Three New Reports Issue an Urgent ‘Wake-Up Call’ for Gender Equality
Twenty years ago at a U.N. conference in Beijing, Hillary Rodham Clinton framed women’s equality as a crucial human rights issue. “If there is one message that echoes forth from this conference, let it be that human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights, once and for all,” she told delegates from more than 189 countries. This past weekend, the British actor and U.N. Women goodwill ambassador Emma Watson used the same rhetoric to advocate for gender equality with her “He for She” initiative. And three new studies released Monday prove there’s still a long way to go before the world comes close to achieving gender equality.
U.N. Women’s The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action Turns 20 dubs itself “a wake-up call” about a world that, in some ways, has gotten worse for many girls and women since 1995, when world leaders gathered in Beijing to adopt the “Platform for Action,” an ambitious series of initiatives aimed at achieving gender equality.
While school enrollment rates have generally increased for girls in the last two decades, the rate of violence against women is still “unacceptably high,” although data wasn’t available to compare it globally over time. More than one in three women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime, the U.N. report found.
Africa had the highest proportion of women—45.6 percent—reporting either physical and/or sexual violence, but the persistence of victim-blaming attitudes and social norms even in Western regions isn’t helping to end it. In one example, more than half of European men surveyed in 2010 believed that domestic violence was a result of women’s behavior, according to the U.N. report.
Closing the Gender Gap, a report from UCLA’s World Policy Analysis Center, also released Monday, shows that progress toward gender equality has been extremely slow. More than 150 countries lack protections crucial to encouraging women’s economic participation; just 64 countries constitutionally guarantee women protection from discrimination at work or guarantee equal pay for equal work; 61 countries provide girls with less legal protection from early marriage as they do boys.