In this Friday, March 8, 2019 photo provided by the United Nations, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, third from right, executive director of UN Women, speaks at the United Nations Observance of International Women’s Day at the United Nations headquarters. (Eskinder Debebe/The United Nations via AP)

UN chief warns of ‘relentless’ pushback on women’s rights

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres cited online abuse of women who speak out

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Monday that there is a “deep, pervasive and relentless” pushback on women’s rights and called for a fight to “push back against the pushback.”

Calling himself “a proud feminist,” the U.N. chief said, “It is a fight we must win — together.”

Guterres spoke at the opening of the annual meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women, which since its establishment in 1947 has been committed to achieving “equality with men in all fields of human enterprise.”

The secretary-general told hundreds of ministers, delegates and representatives from civil society and business that the U.N. body could equally go by another name: “the Commission on the Status of Power — because this is the crux of the issue.”

While advocates for gender equality are mobilizing as never before, Guterres said, “around the world, there is a pushback on women’s rights.”

He pointed to increased violence against women, especially defenders of human rights and women running for political office. He cited “online abuse of women who speak out,” women 26 per cent less likely to be employed than men, and “an ongoing uphill battle for reproductive rights.”

“And nationalist, populist and even austerity agendas are tearing social fabric — aggravating inequality, splintering communities, curtailing women’s rights and cutting vital services,” Guterres said.

READ MORE: Venezuela seeks UN support against ‘military aggression’

The fight against these negative trends is a fight that must be won, he said.

“So let us say it loud and clear,” Guterres said. “We will not give ground. We will not turn back. We will push back against the pushback. And we will keep pushing. For wholesale change. For rapid change … our world needs, starting by addressing the imbalance in power relations.”

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, head of the U.N. women’s agency, gave some examples of pushback in an Associated Press interview ahead of the commission’s meeting.

In negotiations on its final document, she said, some countries don’t want health care facilities to provide “sexual and reproductive rights,” issues that were fought over and are part of the 1995 platform for action adopted by the world’s nations at the U.N. women’s conference in Beijing.

In addition, she said, “Some countries don’t want to use the word gender. You must always say men and women, so that you do not include people who are gender non-conforming.”

She said these ideological issues are “the usual pushback” that are “ultimately about women’s bodies.”

Mlambo-Ngcuka told the commission on Monday that gains for women over the past two decades “are fragile, and we are seeing them reverse.”

The latest data indicate 131 million girls worldwide aren’t going to school and there has been a 6 per cent increase in girls not attending elementary school, she said.

“On average, globally, women still have only three-quarters of the legal rights of men, and more than one billion have no recourse against violence or are restricted in their education or employment — what is now being called ‘economic violence,’” Mlambo-Ngcuka said.

And every day, approximately 830 women — 99 per cent of them in developing countries — die of preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth, she said.

Ireland’s U.N. ambassador, Geraldine Byrne Nason, who presides over the Commission on the Status of Women, said the Beijing declaration statement that women’s rights are human rights generated optimism, but “we have been disappointed.”

Today, she said, less than 7 per cent of heads of state and government are women, and only one in four parliament members around the world are female. And, she said, “it’s estimated if we don’t act, it will take 217 years to reach parity between men and women in pay and employment opportunities.”

“So what went wrong?” Byrne Nason said. “The truth is that collectively we haven’t yet succeeded in making sure that women are wherever decisions are being made.”

She said gender empowerment means handing over or sharing power “and we know how hard that is.”

READ MORE: Soldiers unleash tear gas amid tension on Venezuela’s border

“What we’re trying to achieve is that men have their rights, and nothing more, and that women have their rights, and nothing less,” Byrne Nelson said.

She said the commission will be deliberating in the next two weeks about maternity, pensions, safe roads and transport, schools that teach girls skills to succeed, women’s access to vital health care, “and the fair distribution of care and the domestic work between men and women.”

Edith M. Lederer, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

ARTS AROUND: Last call for cruise ship vendors

Last cruise ship arrives in the Alberni Inlet on July 6

BIZ BEAT: Port Alberni businesses celebrate milestones

RE/MAX Mid-Island moving into new building on Johnston Road

Solda’s Family Restaurant celebrates 50 years in Port Alberni

Restaurant is currently up for sale to “the right buyer”

Cherry Creek Waterworks District imposes water restrictions

Stage 1 water restrictions now in effect

Paint your toe for Pride in Port Alberni

Alberni couple launches campaign to show support for the LGBTQ community

VIDEO: B.C. First Nation plans to launch legal challenge after Trans Mountain approval

Meanwhile, Premier John Horgan says he’ll continue to defend the B.C. coast

Federal cabinet ministers visit Edmonton, Calgary, in wake of TMX approval

Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi is set to visit Trans Mountain Corp.’s terminal in Edmonton

B.C. municipality prepares to forbid overnight camping by homeless despite court ruling

While courts have ruled against blanket bans, Langley City is employing a site-by-site approach

B.C. auditor says Indigenous grad rate highest ever but education gaps exist

The percentage of Indigenous students graduating from B.C. public high schools has hit its highest level ever

Statistics Canada reports annual pace of inflation rises in May to 2.4%

Transportation prices gained 3.1 per cent as the cost of air transportation added 8.9 per cent

BREAKING: Forest fire on North Island disrupts Hwy. 19

Wildfire has reached .25 hectares, according to BC Wildfire Service

Man to be sentenced for sexual abuse of young girl in Nanaimo

Stephen Mark Castleden also sentenced for child pornography-related charges

MPs hear retired B.C. nurse’s petition to change compensation for fatal medical errors

Teri McGrath wants provinces to implement no-fault system for medical errors

VIDEO: Firefighters stop blaze from spreading after BMW crashes at Saratoga Speedway

Victoria-based businessmen were ‘corner training’ on Father’s Day when incident took place

Most Read