Violence against women a global phenomenon – UN report

Jomo Kwame Sundaram, Assistant-Secretary-General for Economic Development

20 October 2010 – Violence against women remains widespread across the world, exacerbated by traditions and customary practices that determine the way women are treated in families, places of work and communities, according to a United Nations report unveiled today.

The scourge “is an obstacle to the achievement of the objectives of equality, development and peace,” according to The World’s Women 2010: Trends and Statistics, published by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA).

“In all societies, to a greater or lesser degreThe low social and economic status of women can be both a cause and a consequence of this violencee, women and girls are subjected to physical, sexual and psychological abuse that cuts across lines of income, class and culture. The low social and economic status of women can be both a cause and a consequence of this violence,” the report, whose release coincided with the first-ever UN World Statistics Day, notes.

The publication also provides the latest data on the status of women in the areas of population, health, education, work, power and decision-making, environment and poverty.

“This 2010 report finds overall progress in many areas, including school enrolment, health, as wells as economic participation, but it makes it very clear that much more needs to be done to close the gender gap in public life and to prevent many forms of violence against women,” Jomo Kwame Sundaram, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, at the launch of the report in New York.

Other highlights of the report include the fact that there are approximately 57 million more men than women in the world, with some regions having less numbers of men and others lower numbers of women. Europe in general has more women than men, while the ratio in China is 108 men per 100 women.

“The trend of women marrying later and later continues throughout the world. This has obvious consequences for fertility which has declined globally to 2.5 births per woman,” said Mr. Sundaram.

“But there are parts of the world where women marry early and bear more than five children on average. This has the effect of diminishing opportunities for women in education, employment and life chances,” he added.

According to the new publication, in the realm of health, women are more likely than men to die from heart diseases globally. In Sub-Saharan Africa, 270,000 maternal deaths in 2005 – half of the world’s deaths related to pregnancy and childbirth – were recorded, despite increases in the proportion of women receiving prenatal care.

Globally, the rate of girls of primary school age enrolled in school increased from 79 to 86 per cent between 1999 and 2007, with Central and Western African regions having the world’s lowest rates with less than 60 per cent of primary-school age girls enrolled.

The report also notes that while more women between the ages of 25 and 54 are working in most regions as compared to 1990, women’s wages represent between 70 and 90 per cent of the wages of their male counterparts.

Their participation in decision-making remains an area of concern, according to the report. In 2009, for example, only 14 women in the world held the positions of head of State or government, and out of the world’s 500 largest corporations, only 13 had female chief executive officers.

The publication also shows that households with single mothers with young children are more likely to be poor than those of lone fathers with young children, and that existing laws limit women’s access to land and other property in most countries in Africa and roughly half of the countries in Asia.

Srdjan Mrkic, head of DESA’s Social Statistics Section, noted that there have been improvements in the collection of data on the status of women around the world, but more needed to be done on that score.

“In preparing the World’s Women 2010 report, we were hampered by the fact that adequate and comparable statistics in certain domains are not routinely available for many countries,” he told reporters at the publication’s launch.

Also unveiled today was a UN Population Fund (UNFPA) report, entitled State of World Population 2010, which found that discrimination against women not only exposes them to the worst effects of disaster and war, but also deprives their countries of a prime engine for recovery, according to a new United Nations report launched today.

“This year’s report is about the three Rs: resilience, renewal and redefining roles between boys and girls and men and women,” UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid said at the official launch in London of the report, which uses stories of individuals affected by conflict or catastrophe in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Haiti, Iraq, Jordan, Liberia, the occupied Palestinian territory, Timor-Leste and Uganda to bring home its message.

It shows how communities and civil society are healing old wounds and moving forward, while stressing how much more still needs to be done to ensure that women have access to services and have a voice in peace deals or reconstruction plans.

News Tracker: past stories on this issue

Greater push needed to ensure women’s rights, says UN expert

Related Stories

Launch of population report - 20 Oct. '10

More videos »

In-depth Interviews