation in sustaining land health. Today, less than one-in-five landholders worldwide are women.
If women had equal rights to land, agricultural production in the poorest regions would increase by up to 4 per cent and malnourishment would decline by 12–17 per cent, resulting in 150 million fewer hungry people globally.
Countries with more women parliamentarians prioritize women and girls’ role in land protection and are more likely to ratify relevant treaties and set aside land for conservation. Meanwhile, only 12 per cent of the 881 national environment-related ministries run by elected officials are led by women.
Widespread and rapid land degradation threatens rural livelihoods, food production, water availability, and biodiversity conservation worldwide.
When land is degraded and productive land becomes scarce, women are uniquely and differentially impacted due to their substantial role in land-based activities, greater vulnerability to poverty, and typically weaker legal protections and social status.
In areas affected by desertification and drought, increased competition for scarce productive resources makes women and girls extremely vulnerable to these slow onset hazards.
In many developing countries, agrifood systems are a more important source of income and livelihood for women than for men. One-third of women in the labour force are employed in agriculture and related supply chains.
Despite the economic importance of the land use sector and its contribution to family welfare, women’s roles tend to be marginalised, their working conditions comparatively poor, and their wages at 82 cents for every dollar earned by men.
Despite women’s vital role in food production, they are less likely than men to own and control land. Men have greater ownership and more secure tenure than women who globally comprise less than 13 per cent of agricultural landholders.
The percentage of men who have ownership or secure tenure rights over agricultural land is twice that of women in more than 40 per cent of the countries that have reported on women’s landownership.
Although most countries explicitly recognise women’s rights to own, manage, inherit, and use land as collateral on equal terms with men, in more than 100 countries, women are limited in claiming and protecting land assets because of customary, religious, or traditional laws and practices.
In addition to a lack of equal land rights, inequalities in access to other productive resources, information, financial services, appropriate technology, and decision-making limit women’s incentives and capacities to restore and sustainably manage soil, water, and biodiversity.
Conversely, more inclusive and responsible land governance that improves tenure security for women and girls can activate and accelerate the transition from degradation to restoration.
Millions of women and girls are at the forefront of the fight against desertification, land degradation, and drought, and leading many conservation, adaptation, and restoration efforts around the world.
There is also growing evidence that the benefits derived from gender equality in the control and access to land resources extend well beyond individual empowerment to providing much-needed security and stability in rural households and communities.
Women’s land rights and the perception of secure tenure can increase the capacity of women to invest in land, and encourage land stewardship and other measures that are critical to fight land degradation and cope with ever increasing climate shocks; empower women and girls through greater participation in household and community decision-making, thus improving the well-being of the whole family, including children’s nutrition and education; and boost the ability of women and girls to act autonomously and have more control over their future and that of their children.
* UN WebTV: "Her Land. Her Rights: Advancing Gender Equality and Land Restoration Goals" discussion focusing on policies and actions needed to advance women's land rights and promote stronger female leadership and decision-making power in sustainable land management:
May 2023
Millions of women and girls around the world are stigmatised, excluded and discriminated against simply because they menstruate. It’s not acceptable that because of a natural bodily function women and girls continue to be prevented from getting an education, earning an income and fully and equally participating in everyday life.
Menstrual Health and Hygiene is essential to the well-being and empowerment of women and adolescent girls. On any given day, more than 300 million women worldwide are menstruating.
Yet, an estimated 500 million women and adolescent girls lack access to menstrual products and adequate facilities for menstrual hygiene management.
Menstrual health is a human rights issue – not just a health one. Poor menstrual health and hygiene undercuts fundamental rights – including the right to work and go to school – for women and girls who menstruate. It worsens social and economic inequalities.
Insufficient resources to manage menstruation, as well as patterns of exclusion and shame, undermine human dignity.
Gender inequality, extreme poverty, humanitarian crises and harmful traditions can all turn menstruation into a time of deprivation and stigma, which can undermine the enjoyment of fundamental human rights.
Period poverty describes the struggle many low-income women and girls face while trying to afford menstrual products. The term also refers to the increased economic vulnerability women and girls face due the financial burden posed by menstrual supplies, and also related costs such as pain medication and underwear.
Period poverty does not only affect women and girls in developing countries; it also affects women in wealthy, industrialized countries.
Difficulty affording menstrual products can cause girls to stay home from school and work, with lasting consequences on their education and economic opportunities.
Lack of access to the right menstrual products can lead to a greater health risk. In some cases, women and girls do not have access to menstrual products at all. They may have to resort to rags, leaves, newspaper or other makeshift items to deal with menstrual blood. They may also be prone to leaks, contributing to shame or embarrassment. Women and girls living in extreme poverty and in humanitarian crises may be more likely to face these challenges.
When girls and women have access to safe and affordable sanitary materials to manage their menstruation, they decrease their risk of infections. This can have cascading effects on overall sexual and reproductive health, including reducing teen pregnancy, maternal outcomes, and fertility.
Poor menstrual hygiene, however, can pose serious health risks, like reproductive and urinary tract infections which can result in future infertility and birth complications.
Menstrual taboos have existed, and still exist, in many cultures. Around the world and throughout history, misconceptions about menstruation have led to women’s and girls’ exclusion from all kinds of roles and settings.
Some communities believe women and girls can spread misfortune or impurity during menstruation. As a result, they may face restrictions on their day-to-day behavior, including prohibitions on attending religious ceremonies, visiting religious spaces, handling food or sleeping in the home.
The myth that menstruation limits women’s physical or mental abilities persists. Women may face degrading comments about menstruation affecting their physical or emotional states. They may be excluded from certain roles or positions of leadership.
In many places around the world, a girl’s first period, called menarche, is believed to be a sign that she is ready for marriage, sexual activity and childbirth. This leaves girls vulnerable to a host of abuses, including child marriage, sexual violence or coercion, and early pregnancy. While menstruation is one indication of biological fertility, it does not mean girls have reached mental, emotional, psychological or physical maturity.
To effectively manage their menstruation, girls and women require affordable and appropriate menstrual hygiene materials, access to water, sanitation and hygiene facilities, information on good practices, and a supportive environment where they can manage menstruation without embarrassment or stigma.
Global and national health and development policies should prioritize menstrual health, with investment reflecting the important role it plays in human rights, public health, gender equality and sustainable development.
Schools, workplaces and public institutions should ensure that women and girls can manage menstruation with comfort and dignity.
Policies should seek to eliminate period poverty, in which low-income women and girls struggle to afford menstrual products and have limited access to water and sanitation services.
Human rights are rights that every human being has by virtue of his or her human dignity. Menstruation is intrinsically related to human dignity – when women and girls cannot access safe bathing facilities and safe and effective means of managing their menstrual hygiene, they are not able to manage their menstruation with dignity. Menstruation-related teasing, exclusion and shame also undermine the principle of human dignity.
Gender inequality, extreme poverty, humanitarian crises and harmful traditions can all turn menstruation into a time of deprivation and stigma, which can undermine the enjoyment of fundamental human rights.
Below is a list of universally agreed human rights that can be undermined by women’s and girls’ treatment during menstruation:
The right to health - Women and girls may experience negative health consequences when they lack the supplies and facilities to manage their menstrual health. Stigma associated with menstruation can also prevent women and girls from seeking treatment for menstruation-related disorders or pain, adversely affecting their enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health and well-being.
The right to education - Lack of a safe place or ability to manage menstrual hygiene as well as lack of medication to treat menstruation-related pain can all contribute to higher rates of school absenteeism and poor educational outcomes. Some studies have confirmed that when girls are unable to adequately manage menstruation in school, their school attendance and performance suffer.
The right to work - Poor access to safe means of managing menstrual hygiene and lack of medication to treat menstruation-related disorders or pain also limit job opportunities for women and girls. They may refrain from taking certain jobs, or they may be forced to forgo working hours and wages. Menstruation-related needs, such as bathroom breaks, may be penalized, leading to unequal working conditions. And women and girls may face workplace discrimination related to menstruation taboos.
The right to non-discrimination and gender equality - Stigmas and norms related to menstruation can reinforce discriminatory practices. Menstruation-related barriers to school, work, health services and public activities also perpetuate gender inequalities.
The right to water and sanitation - Water and sanitation facilities, such as bathing facilities, that are private, safe and culturally acceptable, along with a sufficient, safe and affordable water supply are basic prerequisites for managing menstrual health management.
While it is true that menstruation is experienced in the bodies of women and girls, menstrual health issues are human rights issues, and therefore of importance to society as a whole. This means that men and boys must be involved in conversations about gender equality and promoting positive masculinities aiming to eliminate menstruation-associated stigma and discrimination.
Mar. 2023
Are governments investing in caring and just economies? (UN Women, Development Pathways)
In 2020-2021, the COVID-19 crisis had catastrophic impacts on Asia and the Pacific, affecting economies and societies. It reversed much of the progress made towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), worsening gender equalities in health, education and labour, and increasing pressures on weak healthcare systems and fragmented social protection systems.
This report for UN Women is based on an assessment of COVID-19 fiscal stimulus response and policy measures in nine countries in Asia and the Pacific (Cambodia, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam).
Between March 2020 and August 2021, the nine countries deployed a range of fiscal stimulus measures to respond to the impacts of the virus and various containment measures leading to the sudden suspension of economic and livelihood activities. Social protection and employment responses appeared to be the main fiscal policy priorities.
While they largely overlapped with other measures aligned with achieving different outcomes, especially protecting informal workers and improving access to health care, the bulk of fiscal response measures were near term, ending in 2020.
The pandemic highlighted that issues affecting women and at-risk groups have fallen outside the purview of fiscal decision making, including access to decent work, support for care work and protection from violence.
This report examines whether governments have demonstrated commitment to meeting gender equality and human rights commitments and concludes with policy recommendations.
Mar. 2023
We must preserve hard-fought gains for women’s rights. (UN Working Group on discrimination against women)
“We seize this opportunity to raise our voice against the growing backlash against women’s and girls’ rights in all spheres of life. Global progress towards gender equality has slowed across regions, and targeted rollbacks of women’s and girls’ legally protected rights have significantly intensified. This trend needs to be reversed, otherwise, gender equality will not be achieved in the next 300 years.
We have witnessed a sharp increase in the violations of the rights of women and girls, compounded by severely restrictive policies that strip women and girls of their autonomy, mobility, education and freedom of expression, as well as the revocation of laws guaranteeing basic rights to bodily autonomy and the erasure of institutions previously established to tackle gender-based discrimination and violence against women and girls.
Women and girls are not only victims, but are also drivers of solution. As agents of change, impactful decision-makers, and courageous human rights defenders, they focus on improving livelihoods for everyone, empowering others, and ensuring sustainable development and peace.
We call for the creation of a safe and supportive environment for feminist movements and civil society to combat the backlash against women’s human rights and to resist all anti-rights trends and movements.
We observe how the concept of gender itself has been challenged and misused to further undermine the struggle towards the elimination of discrimination against women and girls and in the direction of gender equality.
We express our deep concern at the violent crackdowns on female protestors, repealing of special laws and measures for the protection of women and girls, criminalisation of women’s behaviours and the normalisation of the reliance on sexual harassment and gender-based violence as a tool to discourage opposing views and appeals for transparency and accountability by States and non-State actors alike.
More than ever before, we must unite and support as well all local efforts to preserve or construct the democratic space. We should block any position that endorses patriarchal and discriminatory norms, misusing culture, religion, and State sovereignty as fallacious justifications.
Pervasive violence against women and girls, visible also in the digital space, should not be tackled as an isolated issue, but as one of the most brutal manifestations of gender-based discrimination and patriarchal oppression.
We encourage States, the international community and all actors to work together to overcome the gender backlash and to prioritise and continue to uphold the fundamental human rights of women and girls across the globe.
Feb. 2023
Call for Governments to Repeal Laws that Discriminate against Women’s Economic Rights. (Equality Now, agencies)
Women worldwide are being made more vulnerable to human rights violations because of sex discriminatory laws and policies that restrict their economic activities, hinder their financial independence, and limit their opportunities. Around half of countries still have economic status laws that treat women unequally, impeding their access to employment, equal pay, property ownership, and inheritance.
A new policy briefing by women’s rights organization Equality Now – Words & Deeds: Holding Governments Accountable to the Beijing +30 Review Process – Sex Discrimination in Economic Status Laws – highlights examples of discriminatory laws that governments need to amend urgently.
Sex discriminatory economic status laws are rooted in and perpetuate harmful gender stereotypes. They inhibit women’s full social and economic participation by legally restricting their options, and underpin the disproportionate concentration of women in insecure, low-wage jobs. They sustain the gender pay gap, with women commonly receiving less pay than men for the same work, and limit women’s access to loans and land ownership.
All this traps many women in a cycle of poverty and dependency, and puts them at increased risk of exploitation and abuse by family members, partners, employers, and society at large.
United Nations 4th World Conference on Women in Beijing.
In 1995, at the UN’s 4th World Conference on Women in Beijing, 189 governments agreed on a comprehensive roadmap to advance rights for women and girls and achieve gender equality. One of the commitments made by States was that they would “revoke any remaining laws that discriminate on the basis of sex.”
More than a quarter of a century on, gender equality remains far from a reality, and progress is slow and inconsistent. Only 12 out of 190 economies surveyed by the World Bank in 2022 had achieved legal equality, and a typical economy only grants women 75% of the same rights as men.
To keep countries accountable to the plan outlined in the Beijing Platform for Action, Equality Now tracks representative laws and conducts periodic reviews on sexist legislation around the world. Our 2020 report found that almost every country is failing to live up to the pledges made to eradicate explicitly sex-discriminatory laws.
Discriminatory family laws
Discriminatory family laws governing the rights of women and men entering into marriage, divorce, custody, and guardianship of children, as well as the right of spouses to independently choose their profession and occupation, can have severe economic impacts on women, girls, and their families.
Owning land enables wealth creation and provides social and economic stability. But nearly 40% of countries have at least one constraint on women’s property rights. Examples include Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates, where the law specifies that sons should inherit twice as much as daughters.
In Chile, there is a legal presumption that husbands head the household and control marital property, as well as property owned by their wives. Cameroon’s Civil Code allows a husband to administer and dispose of his wife’s property.
Amendment or repeal of discriminatory family laws must be a global priority. To advance this, a coalition of feminist organizations has launched the Global Campaign for Equality in Family Law to advocate for governments to ensure equality for all women and men under the law in every matter relating to the family.
Bringing progress in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region are young women activists in the MENA Family Law Network (“Hurra Coalition”). Their campaigns on the fair distribution of matrimonial wealth in divorce, custody of children by divorced mothers and child marriage in Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, the State of Palestine, and Tunisia, are recognized by UN Women in the Generation Equality Accountability Report 2022.
Sex discrimination in labor laws
Numerous countries limit women’s rights to freely choose their employment. This includes China, where women are prohibited from engaging in mining and other forms of intense physical labor specified by the State. In Madagascar, women are forbidden from night work except in family establishments, while in Cameroon, the law grants a husband the right to object to his wife’s trade.
Governments must address the whole ecosystem of legal protections to ensure women are not relegated to the lowest paid or unregulated jobs, or effectively forced to leave the workforce to take up caring responsibilities – often unpaid – and then denied equal access to pensions on the same basis as men. Furthermore, progressive laws such as equal pay for equal work require robust implementation by States.
To participate fully in our modern world, everyone requires equal access to the internet and digital technologies. But around 327 million fewer women than men have a smartphone and access to mobile internet.
The Alliance for Universal Digital Rights (AUDRi) has created a set of feminist digital principles to advance all people’s rights to freely and safely participate in the digital realm. To achieve this, States must recognize and address existing gender and intersectional inequalities in the physical world and online, and enact laws and policies that promote universal and equal internet access.
COVID-19 pandemic
From record rates of unemployment to disrupted supply chains and reduced demand for goods and services, the COVID-19 pandemic battered the global economy. The ensuing financial and social crisis disproportionately impacted women by compounding deep-rooted gender inequalities in the home and workplace.
Millions of women lost their livelihoods and shouldered a greater burden of unpaid caregiving of children, the sick, and elderly. Lockdown measures coupled with a lack of financial independence trapped women in abusive home situations, resulting in an alarming increase in domestic violence. Economic hardship also made women more vulnerable to sexual exploitation and trafficking.
To reverse the damage caused by the pandemic, States must prioritize gender and income equality by removing all sex discriminatory laws and introducing progressive policies such as support for child and elder care and equal parental leave.
Antonia Kirkland, a human rights lawyer and Equality Now’s Global Lead on Legal Equality, explains: “Discriminatory laws make equality for all women and men impossible. Prior to the 30th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action in 2025, Equality Now is calling on States to review national laws, including customary laws and legal practices in the areas of family, civil, penal, labor, and commercial law.”
“Any laws that discriminate on the basis of sex must be revoked, and women’s economic rights and independence – including access to employment, appropriate working conditions, and control over all kinds of economic resources – need to be promoted.”

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