Put gender equality at the heart of MDG: UN

Report by UN Women says women’s access to justice improved, yet low


Sonal Matharu | July 7, 2011

Over 80 percent of women in south Asia work in vulnerable employment which lies outside the purview of labour legislation, said Laxmi Puri from the UN women here on Thursday. She was speaking at the launch of first report under the newly-formed UN agency, UN Women, on the gender sensitive progress of nations in the area of justice.

“In India, women have 30 percent workforce participation, which is less than what women contribute in Maldives and Bangladesh. In those countries, women contribute upto 50 percent to the workforce. There will be a 4.2 percent increase in the GDP of a country if women increase their participation in formal workforce,” said Puri, assistant secretary general and deputy executive director, UN Women.

She added that more than half of the women work in the informal economy where they are unprotected.

The report titled, ‘Progress of the world’s women: In pursuit of justice’, highlights that over the century remarkable advances are made in the area of justice and women have had access to justice. However, the report also states that these benefits are still out of reach for many women.  

Changes were seen in the past few years as two-third of the countries now have laws against domestic violence. Earlier, it was considered a private matter, stresses Puri.

“Laws that function well are foundation for gender equality and can provide means for women to demand accountability,” she said.

The panelists stressed that discriminatory laws in countries should be done away with and the process of using the justice system should be dignified. They put forward ten commandments which are:

  • Support women’s legal organizations
  • Implement gender sensitive law reform
  • Support one-stop shops to reduce attrition in the justice chain (which bring together all vital services under one roof to collect forensic evidence and provide legal advice, healthcare and support to the women)
  • Put women of the front line of law enforcement
  • Invest in women’s access to justice
  • Train judges and monitor decisions
  • Increase women’s access to courts and truth commissions during and after conflict
  • Implement gender-responsive reparations programmes
  • Use quotas to boost the number of women legislators
  • Put gender equality at the heart of the millennium development goals

“The idea of gender equality needs to be embedded by a young age itself. A curriculum designed to promote equality needs to be taught. The way women are portrayed in society, be it the media even, needs to change. So many TV serials on Indian television show women as nothing else but downtrodden, degraded parts of society. This has to change,” said Puri.

Speaking to Governance Now, she added that women’s political empowerment is necessary. “No country is the same. Every country faces different problems. In India, we have multi-track progress. There is need for universality in these approaches and efforts.”

Sultana Kamal, lawyer from Bangladesh said, “We want more women in the police, the judicial, the administrative system, and not just a surplus of women, but women who are aware and would work for the betterment of women.” 

Women’s rights activists from south Asia including Indira Jaisingh, Sultana Kamal from  Bangladesh, Hina Jilani from Pakistan, Sapna Pradhan Malla from Nepal were present at the launch.

UN women was launched in January 2011. It is composed of four older UN organisations including UNIFEM.



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