UN human rights chief urges greater efforts to halt gender discrimination

12 September 2008

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights today said that much more needs to be done to protect women from discrimination and achieve gender equality, despite progress made in the 60 years since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Women throughout the world were amongst the poorest and most marginalized, with limited access to rights, resources and opportunity, Navanethem Pillay told delegates at the opening of the annual gender discussion of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Ms. Pillay noted that gender roles are deeply rooted in culture and sometimes these roles ingrain ideas of inferiority of women and superiority of men as well as stereotyped responsibilities for men and women.

“No effort should be spared to persuade countries to repeal laws and discourage customs, practices and prejudices that negate or undermine the achievement of equality between women and men,” Ms. Pillay said.

“[The] recognition of the gender dimension in all activities has been part and parcel of UN strategies aimed at putting an end to the social, political and economic discrimination that women face,” she added.

However, in her speech, Ms. Pillay also noted that these schemes aimed at combating gender injustices had “produced few tangible results.”

She commended the Human Rights Council for taking on the task of finding ways to achieve concrete gains in gender equality issues, but warned that it was a task requiring sustained attention. In particular, the Council needed to truly integrate a gender perspective into all its activities.

“Through my experience, I have learned that equality and non-discrimination on the basis of sex are not only goals in their own right, but are essential for the achievement of all human rights for all, the realization of sustainable human development, as a well as the development of all societies,” she stated.

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