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UN chief: sex discrimination impeding efforts to end world poverty

Ending discrimination against women [speech] is necessary to fix the problem of global poverty, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official profile] said Monday. Speaking before the World Congress of Global Partnership for Young Women [official website] in Seoul, South Korea, Ban declared that while women around the world have made tremendous advances in fields such as business, law and government, laws and policies that discriminate against women hamper not only women's rights but prevent nations from climbing out of poverty:

[A]lthough there has been important progress, women still do not have a strong enough voice in decision-making. Women make up just a fraction of all chief executives of the world's biggest companies. Fewer than one in ten presidents or prime ministers are women. And less than one in five parliamentarians are women. This world statistic is reflected here in the Republic of Korea. The lack of women's representation—of women's empowerment—affects individual women's rights—and it holds back whole countries. One recent UN study showed that limits on women's economic participation cost the Asia-Pacific region nearly $90 billion each year in lost productivity.
In his speech, Ban also stated that the empowerment of women is also crucial to upholding the universal values of peace, opportunity and human dignity.

Women's rights remain a controversial issue around the world. In July the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women Rashida Manjoo [official profile] urged the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan to end violence against women [JURIST report] and investigate the recent killings of two women. Earlier in July the Guttmacher Institute [official website] reproductive rights [JURIST report]. Earlier that week Amnesty International [advocacy website] released a report indicating that Mexico is failing to protect women's rights [JURIST report]. Earlier in July Women Under Siege [advocacy website] reported finding 81 instances of sexual assault and rape [JURIST report] by military forces in Syria since anti-government demonstrations began in March 2011. In June Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] reported [JURIST report] that Syrian forces are sexually abusing men, women and children who have been detained during the ongoing conflict.

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