UN Women Report Brings Feminist Issues To A Global StageJuly 7, 2011 2 Comments
Each day, women shoulder violence, inequality, racism, sexism, and simultaneously stay optimistic in the face of these challenges.
As a humanitarian organization, the United Nations works to attack the serious issues they face head on with the noble goal of making the world a better place. A recently released Progress Report by UN Women, shows us a dark portrait of what life is like for women around the world, but this doesn’t mean there’s no glimmer of hope.
UN Women has compiled this report to bring the situation of women to the world stage. The overall picture may be grim, but we can’t take the small steps forward for granted. While you may feel overcome at the torrent of statistics raining down on you, the overarching message of hope has never been clearer.
Some women do not get a choice about who they marry. In the developing world, a third of women are married before they are adults, and in 50 countries the legal age for marriage is younger than for men. Early pregnancy and childbirth are the leading causes of death for girls aged 15 to 19 in developing countries.
Despite efforts to stop the spread of AIDS, women are often at risk of HIV infection because it is considered unacceptable to ask their partner to wear a condom. In cases where they do contract the disease, they are more likely to experience stigma and discrimination.
“Women’s reproductive health and rights are increasingly recognized in laws and guaranteed in constitutions around the world,” according to the UN Women report.
But we must keep in mind that 61 countries have restrictions placed on access to abortion. A shocking 21 out of 52 countries in Africa don’t permit abortion. Some abortions are performed illegally underground while women in other regions must explain their reasons. They have to justify what they want to do with their own bodies.
Three out of every five women in the world have been raped or beaten up. Many women find it difficult to report crimes, especially as they have no say in household decisions in 18 of the 30 countries surveyed.
Not that women are any safer in the home. Beating your wife is considered acceptable by a quarter of the population and in some areas that number rises to 68 percent — more than two out of every three people.
Further grim statistics tells us that 127 countries don’t criminalize marital rape. This means that 2.6 billion women and girls live in countries where their rape is not a crime as long as they are married to their attacker.
Rape is also a commonly used tactic of war. Up to half a million women were raped during the Rwandan genocide; 60,000 raped in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the war in the former Yugoslavia; and over 95,000 women have been raped in the context of the ongoing conflict in Colombia.
In every country in the world, women are paid between 10-30 percent less than men in all industries. In a third of the world, women are barred from some occupations. More than half of the women in the world, 53 percent, have informal employment and are unlikely to be protected by labour laws.
311 million women work in countries were sexual harassment is legal.
However, the “motherhood penalty” of career stagnation after procreation is beginning to disappear in some places. The more housework the men do, the smaller the wage gap. Taking time off is another thing fathers can do to help, his partner’s wages will increase by 6.7 percent, on average, for every month he’s out of the office.
Globally, 19 percent of lawmakers are women. When they make up a third of the government they begin to have real power; 28 countries have reached this critical mass, including Rwanda, Costa Rica, Tanzania, Nepal and Spain.
In more good news, the Forum of Women Parliamentarians is working to bring women together to develop strategies for change. Thailand has also seen its first female prime minister, paving the way for other women in politics.
However, when you look at the percentage of women in the police force and in the judiciary, you won’t be able to resist letting out a deep sigh. Women comprise only 9 percent of the police force and 27 percent of judges worldwide. Obviously there’s much to be done to encourage women in these positions and make them more open and accessible.
This is the first major UN Women report to be released detailing the global plight of women. It’s an extremely dense study that brings major issues to our attention.
Reports like this can be catalysts for change as governments recognize that they need to create laws that support everyone in their society. We can only hope that it shines a light on the situation of women around the world. In the next UN Women report the positives could even outweigh the negatives.
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