International Women’s Day: NPWJ calls for enhanced commitment to promote gender equality and protect women’s rights

Brussels – Rome, 8 March 2021


 
On 8 March the world is observing International Women's Day, celebrating women’s achievements throughout history and throughout the world. This day is also an appropriate occasion to remember and highlight the too many gaps hindering – at various levels and sometimes in a brutal and cruel manner – the process towards the full recognition and protection of women’s rights as universal human rights.

Despite important steps toward equality, millions of women and girls worldwide still face tremendous hurdles to economic participation and prosperity, being subject to gendered expectations of their roles in society as well as ingrained cultural bias which lead to limit or deny their right to education, social integration and political empowerment.
 
Despite commitments enshrined in legal intruments at international and national level, they are still victims or at risk of severe violations of their human rights, as both a result and a perpetuation of gender inequality and discrimination that denies them the most basic forms of personal autonomy and self-determination. Too often, they are victims of sexual abuse, exploitation and harmful practices such as female genital mutilation and forced marriage, as well as exposed to great personal risks when thry have the courage to fight for their dignity by challenging regressive social conventions of this kind. Women are also disproportionately affected by humanitarian disasters and human rights violations generated by the dynamics of war.
 
We also take this opportunity to express our concerns about the challenging impact of the COVID-19 on the efforts to promote and safeguard the rights and well-being of women around the world. If Women - as health care workers, caregivers, innovators and many other leaderhip roles -  stand on the frontlines of the global pandemic response, the measures taken to contain it – notably lockdowns – have unfortunately amplified the existing disparities, worsening women’s vulnerabilities towards unemployment rate and poverty, hindering their access to education or health-care services that respond to their needs and increasing their exposure to domestic and other forms of gender-based violence.
 
The current health crisis is putting our commitments and policies to the test, which could cause a dangerous backlash. The fight towards full gender equality enshrined in legislation as an essential component of the rule of law is broad: for the right to self-empowerment, the freedom to make informed and autonomous choices about the course of one’s life, one’s sexuality, if and when to have children, whether and when to marry, and all within a context of public policies and structures that allow for real choice. Moreover, and this is true more than ever, unless gender equality is pursued without compromise, unless the legal framework that guarantees full equality between men and women is constantly strengthened, all advances will continue to be attacked, undermined, weakened or revoked.
 
On this important day when we reaffirm our commitment to stand up for the human rights of women, NPWJ appeals to all States to uphold their pledge to the protection of women and girls worldwide especially at this difficult time, when their rights are most at risk. This means turning their political commitment into concrete, effective and coordinated policies to address the unique and most pressing challenges women face around the world and to ensure the fulfilment of their human rights.
 

For further information, please contact Nicola Giovannini, Press & Public Affairs Coordinator, email: ngiovannini@npwj.org