Advocates worldwide on International Women's Day on Thursday highlighted issues such as gender equality, discrimination and the need for justice for survivors of sexual violence, Reuters reports (Nichols, Reuters, 3/7).
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday said that although world leaders reaffirmed the importance of gender equality in "almost all countries, women continue to be under-represented in decision-making positions." He also said that the majority of the more than 100 million children who are not in school are girls and that women's "work continues to be undervalued, underpaid or not paid at all." In addition, violence against women continues "in every continent, country and culture" because it is concealed or condoned, Ban said (Zee News, 3/7). The U.N. Development Fund for Women and UNICEF on Wednesday said that 104 countries in the world have made rape a crime, but these laws have been poorly enforced (Reuters, 3/7). World Health Organization Director-General Margaret Chan in a statement released Wednesday said one in five women reports being sexually abused before age 15, which is associated with poor health for years. In addition, more than half a million women die annually from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth, Chan added (Chan statement, 3/7). Rima Salah, deputy executive director of UNICEF, said, "Sexual violence is a weapon of war with the strategic intent to humiliate communities ... to really disintegrate the fabric of society," adding, "No one, including the U.N. itself, is doing enough to end this terrible situation. We fail to treat it as a crime" (Reuters, 3/7).
Ban on Wednesday said he would "pledge to work for a collaborative and coordinated approach to gender perspectives -- one that involves and engages the entire U.N. system in supporting member states' work for gender equality and empowerment of women" (IANS/Malaysia Sun, 3/7). The U.N. Security Council on Wednesday called for an end to impunity for gender-based violence during armed conflict and the inclusion of sexual and other violent acts against women and girls in crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide prosecutions (Reuters, 3/7). The reproductive rights group Ipas on Thursday is holding a seminar in Rosebank, South Africa, where leaders in the field of women's health will analyze progress made in the promotion of women's health, including abortion, in South Africa and on the continent, South Africa's Mail and Guardian reports (Van der Post, Mail and Guardian, 3/8). In Afghanistan, female members of parliament and officials met in the capital to promote the registration of marriages and to discuss steps to stop the practice of self-immolation (Agence France Presse, 3/8). In Toronto, the Royal Cinema on Thursday planned to show the North American premiere of the movie "Killer's Paradise," a joint production of the National Film Board and BBC that portrays violence against women in Guatemala (Walker, Toronto Star, 3/8).