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It's been 20 years since the U.N. women's conference in Beijing, where 189 countries adopted a platform for action to achieve equality for women, but Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka says that no country on earth has reached gender equality.
The executive director of UN Women said that while there has been some progress — mostly in women’s health and girls’ education — violence against women and a lack of women in decision-making roles are "global phenomena" that make equality difficult. "The sheer scale of the use of rape that we've seen post-Beijing, I think that tells us that the women's bodies are viewed not as something to respect, but as something that men have the right to control and to abuse," she told The Associated Press. Leaders across the world need to start speaking out "very strongly and very openly" against sexual violence and the denial of women's rights, she added.
The platform for action from the Beijing conference called for the end of discrimination against women and the closing of the gender gap in health, human rights, employment, education, and other areas. Today, there are less than 20 female heads of state and government and the percentage of women lawmakers has only increased by 11 percent over the past two decades. "We just don't have critical mass to say that post-Beijing women have reached a tipping point in their representation," Mlambo-Ngcuka told AP. Next week, the Commission on the Status of Women will meet to revisit the Beijing platform.
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