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Gender Equality Promise Unfulfilled as Women Face Threats, Economic Violence, UN Warns

UN Human Rights Chief Volker Turk

GENEVA – The United Nations human rights chief painted a grim picture of the state of women’s rights worldwide on Friday, declaring that the world is “failing to deliver on the promise of gender equality” as women and girls continue to face myriad threats, including economic violence.

In a powerful opening speech at the Human Rights Council’s annual discussion on women’s rights, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk minced no words in condemning the persistent, pervasive violence and discrimination that half the global population endures.

“Today, regardless of income or background, all women and girls live with the threat of gender-based violence,” Turk told the Geneva-based council. He noted that nearly one in three women globally have experienced some form of such violence in their lifetime – a statistic that he said would spur urgent action if it applied to men.

Turk shone a spotlight on the insidious threat of “economic violence,” which he described as a form of gender-based harm involving economic control, sabotage, and exploitation. This, he said, is facilitated by “archaic gender norms” that cast men as the financial decision-makers.

“The world is failing to deliver on the promise of gender equality,” Turk declared, lamenting that 3.9 billion women worldwide face legal barriers to economic participation and earn just 77 cents for every dollar paid to men. The global wealth gap between women and men stands at a staggering $100 trillion, he added.

To address this crisis, Turk called for a “complete overhaul of discriminatory laws and practices,” as well as robust policy measures to ensure gender equality is “positively fostered” in all areas of life. Anything less, he warned, is a grave injustice to half of humanity.

“Violence against women and girls – in all its forms – is abhorrent and inexcusable,” Turk said. “The world must act with urgency to fulfill the promise of gender equality for all.”