Do more to deliver justice for women: UN body
London: A report by a new UN agency - dedicated to gender equality - has called on member-states to make more efforts to ensure that women's legal entitlements are not confined to paper but translate into equality and justice.
In its first report titled 'Progress of the world's women: In pursuit of justice', the UN Women outlines 10 recommendations to make justice systems across the world work for women.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in the report's foreword: "Without justice, women are disenfranchised, disempowered and denied their rightful place. But with sound legal and justice systems, women can flourish and contribute to the advancement of society as a whole, including by helping to improve those very same systems for future generations - daughters and sons alike".
The report, which was released here on Tuesday, notes that the past century has seen a transformation in women's legal rights, with countries in every region expanding the scope of women's legal entitlements, but for most of the world's women, it adds, the "laws that exist on paper do not translate to equality and justice".
The recommendations include extending support to women’s legal organisations, implementing gender-sensitive law reform, putting women on the frontline of law enforcement, and increase women’s access to courts and truth commissions during and after conflict.
The report mentions examples of countries making "immense strides" in promoting gender equality, but states that women are "often denied control over their bodies, denied a voice in decision-making and denied protection from violence".
It says: "Some 600 million women, more than half the world's working women, are in vulnerable employment, trapped in insecure jobs, often outside the purview of labour legislation. Despite major progress on legal frameworks, millions of women report experiencing violence in their lifetimes, usually at the hands of an intimate partner".
The report notes that in 1911, only two countries in the world allowed women to vote, but a century later, that right is virtually universal and women are exercising greater influence in decision-making than ever before.
Alongside women's greater political influence, there has been a growing recognition of women's rights, not only political and civil, but also economic, social and cultural rights.
Today, 186 countries worldwide have ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).
According to the report, the "systematic targeting of women for brutal sexual violence is a hallmark of modern conflicts".
It says: "Pervasive discrimination against women creates major hurdles to achieving rights and hinders progress on all of the Millennium Development Goals - the benchmarks that the international community has set to eradicate extreme poverty - from improving maternal health, to achieving universal education and halting the spread of HIV and AIDS".
It adds: "Although equality between women and men is guaranteed in the Constitutions of 139 countries and territories, inadequate laws and implementation gaps make these guarantees hollow promises, having little impact on the day-to-day lives of women".
In many contexts, the report states, the infrastructure of justice - the police, the courts and the judiciary - is failing women, which manifests itself in poor services and hostile attitudes from the very people whose duty it is to meet women’s rights.