European & International News

UN Women flagship report exposes gaps in legal protection of women

[Brussels, 7 July 2011] UN Women, the organisation launched to support UN Member States in their efforts to address gender inequalities, has issued the first edition of the Progress of the World’s Women report on 6 July 2011. The flagship publication ‘Progress of the World’s Women: In Pursuit of Justice’ is a comprehensive study of women’s access to justice across the globe and exposes a worrying paradox. Despite the expanding scope of legal protection, these guarantees are rarely translated into everyday equality and justice.

In a contribution for the Guardian, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women, Michelle Bachelet describes the report as a call for action, which sets the challenges, but also outlines the agenda of UN Women, national governments and NGOs.

The report identifies how discriminatory or inadequate laws, gaps in legal frameworks and failures of implementation form an obstacle for guaranteeing women’s rights. More than 125 countries, for example, do not explicitly criminalise rape within marriage, 61 countries severely restrict women’s rights to abortion and the average pay gap between women and men constitutes 10-30 per cent. These dramatic numbers are a clear sign that justice and equality are still out of reach for many women across the world.

The report also highlights some good practices, such as the seven fold increase of women’s representation in parliaments. The 30 per cent critical mass mark for women’s representation has been reached or exceeded in 28 countries, of which at least 23 have used quotas. This fact makes it even more evident that mentality change rarely comes without legislation.

The report also focuses on ten recommendations:

  • Support for women’s legal organisation is needed when government-funded legal aid is limited.
  • Implement gender-sensitive law reform.
  • In order to reduce attrition in the justice chain, limit the series of steps that women must take to seek redress to one-stop shops.
  • Counteract under-reporting of crimes against women by putting women on the front line of law enforcement.
  • Invest in women’s access to justice.
  • Train judges and monitor decisions.
  • Increase women’s access to courts and truth commissions during and after conflict.
  • Implement gender responsive reparations programmes.
  • Use quotas to boost number of women legislators.
  • Put gender equality at the heart of the Millennium Development Goals.

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