UN Women, the new body headed by former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet, has an excellent report out today. It’s the latest in the roughly biannual ‘Progress of the World’s Women’ series kicked off by UNIFEM, one of UN Women’s predecessors, in 2000. This edition explores the justice system. It’s crisply written, full of striking killer facts, and (to me at least) original. And yes, this is a UN report we’re talking about. Some highlights:
“In 1911, just two countries in the world allowed women to vote. A century later, that right is virtually universal and women are exercising greater influence in decision-making than ever before. Alongside women’s greater political influence, there has been a growing recognition of women’s rights, not only political and civil, but also economic, social and cultural rights. Today, 186 countries worldwide have ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), signalling their commitment to meeting the human rights of women and girls, breaking down the barriers to gender equality and justice.
And yet, while examples of countries making immense strides And yet, while examples of countries making immense strides in promoting gender equality abound, all too often women are denied control over their bodies, denied a voice in decision-making and denied protection from violence.
Although equality between women and men is guaranteed in the Constitutions of 139 countries and territories, inadequate laws and implementation gaps make these guarantees hollow promises, having little impact on the day-to-day lives of women. In many contexts, in rich and poor countries alike, the infrastructure of justice – the police, the courts and the judiciary – is failing women
Progress of the World’s Women shows that well-functioning legal and justice systems can be a vital mechanism for women to achieve their rights.”
How to do this?
Support women’s legal organizations: Women’s legal organizations are at the forefront of making justice systems work for women. They have also been leaders in successful interventions in legally plural environments.
Implement gender sensitive law reform: CEDAW provides the internationally agreed gold standard. There has been progress in every region, so that in 2011:
• 173 countries guarantee paid maternity leave
• 139 constitutions guarantee gender equality
• 125 countries outlaw domestic violence (see Figure 1)
• 117 countries have equal pay laws
• 115 countries guarantee women’s equal property rights
But despite significant advances, discriminatory laws, gaps in legal frameworks and failures of implementation mean that women continue to be denied their rights.
• 127 countries do not explicitly criminalize rape within marriage
• 61 countries severely restrict women’s rights to abortion
• 53 percent of women work in vulnerable employment
• 50 countries have a lower legal age of marriage for women than for men
• 10-30 percent is the average pay gap between women and men
Support one-stop shops to reduce attrition in the justice chain: The Thuthuzela Care Centres (TCCs) in South Africa are one successful example of this approach. These Centres are located in public hospitals and provide emergency medical care, counselling and court preparation in an integrated and survivor-friendly manner. They aim to address the medical and social needs of sexual assault survivors, reduce secondary victimization, improve conviction rates and reduce delays in cases.
TCCs are staffed by specialized medical personnel, social workers and police, who are on call 24 hours a day. Conviction rates for rape cases dealt with by the Soweto TCC in Gauteng Province have reached up to 89 percent, compared to a national average of 7 percent. The Thuthuzela model is now being replicated in other countries, including Chile and Ethiopia.
Put women on the front line of law enforcement: Across 57 countries, crime surveys show that on average 10 percent of women say they have experienced sexual assault, but of these only 11 percent reported it. This compares to a similar incidence of robbery, on average 8 percent, but a reporting rate of 38 percent. Employing women on the front line of justice service delivery can help to increase women’s access to justice.
Use quotas to boost the number of women legislators: Of the 28 countries that have reached or exceeded 30 percent women’s representation in national parliaments, at least 23 have used quotas.
+ invest through aid, train judges and monitor their performance, include gender-based crimes in international prosecutions and put gender equality at the heart of the MDGs
Brilliant stuff. This is what the UN is for.