UN officials called on countries to work together so that women worldwide can gain access to justice which they need and most often go without. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon in his opening statement at the UN Women co-hosted General Assembly event focusing on women’s access to justice, pledged his commitment for gender equality and said he recommends three steps for paving the way for a comprehensive justice framework.
First, to work to repeal all laws that discriminate against women and girls; second, is to bring in more women leaders into the justice system. Third is to invest more to help women in overcoming the many obstacles they face in obtaining justice.
Too often the rule of law rules women out. Obstacles persist that prevent women from accessing legal protection for their rights, resulting in discrimination and inequality that hamper women’s ability to live free of violence and to contribute as full and equal citizens. These obstacles can be overcome through dedicated action and policies.
“Today, in 72 nations, women remain barred from certain jobs and industries. And in more than 100 countries still impose legal differences between women and men in areas such as a woman’s ability to sign a contract, travel abroad, manage property, and interact with public authorities and the private sector,” said Michelle Bachelet, Executive Director of UN Women.
The President of Finland, Mr Sauli Niinistö highlighted that empowering women to know their rights and support the government’s capacity to respond with enhanced services is not just an ethical question, but also a practical one: “Can we afford not to use today the full potential of the world’s women and girls?”.
In showing his country commitment to gender equality and increasing women’s access to justice, Mr Niinisto said his country would be raising its current monetary support for UN Women from 5 million dollars to 7.5 million dollars.
He also said his country plans to ratify legislation by the end of 2013 in a move to promote gender equality. He added that Finland supports programmes in other countries that mediate disputes, and help bring safe and peaceful resolutions to women who otherwise are marginalized.
While much progress has been made, there remain many challenges to be addressed. The President of South Africa, Mr Jacob Zuma, urged leaders to recommit to addressing the plight faced by women all over the world. To this end, he stressed “the need to take concrete steps to make real the promise of a better world, free of violence, poverty and discrimination, for all women”.
Mr. Zuma noted through the many years of apartheid both women and men suffered greatly. But it is the women who continue to carry the brunt of discrimination in the country today. Women, he said, are financially dependent on men whether they be husbands, sons or brothers. Through this dependency they are open to the dangers of gender-based violence and abuse.
Mr. Zuma said his country was working tirelessly to implement a gender equality bill so that in private and public sectors the work force for a gender balance. He said all organizations would be required to meet this quota. He noted the justice ministry is about to make an announcement on a domestic violence bill and that work is being done to promote the rights of women and girls.
Other governments too came forward to pledge their support for gender justice at the event. Many such as the Maldives, Bangladesh and Denmark gave their support to strategies for equal access to justice. The USA is committed to equality through the legal system with transparent policies and the right for legal aid. It also supports access to justice globally. Slovakia, Indonesia and the European Union all supported concrete measures in bringing justice to women.
Event photo gallery