Africa: UN Women Releases Report on Equality, Families

The United Nations says women's rights have advanced over the past decades but gender inequality and violence still exists within families.

U.N. Women, also known as the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, released its annual “Progress of the World’s Women” report on Tuesday,

The report identifies ways in which "families can be places of care, but can also bring conflict, inequality and, far too often, violence."

Three million women live in places where rape in marriages are not criminalized, one in five countries have different inheritance laws between men and women, and women are required to obey their husbands in 19 countries, according to the report.

"Around one third of married women in developing countries report having little or no say over their own healthcare," the report adds.

In a press briefing on Tuesday, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the U.N. Women executive director, told reporters "Families in all their diversity can be physical drivers of gender equality but only if decision makers deliver policies rooted in the reality of how people live today, with women's rights at the core."

The report noted progress on many issues. It said the ages at which women are getting married has risen internationally, whereas the birth rates have fallen.

"This has enabled increasing numbers of women to stay in education longer to gain a foothold in the labor market and to be able to support themselves financially for a longer period of time," said Shahra Razavi, Chief of Research and Data at U.N. Women.

Additionally, the report said that same sex families are becoming "increasingly visible" globally.

On labor issues, the report spotlights some disparities, with married women participating significantly less in the labor force.  The report alleges that this disparity is because "women continue to do three times as much unpaid care and domestic work as men in the absence of affordable care services."

U.N. Women put forth an eight-point policy agenda that includes non-discrimination laws, accessible public services, a path for a woman to generate their own income. According to U.N. Women, most countries could enact the recommended policies for less than 5 percent of national GDP

"The report calls on policymakers, activists and people in all walks of life to transform families into places of equality and justice," said a statement issued on Tuesday.

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