April 2020

Contents

  1. As use of digital platforms surges, we’ll need stronger global efforts to protect human rights online
  2. Where Women Stand
  3. Breaking the Cycle of Gender Exclusion in Political Party Development
  4. Ramp Up Your Career After Parental Leave
  5. Twenty-five years after declaring “women’s rights are human rights,” there’s still much to do

As use of digital platforms surges, we’ll need stronger global efforts to protect human rights online

 

As millions of people are moving work and social interactions online to protect themselves from COVID-19, existing online safety measures may not be enough to deal with a surge in harassment and abuse.

Concerns about rising levels of scamming and harassment prompted online safety organisation NetSafe to issue a warning to users to maintain vigilance. This abuse has included threats of violence and explicit racism and xenophobia.

Online abuse breaches several human rights. We argue that governments have obligations under international law and should establish a digital human rights charter, with special protections built in for women and children.

Cyber violence against women

Online platforms replicate culture with all its offline risks and inequalities.

Offline, discrimination against women permeates all aspects of our society, including the family, education, the workplace, the legal system and government. Discrimination manifests in different ways, including violence against women.

These unequal gender dynamics repeat online, resulting in women being subjected to sexist, misogynistic and violent content. In 2018, a UN women’s human rights expert recognised cyber violence as a specific form of violence against women.

In a 2017 Amnesty International survey, nearly a quarter (23%) of women surveyed across eight developed countries said they had experienced online abuse or harassment more than once. Of those women, 41% felt their physical safety was threatened on at least one occasion.

In New Zealand, a third of women reported being victims of online harassment. Of those who experienced abuse online:

  • 75% had trouble sleeping well
  • 49% felt their personal safety was at risk
  • 32% felt the safety of their families was at risk
  • 72% were less able to focus on everyday tasks
  • 70% experienced lower self-esteem or loss of self-confidence
  • two-thirds felt a sense of powerlessness.
  • Almost half (49%) reduced their use of social media or left platforms altogether.

The UN’s Human Rights Council identified widespread online violence against women as a significant reason for the global digital divide between men and women.

Online violence against women by (mostly) men is especially persistent on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. It includes online harassment, cyberstalking, “doxing” (where private information is shared by others online) and revenge pornography.

Obligations of governments and online platforms

Cyber violence breaches international human rights laws, including the right to freedom of expression (fewer women are likely to share their opinions or thoughts online), the right to be free from discrimination and violence, the right to information about health (including potentially life-saving updates about COVID-19) and the right to privacy.

International human rights law applies both offline and online.

Social media platforms have created community standards to protect users’ human rights, but they may not be evolving fast enough during disruptive times such as we are experiencing now. The massive increase in use is likely to amplify the dark side of social media.

Governments around the world have been slow to use their legislative powers to regulate online platforms. The live streaming of the Christchurch mosque attacks on March 15 2019 highlighted the platforms’ failure to control the spread of hateful content.

An international agreement to eliminate violent extremist content online has been difficult to achieve.

Protecting rights and lives online

While platforms remain global with “one size fits all” community standards, governments have different responses to restricting individual freedom of expression.

Governments should consider establishing an international charter on digital human rights, which all social media platforms could adopt. Such a charter would enable a coherent and consistent response to cyber violence, in a world that is now almost exclusively online.

There are some practical steps we can all take. These steps include reporting online violations, blocking people or groups, and closely monitoring connections.

If you are experiencing serious online bullying, harassment, revenge porn or other forms of abuse and intimidation, contact police who may take action under the Harmful Digital Communications Act 2015.

 

Cassandra Mudgway, Senior Lecturer in Law, Auckland University of Technology

Kate Jones, Senior lecturer in Digital Marketing & Social Media, Auckland University of Technology

 

By                            :               Cassandra Mudgway and Kate Jones

Date                         :               April 8, 2020

Source                     :               The Conversation

https://theconversation.com/as-use-of-digital-platforms-surges-well-need-stronger-global-efforts-to-protect-human-rights-online-135678

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Where Women Stand

 

A wide-angle look at the past two decades shows that women across advanced economies have made far-reaching gains as workers, consumers, and savers. But much of this progress has been offset by rising costs and new forms of insecurity that once again disproportionately affect women.

BERKELEY – Despite a deep recession in 2008 and a slow recovery thereafter, the first two decades of the twenty-first century were generally a time of economic progress in most advanced economies. Real (inflation-adjusted) per capita GDP in the OECD grew at a compound annual rate of 1.15% between 2000 and 2018, and employment levels steadily increased, hitting record highs in some countries.

But this growing prosperity was not shared evenly. Real average wage growth in this period was markedly slower than it was between 1995 and 2000, and real median wage growth was slower still. Work became less secure, and poverty rates (even after tax and transfer payments) rose. Moreover, gender gaps in employment and wages narrowed but remained large, and women continued to confront unique challenges as workers, consumers, and savers.

Consider the track record for women workers. Total employment across 22 advanced economies was at a record high at the beginning of 2020 (before the COVID-19 pandemic.) There were 45 million more jobs in 2018 than there were in 2000, and women held around two-thirds of them. The female labor force participation rate has grown throughout the OECD, with the exception of Norway – where it was already above average – and the United States, where it fell from 60% in 2000 to 57% in 2018. A comparison of female employment trends in Europe and the US indicates that improvements in paid maternity and paternity leave in Europe have spurred higher female labor force participation, whereas gains in female employment in the US have been held back by the absence of such policies in many states.

More broadly, rising female labor force participation was driven primarily by an increase in “non-standard” employment arrangements such as part-time and independent work. Both tend to be more family-friendly than full-time employment, but also more precarious, offering lower pay and fewer if any benefits. From 2000 to 2018, female part-time employment increased by 2.3 percentage points, which is larger than both the 0.7-point increase in full-time employment for women and the 2.1-point decrease in full-time employment for men.

Although work opportunities expanded throughout the OECD, they stagnated or declined for middle-skill, middle-wage jobs, which is one reason why overall wage stagnation has become such a persistent challenge. Average (mean) real wages grew just 0.7% per year across 22 countries between 2000 and 2018, which was less than half the average annual GDP growth rate (1.6%). And as of 2017, the median wage was just 81-90% of the average wage across the OECD, reflecting uneven wage growth across income groups.

From 2000 to 2018, the gender gap in earnings narrowed very slowly, and remains substantial in many advanced economies. The remaining gaps are the result of many factors, including gender differences in the incidence of part-time work and hours worked, and in occupations and senior roles, as well as overt discrimination and implicit biases against women. Still, there is considerable variance across the OECD: in Belgium, women earn 96 cents for every dollar a man earns; in South Korea, that figure falls to 65 cents; and in the US it is 82 cents. No country has achieved gender parity in wages.

As consumers, women have experienced mixed results. Like men, they have benefited greatly from a sharp decline in the prices of many discretionary goods and services, including communications, clothing, furnishings, and recreation. The McKinsey Global Institute estimated that, holding all else constant, people could work six fewer weeks per year, on average, and still consume the same amount of goods and services as in 2000.

Theoretically, this trend should have been particularly beneficial for working women, most of whom suffer from greater time poverty than men, because women continue to bear a disproportionate share of family-care responsibilities. Unfortunately, these potential consumer benefits were more than offset by the rising costs of housing, health care, and education, which have absorbed 54-107% of the average household’s income gains in Australia, France, the United Kingdom, and the US. Not surprisingly, single mothers – who head 60% of all US households living below the poverty line – were the most adversely affected by these trends.

The outlook is also worrying for women as savers. While real mean individual net wealth recovered to pre-crisis levels in many countries by 2018, real median net wealth did not, leaving lower-income groups worse off. According to one recent study, although women’s median net wealth is higher overall than it was two decades ago, a large gender gap remains. In the eurozone, women’s median net wealth is 62% that of men.

Moreover, owing to shifts in institutional pension arrangements, guaranteed pensions now cover just ten years of retirement (on average) in the countries studied, even though women at age 65 can expect to live for another 22 years, compared to 19 years for men. Saving for retirement thus weighs more heavily on women than it does on men. And while surveys show that women are more likely than men to save, they are also less likely to invest, thereby losing out on potential returns.

As the economic and social conditions facing individuals and households change, so must the social contract between citizens and their governments. The trends identified here suggest a growing need for access to good jobs, essential goods like housing and health care, and adequate retirement income. For women, recent gains in employment opportunities, wages, and family benefits need to be sustained, and persistent gender gaps need to be closed.

Of course, the COVID-19 crisis threatens to undermine many of the gains and aggravate many of the challenges documented here. As the advanced economies struggle to respond, the social contracts on which their citizens depend will be rewritten in ways that are difficult to predict. Whatever form they ultimately take, they must not overlook women workers.

 

Laura Tyson, a former chair of the US President’s Council of Economic Advisers in the Obama administration and a professor emerita at the University of California, Berkeley, is a senior adviser at the Rock Creek Group and a senior external adviser to the McKinsey Global Institute.

Anu Madgavkar is a partner at the McKinsey Global Institute.

 

By                            :               Laura Tyson , Anu Madgavkar

Date                         :               April 7, 2020

Source                     :               Project Syndicate

https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/women-progress-and-hurdles-advanced-economies-by-laura-tyson-and-anu-madgavkar-2020-04?a_la=english&a_d=5e8ca0d419aca22150921c67&a_m=&a_a=click&a_s=&a_p=homepage&a_li=women-progress-and-hurdles-advanced-economies-by-laura-tyson-and-anu-madgavkar-2020-04&a_pa=curated&a_ps=&a_ms=&a_r=

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Breaking the Cycle of Gender Exclusion in Political Party Development

 

Women around the world face especially high hurdles to participating in political parties. But political transitions are moments to break patterns of exclusion. Why do some parties that form in these transitional periods establish rules and norms that promote women’s participation, while others do not?

Political parties around the world face a crisis in public confidence. Many citizens view them as inaccessible and unresponsive to their concerns. Parties pose specific challenges for women, who face both formal and informal barriers to participation, including opaque nomination procedures, violence, and parties with hypermasculine cultures.

The formation of new parties during periods of political transition represents a potential opportunity to break these patterns. Transitions can be openings to transform the broader political, legal, and social barriers to an inclusive kind of politics. In these moments of flux, the development of new party branches and rules, as well as the renegotiation of broader institutional frameworks, can enable women and other marginalized groups to push for greater political representation within party structures.

What factors influence the level of gender inclusion in processes of party development? This question is central for policymakers, advocates, and practitioners seeking to support inclusive democracy and gender equality in transitional societies and beyond. To shed light on this topic, this study investigates gender inclusion in three types of party formation that commonly unfold during political transitions:

  • a social movement to a party (as exemplified by Ennahda in Tunisia),
  • an armed movement to a party (as illustrated by the African National Congress [ANC] in South Africa), and
  • a dominant party to a breakaway party (as shown by the Mouvement du Peuple pour le Progrès [MPP] in Burkina Faso).

For each of these three cases, the study examines how the origins and characteristics of these parties and their respective transition contexts influence the degree of gender inclusion these parties exhibit. Insights from Bolivia, Nepal, and Uganda expand the analysis to additional regions.

DRIVERS AND PATTERNS OF GENDER INCLUSION

Party origins and characteristics

  • Leadership commitment: Parties’ origins shaped how receptive male party leaders were to demands for inclusion; previous ideological commitments to equality and social justice made it easier for women within such parties or in civil society to push for quotas or other mechanisms to ensure their representation.
  • Women’s participation: Parties’ origins also influenced whether there were pools of female members or supporters who were ready to step forward as political candidates and whether nascent parties included female leaders who had the networks, legitimacy, and influence necessary to take on leadership roles and lobby male party leaders.
  • Structures for advocacy: An important factor shaping women’s influence in nascent parties was the strength of women’s autonomous mobilization in preparty organizations, as well as whether they had articulated joint demands on the organizations’ leadership prior to political transitions. In Bolivia and South Africa, for example, the internal structures of political movements enabled women to share their experiences and articulate joint demands in the lead-up to party formation. These structures gradually embraced more explicitly feminist stances, drawing on exchanges with women’s civil society groups.

Transition characteristics

  • Nature of the transitions: Long and inclusive transition processes aimed at fundamentally renegotiating existing political orders—through a new constitution or new foundational laws—were more conducive to gender inclusion, as they enabled women in political parties and in civil society to build alliances and push for specific legal reforms and political commitments, including national or party-level quotas.
  • Women’s broad-based mobilization: The existence of organized and broad-based women’s movements was key for pushing political parties to make gender equality commitments. In Bolivia, Nepal, South Africa, and Tunisia, coordinated action among women’s groups allowed them to exert pressure on male party leaders, ensured that women were present in the bodies designing electoral and party rules, and boosted these women’s capacity and influence. Coalition building between women in civil society and women politicians proved particularly impactful.
  • Women at the table: Including women with strong links to feminist groups and organizations in formal transition and constitutional negotiations helped ensure that gender equality commitments and parity measures remained on parties’ political agendas and were anchored in constitutional commitments, new electoral codes, or party bylaws.

 

Lasting barriers

  • Male leadership dominance continues: Across the different political organizations examined in this analysis, men were overrepresented in leadership positions before, during, and after party formation, even though women’s mobilization was often central in bringing about the political openings that sparked such party formation processes. Even in nascent parties with higher levels of gender inclusion, such as the ANC in South Africa, women had to organize against the constant threat of marginalization.
  • Gender norms change slowly: Institutional and legislative change did not necessarily spur shifts in organizational culture or gender norms within nascent parties. Even as parties adopted internal gender equality mechanisms or complied with legislated quotas, women still struggled against discriminatory attitudes and behavior, as well as threats and intimidation, aimed at preserving male-dominated power structures.
  • Structural barriers persist: Entrenched hurdles to women’s political engagement, such as an unequal distribution of domestic responsibilities and financial resources, do not change overnight. While women in political parties and in civil society have made progress in advocating for quotas and gender equality commitments, they have been less successful in pushing for party support to address these structural inequities.

 

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR GENDER-SENSITIVE PARTY SUPPORT IN TRANSITION CONTEXTS

To support gender inclusion within newly formed political parties during and following political transitions, international assistance providers should:

  • Begin with gendered political economy analysis. Understanding transition contexts and their gender characteristics is critical for identifying entry points for gender-sensitive party support. Such analyses should investigate the causes, depth, and length of political transitions, as well as the wider political-economic and sociocultural contexts. These analyses should explicitly examine how gender shapes access to power and resources, and they should be informed by the views of a diverse range of women.
  • Conduct gender and inclusion assessments of political parties. Political transitions give rise to parties with different origins and organizational characteristics. As a result, cookie-cutter approaches will not work. It is necessary to conduct gender and inclusion assessments to identify how formal and informal characteristics of nascent parties’ root organizations—if such an organization exists in a given context—will impact early party development. These assessments should inform the design of party-specific interventions.
  • Offer pretransition support to women’s groups. Supporting cross-sectoral collaboration and movement-building efforts among women’s groups and activists is important for ensuring readiness and coordination when political openings occur. Fostering exchanges and solidarity between women’s movements in similar contexts and providing technical guidance on institutional reforms such as gender quotas can help women’s groups clarify their political demands before formal negotiations begin. Supporting autonomous women’s organizations both financially and substantively may also contribute to making civil society more gender inclusive overall. Such support should always be rooted in and sensitive to local needs and demands.
  • Ensure gender-transformative transition support. During transitions, international actors should support the active engagement of feminist leaders in the transitional bodies negotiating new governing structures. All technical assistance, such as support for drafting constitutions and electoral and political party rules, should include guidance on the building of gender-sensitive institutions. Supporting the building of civil society coalitions, and networks between women’s organizations and female politicians, will enable groups to exert pressure from the outside.
  • Provide targeted support for gender equality in early party development. It is critical that parties include principles of gender equality in their foundational documents, as these commitments can provide anchors for sustained internal advocacy for inclusion. Party assistance should also support party leaders in developing plans to recruit a diverse swathe of female candidates, including for countries’ first post-transition elections. In addition, any party assistance must be given with due consideration for the impact of patriarchal gender norms on women’s experiences within parties and include targeted efforts to secure or deepen male party leaders’ and members’ commitment to gender equality and inclusion.
  • Prioritize sustained party support. Support for gender inclusion should continue after transition processes conclude. Subsequent priorities may include the creation or strengthening of cross-party women’s caucuses and coalitions, autonomous bodies for women in political parties, and party mechanisms that support greater internal inclusion. If quotas have already been adopted, such mechanisms could include sexual harassment policies or childcare support for candidates. Providing ongoing assistance focused on strengthening the civil society environment is also important for ensuring that local groups can hold nascent political parties accountable to gender-progressive commitments made during transitions.

 

 

To read the complete paper, please visit the webpage https://carnegieendowment.org/2020/03/24/breaking-cycle-of-gender-exclusion-in-political-party-development-pub-81345 .

 

Saskia Brechenmacher is a fellow in Carnegie’s Democracy, Conflict, and Governance Program, where her research focuses on gender, civil society, and democratic governance.

Caroline Hubbard is the senior gender adviser and deputy director for the Gender, Women and Democracy Program at the National Democratic Institute, where she has worked since 2010 to support the aspirations of women to lead in legislatures, parties, electoral processes, and civil society

 

By                            :               Saskia Brechenmacher and Caroline Hubbard

Date                         :               March 24, 2020

Source                     :               Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

https://carnegieendowment.org/2020/03/24/breaking-cycle-of-gender-exclusion-in-political-party-development-pub-81345

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Ramp Up Your Career After Parental Leave

 

Returning from parental leave can be a jarring inflection point that too often results in people curtailing their responsibilities or leaving their jobs altogether. While many women choose to return to work after maternity leave, many others find that it’s not sustainable and leave or take on reduced roles. Seventeen percent of women and 4% of men stop working in the five years following childbirth, according to research recently conducted at the Universities of Bristol and Essex in the United Kingdom. Harvard economist Claudia Goldin has found that the gender wage gap in America is the largest for women in their prime childbearing years.

Navigating a system that was not designed for career paths that balance work with family can easily feel like a mission-practically-impossible even in the best of times. And when the job market is weak, many people will become even more pessimistic about the possibility of persuading an employer to accept a flexible work arrangement.

After two maternity leaves, I’ve discovered that some companies are willing to let people redesign their positions in a way that will allow them not just to continue their careers, but even to accelerate them. But it means setting clear goals, forensically analyzing how you spend your time, consciously not doing things that aren’t core to meeting your goals, over-communicating, and then course-correcting when required.

Set Clear Goals

In order for any corporate machinery to try to accommodate your career goals, you first need to identify them. If you’re not sure what your dreams are, no one can help you realize them. So step back and ask yourself: What is it that I really want?

What are your immediate objectives after you return from your parental leave? What are your long-term goals? Do you want to run your company one day? Or do you want to slow down your career and focus on your family? Or do you hope for some combination of both? In my experience, all of these options can work — as long as you’re honest with yourself and your employer.

If you cannot articulate your answers, a parental leave is a great time to reflect on them. Being up with a tiny human at 3AM can give you some time for self-reflection. In my case, it was difficult to envision my long-term goals and to figure out how to achieve them until I took a break from the daily grind on my maternity leaves. During my first leave, I resolved that I wanted to continue in consulting, a field with predominantly male leadership, as a partner at the consulting firm Oliver Wyman. But I also wanted to leave work every day at 6PM to spend time with my family, and I wanted to take August off to travel from my base in London to visit family in Canada.

During my second leave, I decided that I hoped to play a major role in building out our firm’s public sector practice and lead our anti-financial crime business, where I would interact widely and often at the highest levels of our firm, overseeing multiple project teams in multiple countries at any given time. But I also wanted to be able to prioritize my family whenever I needed to. I adjusted my schedule accordingly, so now, instead of leaving work at 6PM every day, I might take off one Monday per month. If I have an emergency doctor’s appointment for my child, or if any of potentially a million other things crop up unexpectedly with my family life, I can drop work if I need to or I can comfortably agree with my partner that he will handle the situation. In turn, if I have to work in the evening, I don’t let it stress me out.

Forensically Analyze How You Spend Your Time

After you’ve identified your goals, forensically analyze how you spend your time at work and cut out anything that’s not aligned with your objectives. Before you go on maternity leave, be clear about what you’re working on, who you are working with, and how you intend to rejoin your team. That way, once you return, you can more easily delegate or drop anything that does not speed up progress.

For people who already work fairly autonomously, this is generally straightforward. But if you are senior in a corporation, you will likely have to say “no” more often to supporting projects and corporate initiatives that are not directly related to your ambitions. This can be tricky, since there’s a risk of being perceived as less committed to your company if you turn down extra work. Still, you must: If you take on too much, you may underdeliver on your work or family commitments, or both. Discuss the right balance with coworkers. People will generally understand this if you can make it crystal clear how you will still contribute on a broader level, but in a deliberate and agreed-upon way by focusing on your goals.

Concentrate on what you can do within the time you have, and excel at that. When I returned to work following my second maternity leave, I gave up supporting a major part of our business in order to focus purely on building out our economic crime advisory work with the public sector. Narrowing my focus in this way allowed me to devote the time necessary to develop much more insightful content in my specific area. As a result, we’ve been able to support the most sophisticated financial centers in improving their financial crime defenses. I miss supporting the other part of our business. But I would make the same decision again.

Overcommunicate

Overcommunicate your aspirations with your employer, colleagues, and family openly and honestly. Share a detailed maternity plan with your boss that lays out what you want to achieve and the clients and areas that you want to cover. Schedule meetings with your boss before you leave, about a month before you come back, and monthly afterward to discuss how things are going. That way, they can step in to offer support when needed.

It’s also important to have continual conversations with your partner at home. Persistently check on how your balance of work and home life is going. In my house, this changes every week. We constantly talk — or frantically text in the middle of the day — about who will pick up our oldest from daycare and who can travel on which dates.

Course Correct

Then, be prepared to adjust. It’s impossible to know what it’s like to juggle your family and your career until you’re in the thick of it. So be open to reassessing your goals and course correct as required.

You may find that you can do more than you expected. When I first came back from maternity leave, I was convinced that I wouldn’t be able to commit to multiple client-facing roles. But once I set boundaries and became better at delegating, I found I had more time in my day than anticipated and could gradually take on more.

But accept that things will also not always work out as you’d hoped. I had to take a step back from one global initiative because the team, spread out across multiple time zones, would meet exactly at the time that I wanted to be home with my boys. After sleepless teething nights, I’ve lost four — yes, four — passports and misplaced countless bank cards and travel coffee cups. At times, our kitchen looks like it was hit by a tornado after we rush out the door in the morning. Don’t let these kinds of mishaps cause stress — just smile and realize that you’re doing the best you can.

Be open and honest when your best laid plans go awry. That way, the broader team can understand that it is not always an easy journey.

Be a Champion for Others

By bringing your whole self to work, you can encourage your employer to think through, and overcome, the potential obstacles involved in supporting not just your own flexible work arrangements, but also those of others. Be sure to actively and visibly support people in a similar position. Support individuals when the risks they have taken have failed and remind the organization, and the individual, that taking risks is a part of being successful — the important thing is to maintain faith in the individual’s underlying ability.

Spearhead initiatives with senior leaders in your organization to support new models of working. For example, an initiative called “Men4Change” in our firm is designed to close a gender gap in senior leadership roles.  Senior men help to create and assist with customized work arrangements for many high-potential women. A “Boost” program assigns sponsors to support individuals with everything from designing their flexible work arrangements before parental leave to ensuring these agreed-upon plans are successfully implemented afterward.

We have not only a moral imperative to make it possible for more women and men to return to work from parental leave, but also a commercial imperative to develop the best-performing teams. As you navigate your own return to work from a parental leave, take the time to step back and figure out what you really want to accomplish. Find the sponsors who can help you shape and accelerate your career on your own terms. Then pay it forward by being an effective role model and sponsor to other new parents coming up through the ranks after you.

 

Lisa Quest is a London-based partner in Oliver Wyman’s Public Policy and Organizational Effectiveness Practices.

 

By                            :               Lisa Quest

Date                         :               April 09, 2020

Source                     :               Harvard Business Review

https://hbr.org/2020/04/ramp-up-your-career-after-parental-leave

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Twenty-five years after declaring “women’s rights are human rights,” there’s still much to do

 

The unprecedented global attention necessary to combat the relentless coronavirus pandemic has for now pushed aside the ambitious plans by women’s rights advocates to focus on “a truly transformative agenda on gender equality and girls’ and women’s rights” in 2020, a “milestone year,” to accelerate action for its realization.

One hundred years after the first International Women’s Day was held, this year marks the 25th anniversary of the landmark declaration that “women’s rights are human rights,” at the World Conference on Women in Beijing, which raised the clarion call for gender equality. The representatives of 189 countries attending the conference committed to implement the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action — a visionary blueprint calling for the empowerment of women and presenting a comprehensive plan for action.

A major international development to further the realization of women’s rights was the adoption in October 2015 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which included among its goals the achievement of gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls. Targets to measure the goal’s progress include discrimination, violence against women and girls, harmful practices, unpaid care work, lack of participation in decision-making, and inadequate sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights.

Notwithstanding the repeated reaffirmation of the Beijing commitments by governments unilaterally as well as at the United Nations and regional forums, a reality check demonstrates that the Beijing Agenda remains unfulfilled. The progress is uneven, ad hoc, slow, and, on certain issues, superficial. Fundamental protections are often lacking and not even a single country in the world has realized the goal of gender equality.

What is the current status? Despite the great strides in the fight for gender equality, including gains in girls’ education, legal reforms to address domestic violence, removing discriminatory laws, and impressive gains for individual women in many countries, gaps remain. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres reported last year, based on data from more than 100 countries, that 18% of women and girls had experienced physical and/or sexual partner violence in the previous 12 months. Reporting on progress toward gender equality, he said: “Gender equality continues to hold women back and deprives them of basic rights and opportunities. Empowering women requires addressing structural issues such as unfair social norms and attitudes, and progressive legal frameworks that put men and women at the same level.”

Data from 90 countries shows that women spend roughly three times more hours per day doing unpaid care and domestic work than men. Millions of girls and women have been subjected to the practice of female genital mutilation, and 32 million girls are still not in school. The role of women in peace and security negotiations is almost non-existent. To illustrate, women’s participation is not clear in the proposed peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

In addition to discrimination in law and practice, gender-based violence, and harmful gender norms and inequality, institutional barriers remain to equal participation in society. Laws, regulations, and workplace policies force women out when they become pregnant or keep them from returning to work after childbirth, resulting in persistent disparities in women’s income and economic security. Deep-rooted power imbalances due to social, political, and cultural barriers remain a grim reality. Poor sexual and reproductive health information and services lead to high rates of disease and death worldwide for women and girls. A recent U.N. report found 91% of men and 86% of women show some gender bias against women. And a World Bank report says that women have only three-quarters of the employment rights enjoyed by men, while men still control three-quarters of parliamentary seats worldwide.

In the U.S., as of March 2020, women still make 81 cents overall for every dollar earned by men, according to PayScale, a company that collects data on wages.

The World Economic Forum, which annually surveyed the global gender gap for 14 year, reports that it will be a century before women the world over enjoy equal rights with men.

Measures to fight the coronavirus pandemic, such as school closures, quarantine measures, stay-at-home, and lockdowns, are further likely to disproportionately impact women, as they generally assume responsibility for care. Domestic violence rates may increase. Migrant domestic helpers are being adversely affected, with little opportunity for assistance. And another wild card likely to impact women disproportionately is climate change, as families will be displaced.

Last month the U.N. Human Rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, warned of a risk of setbacks to women’s rights as they are being threatened and attacked. Similar concern was recently expressed by the secretary-general.

Common sense and also evidence-based actions to advance girls’ and women’s rights and close the equality gap include the following: countries should adopt policies and enact laws to proactively advance gender equality and equal representation and participation of women in all spheres; countries should repeal discriminatory family laws — marriage, divorce, inheritance, custody, and guardianship; governments should outlaw and eliminate domestic violence and harmful practices such as child marriage; countries should directly invest in women and girls and in support of organizations that are working to change legal, social, and political systems to expedite progress; and governments should protect women’s human rights defenders.

The current situation should not be allowed to derail the focus on achieving gender equality.

 

Ved Nanda is Distinguished University Professor and director of the Ved Nanda Center for International Law at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law. His column appears the last Sunday of each month and he welcomes comments at [email protected]

 

By                            :               Ved Nanda

Date                         :               March 30, 2020

Source                     :               The Denver Post

https://www.denverpost.com/2020/03/30/nanda-twenty-five-years-after-declaring-womens-rights-are-human-rights-theres-still-much-to-do/

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