UN Secretary-General Raises Concerns for Action as Women's Rights Face Severe Backsliding, Increase in Violence

UN Secretary-General António Guterres addressed the Commission on the Status of Women, highlighting war's impact on women, digital gender divide, and the need for women in finance leadership roles.

UN Secretary-General Raises Concerns for Action as Women's Rights Face Severe Backsliding, Increase in Violence
Flag of countries in front of the United Nations office at Geneva. © Xabi Oregi, April 19th, 2023, via Pexels

13 March 2024

Shyamali Kumar

Women’s Rights Researcher, 

Global Human Rights Defence

The Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, addressed the opening of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), a forum dedicated to promoting and safeguarding the rights of women and girls worldwide. He highlighted the disproportionate impact of wars on women, urging immediate ceasefires and humanitarian aid. Guterres also highlighted the appalling situation in Gaza, where over two-thirds of those killed and injured during Israel's offensive are reportedly women and girls. He also noted shocking testimonies of sexual violence against Palestinian women in detention settings, house raids, and checkpoints in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

In addition, Guterres voiced concern over the situation faced by women in other countries, including Afghanistan and Sudan. In Afghanistan, the Taliban has issued more than 50 edicts suppressing women’s and girls’ rights, with scores of women reportedly subjected to rape and other forms of sexual violence.

Guterres also emphasised the growing digital gender divide, noting the dominance of men in digital technologies, particularly artificial intelligence. He warned that male-dominated algorithms could perpetuate inequalities in various aspects of life, noting that women’s needs, bodies, and fundamental rights are often overlooked in the design of systems by male leaders and technologists. He called on governments, civil society, and the Silicon Valleys of the world to join a massive effort to bridge the digital gender divide and ensure women have effective decision-making roles in digital technology at all levels.

Guterres also drew attention to the pressing need for women to hold leadership roles, particularly in financial institutions. He highlighted the stark gender disparity in finance, with over eight of ten finance ministers and more than nine out of ten central bank governors being men. He emphasised that dismantling structural barriers is crucial for achieving gender parity in leadership roles.

The Secretary-General concluded his address by urging the international community to unite in the fight for gender equality, emphasising that the CSW serves as a catalyst for transformative change. He called for collaborative efforts to end poverty in all its dimensions and urged equal access to resources, gender-responsive social protection policies and measures to end gender-based discrimination inhibiting women’s leadership and decision-making roles.

The 68th session of the Commission on the Status of Women is taking place from 11 to 22 March at the UN headquarters in New York, under the priority theme of “Accelerating the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls by addressing poverty and strengthening institutions and financing with a gender perspective.”

Sources and further readings:

  1. UN News (March 11, 2024).UN chief calls for global action to defend women’s rights amid disturbing trends. Retrieved March 12, 2024, from https://news.un.org/en/story/2024/03/1147462
  2. China Daily (March 12, 2024).UN chief calls for action as women's rights face backsliding, violence.Retrieved March 12, 2024, from https://www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/202403/12/WS65ef7bcea31082fc043bbfdf.html