Decades worth of advancement toward global gender quality is “vanishing before our eyes,” said United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres at the U.N.’s Women Commission on Status of Women session (CSW). It took place two days before International Women’s Day on March 8.
Guterres presented findings from the 2022 ”gender snapshot,” a report on progress toward the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). At the current rate, the data predict gender equality is 256 years away.
Gender equality is fifth of the U.N. SDG’s list of 17 milestones to meet worldwide by 2030. The report lays out how roadblocks to achieving gender equality also set back the other 16 goals, such as good health (goal three) and well-being, and quality education (goal four). The report came up with the almost 300-year distance to gender equality based on data from the U.N. SDG Indicator database.
“Gender equality is growing more distant,” said Guterres. He listed maternal mortality, female unemployment caused by the pandemic and forced child marriages as examples of growing injustice and inequality.
“Women’s rights are being abused, threatened and violated around the world,” Guterres said, citing that women and girls have “been erased from public life” in Afghanistan and have been affected “worst and first” in Ukraine.
The Taliban’s restrictions on girls’ education in Afghanistan have caused global outrage, with the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Human Rights calling it a “crime against humanity.” Last week women and girls protested the ban outside of Kabul University.
Reports of Russian armed forces raping and engaging in other sexual violence against Ukranian women and children prompted the U.N. to commission an independent investigation on the matter. Conducted by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine, which is part of the U.N. Human Rights Council, the report found that victims of the crimes were between four to 80 years old.
Guterres did not mention Iran despite Iranian women’s push toward gender equality and justice following the protests sparked by Mahsa Amini’s death, who was killed in September by the “morality police” for wearing a hijab “improperly.” The U.N. suspended Iran from the CSW in December after the U.S. led the effort to have the country removed.
The report also cited unsafe abortions among the obstacles to gender equality, saying they are a leading, but preventable, cause of maternal mortality and morbidity. “Today, over 1.2 billion women and girls of reproductive age live in countries and areas with some restrictions on access to safe abortion,” says the snapshot. Neither Guterres nor the report mentioned the overturn of Roe v. Wade in the United States, the Supreme Court case that federally protected the right to choose to have an abortion.
Guterres called for nations to take action on gender equality in three ways: invest in women’s and girls’ education, income and employment, (especially in the Global South, regions such as Latin America, Africa and the Caribbean); motivate women and girls to be leaders in science and technology in different capacities, including in government positions and classrooms; and reduce harm in the digital environment to keep women and girls safe online.
In observance of International Women’s Day, the main theme of the 67th CSW session was “innovation and technological change, and education in the digital age for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.”