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Gender backlash underscores urgency to achieve substantive equality for women and girls: UN Working Group on discrimination against women and girls

28 June 2024

GENEVA (28 June 2024) – Women and girls are enduring a gender backlash aimed at curtailing the equal enjoyment of their rights and action to realise substantive equality cannot be delayed, the Working Group on discrimination against women and girls said.

Despite some advancements, no country has achieved gender equality and women and girls continue to face discrimination in all spheres of their lives, frequently starting within their families and communities, the Group said in a report to the Human Rights Council.

“Retrogressive movements are jeopardising women’s and girls’ human rights, as well as the progress achieved in advancing gender equality in all regions of the world,” it said.

As a result, the world is witnessing an escalating backlash against sexual and reproductive health rights, ever-present misogynistic statements in the media and the rise of public anti-gender discourse, as well as attacks on women and girl human rights defenders.

The backlash has reached extreme proportions in certain countries, the report said. Afghanistan is a concerning example. The pattern of large-scale systematic violations of Afghan women’s and girls’ fundamental rights by the discriminatory and misogynistic edicts, policies and harsh enforcement methods of the Taliban, constitutes an institutionalised framework of apartheid based on gender, and merits an unequivocal response.

The status quo that fails to fulfil the human rights and fundamental freedoms of half of the world’s population is unacceptable, the Group said.

It called on States to work together to build substantive gender equality, as required under international human rights law. Other actors, such as those in the private sector, should support these efforts and respect and protect women’s and girls’ rights.

“Substantive equality requires not only ensuring de facto equality between women and men and girls and boys, but also committing to a conception of transformative equality, in other words, the transformation of elements of society, culture, politics and the economy that create barriers to equality.”

The Group applauded the transformative force of millions of women and girls worldwide and of their movements and allies that strive to advance women’s and girls’ rights, resist pushbacks and build just, inclusive, peaceful and sustainable societies for all. “They are an inspiration to everyone and the main reason for hope and optimism for the future.”

The Group also presented reports on country visits to Mauritania and Malta.

The Experts: Dorothy Estrada Tanck (Chair), Laura Nyirinkindi (Vice-Chair), Claudia Flores, Ivana Krstić, Haina Lu, Working group on discrimination against women and girls

Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

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