Gender equality – On Monday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres delivered some terrible news.
With March being Women’s Month, the opportunity seemed ripe to hear some progress on gender equality, but what he delivered was disappointing.
Guterres told the Committee on the Status of Women that progress toward gender equality was “vanishing before our eyes.”
Just days before International Women’s Day on March 8, António Guterres addressed a top UN women’s rights organization.
Gender equality is “300 years away,” according to UN Women, the United Nations body dedicated to gender equality and women’s empowerment.
Several statistics, according to Guterres, demonstrate that the goal of gender equality is becoming increasingly unattainable, including:
- High rates of maternal mortality
- Girls forced into early marriage
- Girls getting kidnapped and assaulted for school attendance
Women’s rights abused
Throughout his speech, Antonio Guterres made no mention of Iran.
After demonstrations against the murder of Mahsa Amini by Iran’s “morality police,” the country was kicked from the 45-member Commission in December 2022.
“Women’s rights are being abused, threatened, and violated around the world,” said Guterres.
Afghanistan was singled out by the UN Secretary-General, who stated that “women and girls have been erased from public life.”
Kabul university protest
On Monday, young Afghan women gathered outside Kabul University to protest the Taliban’s ban on female education, while males were allowed to return to school.
The UN has been told that the restriction might result in a crime against humanity.
The Taliban restriction took effect in December, nine months after females were barred from returning to secondary school as part of a crackdown on women’s rights following the Taliban’s seizure of power in 2021.
According to them, the university ban was issued because women did not adhere to Islamic dress requirements and other “Islamic ideals.”
Several young ladies felt cheated out of a future because of the restriction.
Human rights crisis
On Monday, Richard Bennett, the UN Special Rapporteur on the State of Human Rights in Afghanistan, issued a report in Geneva.
According to the study, the Taliban’s ban on female education may result in gender persecution.
It also listed several additional issues, such as:
- Increased forced and child marriages
- Sexual abuse and assault
- Banning women from public spaces like gyms and parks
- Restrictions that limit women’s ability to work
- Independent travel
The bans, according to the report, will just worsen current violations of women’s human rights.
The Taliban’s rise to power coincided with a worsening humanitarian disaster in Afghanistan, exacerbating difficulties that had been there for years.
Following the takeover, the United States and its allies put more than $7 billion in Afghan foreign funds on hold.
Furthermore, they stopped receiving international aid, which had a huge impact on their economy, which was heavily dependent on foreign support.
Calls for investigations
According to Antonio Guterres, the UN Women executive director and deputy secretary-general recently visited Afghanistan to demonstrate to Taliban officials that they will never give up the fight for women and girls.
“Crisis and conflict affect women and girls first and worst,” Guterres added.
He highlighted the Ukraine issue to make his point.
As allegations of rape and sexual abuse against Ukrainian women and children appeared during the Russian invasion in 2022, the UN called for an investigation.
Following the revelations came an appeal from UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous for a “gender-sensitive” humanitarian response, saying:
“The combination of mass displacement with the large presence of conscripts and mercenaries, and the brutality displayed against Ukrainian civilians, has raised all red flags.”
She also urged that the rape and sexual assault reports be investigated independently.
A call for action
In June 2022, the United States Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade.
As a result, individual states now have the decision to control abortion.
Poland had established an abortion prohibition due to congenital defects a year before, virtually prohibiting abortions throughout the country.
Antonio Guterres argued for a coordinated effort to achieve gender equality through enhancing women’s education, income, and work opportunities.
He stressed its importance in developing countries of the Global South.
“Centuries of patriarchy, discrimination, and harmful stereotypes have created a huge gender gap in science and technology,” said Guterres.
“Let’s be clear: global frameworks are not working for the world’s women and girls. They need to change.”