Women's rights being trampled by 'deeply ingrained misogyny', says top UN official

Amina Mohammed tells Security Council that despite evidence greater equality is a path to sustainable peace, the world is moving in the opposite direction

A woman in Kosovo takes part in a rally in support of Iranian women. AFP
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The trampling of women’s rights and “deeply ingrained misogyny” are connected in many ways to today’s global challenges, from the proliferation of conflicts to increasing assaults on human rights, the UN deputy secretary general has said.

Amina Mohammed told a UN Security Council meeting on women, peace and security that “despite decades of evidence that gender equality offers a path to sustainable peace and conflict prevention, we are moving in the opposite direction”.

UN deputy secretary general Amina Mohammed has said the world is backsliding on women’s rights despite the evidence that more equality brings greater peace and stability. Bloomberg

“We cannot separate the perilous state of peace in our world from the destructive effects of patriarchy and the silencing of women’s voices,” she said on Thursday.

Ms Mohammed urged the world’s nations to call out “misogyny as it manifests itself in the abuse and discrimination that women confront on the street, at home, at work, as well as online.”

They must challenge “the social, political, and economic structures and norms that sustain it”, she said.

The Security Council was assessing the state of a resolution it adopted on October 31, 2000, demanding equal participation for women in peace negotiations, a goal that remains as distant as gender equality.

Ms Mohammed said that between 1995 and 2019, the percentage of peace agreements with gender equality provisions increased from 14 per cent to 22 per cent.

However, women “constituted on average just 13 per cent of negotiators, 6 per cent of mediators and 6 per cent of signatories in major peace processes”, she said, adding that 70 per cent of peace processes did not include any women.

“Women’s participation in peace processes, and influence over decisions that affect their lives, continue to lag far behind, creating a real barrier to inclusive, durable and sustainable peace,” she said.

Ms Mohammed said the UN was helping to push for women’s participation in peacemaking, pointing to a 40 per cent target for women in delegations to peace talks in Sudan and an increase — to 38 per cent, from 3 per cent — in the number of women in a committee monitoring Mali’s 2015 peace agreement.

“We must build on these examples,” she said. “We need full gender parity — including through special quotas to accelerate the inclusion of women — across election monitoring, security sector reform, disarmament, demobilisation and justice systems.”

UN Women executive director Sima Bahous, whose agency promotes gender equality, told the council that “a reversal of generational gains in women’s rights is taking place against surging threats to security”

“Violent conflict, displacement, the repercussions of the global pandemic and the growing climate emergency all exact their highest price from women and girls,” Ms Bahous said.

She pointed to women human rights defenders around the world — from Iran and Ethiopia’s conflict-wracked Tigray region to Ukraine and Afghanistan — who risk their lives every day “in the name of peace and human rights and for the sake of their communities and our planet”.

Ms Bahous cited Colombian indigenous human rights defender Daniela Soto, who survived two bullet wounds in May, and Siti Bakr, a Sudanese nurse and activist killed by security forces last November.

She also praised women human rights defenders in Afghanistan who continue to demand their rights and protest against the Taliban's repression of women and girls, despite the threat of harassment, detention and torture.

Ms Bahous called for adequate funding for women, peace and security.

“Funding for women’s organisations in conflict-affected countries, where it is needed most, went from $181 million in 2019 to $150m in 2020,” she said.

In Afghanistan, 77 per cent of women’s civil society organisations have yet to receive any funding this year and are no longer running programmes, she said.

In Myanmar, about half of women’s groups had to close after the military coup on February 1, 2021, she said.

“It is a false economy that increases military spending, which has now reached an all-time high, while neglecting those investments that make it less necessary,” Ms Bahous said.

Updated: October 21, 2022, 5:14 AM