UN Secretary General Speaks Out on Decline in Women’s Empowerment – Men and Women Must Unite

Opinion

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U.N. Under-Secretary-General Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. Image Credit: Bebeto Matthews / AP.

United Nations (UN) secretary-general, António Guterres, made an open statement about the decline of global women’s rights. There was a 2-week conference on the fight for gender equality at the UN headquarters in New York City, New York.

In reaction to the recent “global gag rule” from the Trump Administration of the US, women’s rights and empowerment became an important international issue. The global gag rule cut US funding to groups that offered abortion services.

Around the same time, Putin’s Russia, known for its flouting of women’s rights, removed the punishment for domestic violence. These ‘cast a long shadow on the annul gathering of the Commission on the Status of Women’. Guterres considered this a generalised attack on the rights of women—their equality and empowerment.

“Globally, women are suffering new assaults on their safety and dignity,” Guterres said, “Some governments are enacting laws that curtail women’s freedoms. Others are rolling back legal protections against domestic violence.”

Guterres reaffirmed the aphorism that women’s rights remain human rights. In the important speech, he made note of the ongoing difficulties for women around the world, but without specific mention of a particular place.

Some have speculated that the direction of the commentary was towards the Islamic State, according to Conservative Review. Nicole Russell, in the Conservative Review article, said, “Guterres couldn’t be more right in saying women around the world face incredible discrimination, violence, and other atrocities just for their gender.”

While Trump himself, and the administration by decision and political maneuvers—and economic ones too, have openly made their anti-abortion views known, the curtailment of the funding for abortion and reproductive health services will likely have more women, and so girls and children in general, suffering because of the known benefits for women and children that have access to these vital services.

There are nuances to the discrimination. For example, in the other prominent nation case of Russian, the Russian President Vladimir Putin, in signing the Bill, reduces the penalties for the jail term, “if the assault is a first offence and does not cause serious injury,” Daily Nation reports.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the UN Women executive director, said the need to come together around the sexual and reproductive health rights of women was more important than ever. If protections are waning, then they need to be more protected.

By 2030, the UN made the ambitious goal of have gender parity or equality.

Will this happen? Is it reasonable?

Will this happen? I do not know. Is it reasonable? Yes, and no. Just from a mildly informed level, not an internal-to-UN perspective, yes, for the most part, it seems as if doable.

At another level, no, because too many nations violate them, some states with power to change the international situation for women act irresponsibly based on ignorant, non-scientific positions. I don’t despair here, but there will be hardships.

And make no mistake, many women who would otherwise not die in childbirth or in getting an unsafe abortion, where previously a safe one was available, will either be seriously injured or even die based on the “global gag rule.” It is an ominous rule title to me.

But these are the main, current concerns for women – the domestic abuse Bill and the global gag rule. The ILO, the International Labour Organisation, said, at the current pace, it will take about 70 years to close the gender wage gap.

So there’s the perennial issues of work – “perennial” relative to the Millennial generation – and economic empowerment.  Mlambo-Ngcuka, relatively accurately with a hint of hyperbole, describes this as “daylight robbery,” or a loss of security and income into the future.

Guterres continued that men need to become involved in women’s advocacy, empowerment, and rights. I agree with him.

As a man, and (obviously) so not a woman, and taking part in advanced industrial society and its fruits, I am given a life, likely in the top 1/10th of 1% in the world. Some questions arise. Do privileges emerge? I think so. Do responsibilities arise? Possibly. That raises more questions.

Do responsibilities, or obligations, that are necessarily attached to it come about in a free society? Yes, and no;. Yes, the responsibilities or obligation necessarily attach to them; no, individual citizens should not, or can not, be coerced or forced into enacting them in a free society, because it’s a free society. That means the freedom to do wrong by doing nothing; that also means the freedom to do right by doing something, and even sometimes nothing.

If someone lives a good life – with good health and well being, then responsibilities or obligations exist with it, to some degree, to one’s fellow human beings within reason, one is surely responsible to one’s fellow human beings? Put another way, if a free society provides for an individual—and if an individual in a free society should not or can not be coerced, or forced, to think or act in specific ways, then the living of a good life – with good health and well-being, it implies responsibilities or obligations, to some degree, to one’s fellow human beings within reason without coercion or force to think or act in specific ways.

So the obligations are there, but the freedom to act rightly or wrongly is there too. These are perilous times for women’s advocacy, empowerment, and rights. And men have a role, as per Guterres; that is, necessary obligations, but still have the freedom to choose wrong over right, as some leaders and administrations have apparently done.

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About Scott Jacobsen 243 Articles
Scott is the founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing

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