Progress is being made around the world in advancing gender equality. Above all, women are securing more and more rights and living increasingly self-determined lives. Despite that, one in five women and girls aged 15 to 49 currently report that their partners have physically or sexually abused them in the past 12 months. At present, 49 countries have no laws that protect women from domestic violence. Almost one in two women who are married or in an intimate relationship say that they are not in a position to make their own choices regarding sexual relations, contraceptive use and health services. They defer to their partners and are not allowed to make decisions independently. In some countries, women cannot even turn to the law for protection because there is no legislation prohibiting discrimination and violence against women. For them, there is no way to escape discrimination, violence and exploitation. While progress has been made in curbing harmful practices, such as child marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM), resulting in a 30-percent decline over the last decade, these remain a global problem. In the roughly 30 countries where these practices are prevalent, approximately one in three women is affected.
For many women, everyday life is also fraught with discrimination, which makes it especially difficult for mothers to find a job. They frequently also earn less than their male colleagues and female colleagues without children. And that’s not all. Certain everyday sanitary products for women are more heavily taxed than items for men. Women also devote three times as many hours as men do to caring for children and the elderly as well as doing housework. Not only is this work unpaid, it also leaves them with less time to pursue a career and educate themselves. This means women often forfeit their independence and have to rely on others for financial support.
Germany’s unadjusted gender pay gap was 19 percent in 2019. In other words, women earn an average hourly wage that is about a fifth less than men’s. Although just as many women as men study and are equally well qualified, a study of 105 companies revealed that women hold slightly less than one in three management positions. A similar picture emerges in the current German Bundestag (federal parliament) where almost every third member is a woman. Nevertheless, more and more women are assuming leadership roles and parliamentary seats worldwide. Globally, one in four national parliamentary seats and about 27 percent of leadership positions are held by women.
Gender equality is not just a fundamental human right but also imperative in paving the way to a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world.
While the world has made strides in empowering women and advancing gender equality under the Millennium Development Goals – and that includes achieving equality for girls and boys in elementary schools – women and girls across the globe are still the victims of discrimination and violence. There is still a long way to go before those practices are completely eradicated.
Ensuring that women and girls enjoy equal access to education, healthcare, humane work as well as representation in political and economic decision-making processes will not only drive the transition to sustainable economic growth but also benefit societies and humanity as a whole. Implementing new legal frameworks to formalise workplace equality and eliminating practices harmful to women are crucial steps on the road to ending the gender discrimination prevalent in many countries around the world.