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UN offers 10 ways to eliminate the global justice disparity for women

While the world is making progress on putting women in positions of power and passing legislation to promote gender equality, these laws often don't reach those who need the most help, says new UN report.

By Staff writer / July 6, 2011

New York

The number of women working in governments worldwide is climbing. The breadth of legislation to assist and protect women is also growing. Though both of these developments may look promising, many of the policies that female legislators craft to help other women don’t reach those who most need it.

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That message of mitigated success underlies the report “Progress of the World’s Women 2011-2012: In Pursuit of Justice,” launched today by the year-old organization UN Women. It's an exhaustive 164-page study filled with statistics, case studies, and other research to support UN Women's recommendations for eliminating the justice disparity between men and women worldwide.

“There are vast implementation gaps,” UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet told reporters at the report launch today. “Legislating is only the first step. Then it is essential to ensure implementation.”

The comprehensive report’s biggest contribution, says Papa Seck, the lead statistician for the report, is the analysis provided. By identifying the links between desired outcomes and particular practices, the authors were able to make policy recommendations in the report that they know will work and include case studies that illustrate the success.

Ten recommendations

The backbone of the report is a list of 10 recommendations to make the justice system "work for women,” based off of successes around the world. Included in the recommendations are using quotas to increase the number of women legislators and increasing the number of women in police forces to boost reporting of sexual violence.

Twenty-eight countries have surpassed a 30 percent benchmark recommended for female representation in national parliament, and 23 of them got there by using quotas, says Laura Turquet, the lead author of the report. “Quotas really do work,” she says, particularly in places with a history of discrimination against women.

But policies only go so far, UN Women acknowledges. Several of the other recommendations address a gap between policy and implementation.

Two-thirds of the world's countries now have domestic violence laws in place, but Ms. Turquet points out that even in countries with rigorous laws protecting women from domestic violence and sexual assault, convictions are rare because of high rates of attrition. In rape cases, the steps between reporting the crime and going to trial are so numerous and complicated that women often give up well before a conviction can happen.

'One-stop shops' solutions

One solution to this dilemma, included as another one of the 10 recommendations, is what the authors have dubbed “one-stop shops,” which combine the legal, health, and forensic services a woman needs to pursue a rape case against her assailant. “The fewer steps a women has to take, the more likely she is to pursue justice,” Turquet says.

South Africa’s Thuthuzela Care Centers lauded as a “best practice model,” hint at the potential for these one-stop shops. In one province there, it only took an average of 7.5 months to prosecute rape cases when the centers were involved, and about 89 percent of of those cases ended with a conviction – compared with two years to prosecute and the 6 percent conviction rate in the province’s mainstream legal system.


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