UN Expert Highlights the Severity and Persistence of the Issue
Women and girls are still being killed solely based on their gender. A UN-appointed independent expert, Reem Alsalem, emphasized on Tuesday that violence against women and girls remains one of the most extensive, enduring, and destructive human rights violations. Alsalem, who serves as the UN Special Rapporteur on the issue, elaborated that women and girls are more susceptible to femicide when their gender intersects with other factors or identities. She mentioned that they still face restrictions in organizing freely, expressing their beliefs, and are subject to repercussions.
Alsalem’s comments came after she presented her report to the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly in New York. She noted that in some nations, there has been a concerning decline in women’s ability to access education, move freely, and avail sexual and reproductive health services. These setbacks are occurring as the world grapples with multiple crises such as war, climate change, poverty, and pandemics, which disproportionately affect women and girls.
We are halfway through the timeline to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and it’s painfully clear that we are far from reaching Sustainable Development Goal 5, which focuses on gender equality and empowerment. According to the World Health Organization, around 736 million women are victims of physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner or experience sexual violence from a non-partner. This number has largely remained the same over the past decade. Intimate partner violence is the most prevalent form of violence endured by women, affecting approximately 641 million worldwide. Younger women are especially vulnerable, with one in four women aged 15 to 24 experiencing violence from an intimate partner by their mid-twenties.
Gender equality is unattainable without ensuring that women and girls can exercise their fundamental human rights and participate in society without discrimination, Alsalem pointed out. She revealed that 50 countries still have nationality laws containing gender-discriminatory provisions. In 24 of these countries, women cannot pass on their nationality to their children equally with men. Alsalem further stated that gender and sex-based discrimination in nationality laws is a significant cause of statelessness. Such laws are a form of violence against women, as they lead to a cycle of human rights abuses and violations, intensifying psychological, sexual, and physical violence. She urged states to adhere to the essence, spirit, and meaning of fundamental human rights obligations.
The objectives under Sustainable Development Goal 5 include ending all forms of discrimination and violence against women and girls, eliminating harmful practices like early and forced marriages and female genital mutilation, enhancing legislation to promote gender equality, ensuring women’s full participation and equal opportunities in political, economic, and public life, and providing universal access to sexual and reproductive health care. Nearly half of all married women currently lack decision-making power concerning their sexual and reproductive health and rights.