UN chief calls to combat violence against women

During the pandemic, women have been more exposed than men to harmful consequences, Guterres said, citing loss of jobs, sexual abuse or child marriage.

FILE: Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres takes part in the Global Climate Action High-Level event at the UN Climate Change Conference COP25 at the 'IFEMA - Feria de Madrid' exhibition centre, in Madrid, on 11 December 2019. Picture: AFP

UNITED NATIONS - UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on Monday to combat violence against women, at the start of the annual Commission on the Status of Women, which is expected to call for greater action against sexual harassment.

During the pandemic, women have been more exposed than men to harmful consequences, Guterres said, citing loss of jobs, sexual abuse or child marriage.

"Women's equal participation is the game-changer we need," he said, calling for gender equality and gender parity in leadership.

"Only 22 countries are headed by a woman Head of State or Government. And at current rates parity among Heads of Government will not be achieved until 2150," Guterres said.

"That's right, another 130 years of men making the same kinds of decisions they have made for the past 130 years and more."

According to the UN chief, the coronavirus pandemic "provided yet another opportunity for men to dominate decision-making."

"And we spend trillions on weapons that fail to make us safer, while neglecting the violence that one in three women globally have experienced," he said.

"Changing these default settings must be seen as an imperative," Guterres said, urging the UN's 193 members to "enact an emergency response plan... to address violence against women and girls."

Like every year, the Commission on the Status of Women, which takes place from March 15 to 26, brings together thousands of women for speeches, exchanges and dozens of specific events.

Its member countries began negotiating a 51-page document which, according to a recent version obtained by AFP, "recognises that gender inequalities continue to be reflected in imbalances of power... between women and men," and that such inequality exists "in all spheres of society."

It also "expresses concern" at widespread violence against women in public life -- including cyber-bullying, harassment, stalking and threatening.

Harassment -- online or off -- and sexual abuse "are a violation and abuse of human rights and pose a major impediment to women's... participation and leadership in all spheres of public life," the document continues, warning that such harassment can create a "hostile environment."

As with the 2020 session, the 65th Commission will be primarily virtual due to the pandemic.

This year's speakers include new US Vice President Kamala Harris, French minister of gender equality Elisabeth Moreno, Mexican vice minister for multilateral affairs and human rights Martha Delgado Peralta, and the European commissioner for international partnerships, Finland's Jutta Urpilainen.

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