Progress of the World's Women
In time for the United Nations High-Level Plenary Meeting of the General Assembly, UNIFEM is launching Gender Justice: Key to Achieving the Millennium Development Goals, an excerpt from the forthcoming full report, which will be launched in December 2010.
The MDG Brief
With just five years left until the 2015 target date, discrimination and inequality are holding back progress on all of the Goals, which include gender equality and women’s empowerment, reducing hunger and poverty, achieving universal primary education, improving maternal health and combating HIV and AIDS.
The brief outlines four areas where urgent action is needed to accelerate progress on the MDGs and achieve gender justice:
- Expanding women-friendly public services
- Guaranteeing land and jobs for women
- Increasing women’s voice in decision-making
- Ending violence against women and girls
The 2010-2011 report
In recent years, there have been impressive gains in reforming laws to recognize women’s rights. However, women continue to lack control over resources, access to services, voice in decision-making and protection from violence. Progress will identify effective strategies employed by governments, civil society and multilateral organizations worldwide to expand women’s access to justice and rights.
Chapter 1: Legal and constitutional frameworks
- Laws to protect, promote and fulfill women’s rights are the basis for access to justice.
- Despite progress in every region, there remain significant gaps in legal frameworks and in implementation of laws, including those that prohibit violence against women, protect women working in the informal economy, or that guarantee women’s land rights.
- This chapter will analyze the innovative strategies used to make progress and highlight the remaining gaps, identifying urgent areas for further action.
Chapter 2: The justice chain
- For women to access justice – to get a divorce, to claim their rights to land, to challenge sexual harassment at work – requires a functioning justice system that responds to women’s rights.
- Top to bottom reform is needed, including of the police, courts and legal services, in order to make this a reality for women.
- This chapter will showcase the pioneering and innovative approaches that are making a difference to women on the ground.
- In most countries of the world, formal state justice is just one of several legal systems in operation and, through choice or necessity, the overwhelming majority of women seek justice elsewhere.
- Ensuring women are at the centre of shaping all justice systems, including those based on ethnic identity, custom or religion is essential, whether as activist lawyers initiating strategic litigation; as advocates for more progressive interpretations of religion or custom; or as paralegals and community organizers creating opportunities for dialogue and change within local justice systems.
Chapter 4: Access to justice in conflict and post-conflict
- The challenges to women’s access to justice during and after conflict are severe. When women need protection and access to justice the most, state institutions are often at their weakest.
- Ending impunity for widespread sexual violence through increasing prosecutions and holding perpetrators to account is critical. Ensuring women can access comprehensive reparations is vital for justice to be secured.
- Post-conflict contexts also present unique opportunities for women to be involved in the rebuilding of the state, expanding their rights and access to justice.
Progress of the World's Women: In pursuit of Justice 2011-2012
This volume of Progress of the World’s Women starts with a paradox: the past century has seen a transformation in women’s legal rights, with countries in every region expanding the scope of women’s legal entitlements. Nevertheless for most of the world’s women, the laws that exist on paper do not translate to equality and justice 
- Under-reporting of crimes against women is a serious problem in all regions. Across 57 countries, crime surveys show that on average 10 percent of women say they have experienced sexual assault, but of these only 11 percent reported it. This compares to similar incidence of robbery, on average 8 percent, but a reporting rate of 38 percent. Read more in the Global Factsheets of the 2012 report, page 4, accessible here Progress of the World's Women 2012.Fact sheets
- 125 countries outlaw domestic violence. Read more at page 26 of the 2012 report, accessible here, Progress of the World's Women 2012: In pursuit of justice
Ten Recommendations to Make Justice Systems Work for Women
Support women’s legal organizations:Women’s legal organizations are at the forefront of making justice systems work for women.
Where government-funded legal aid is limited, women’s organizations step in to provide the advice and support that women need to pursue a legal case, to put a stop to violence, to seek a divorce or claim the land that is rightfully theirs.
Support one-stop shops and specialized services to reduce attrition in the justice chain
The justice chain, the series of steps that a woman must take to seek redress, is characterized by high levels of attrition, whereby cases are dropped as they progress through the system. As a result, only a fraction of cases end in a conviction or a just outcome.
Implement gender-sensitive law reform
Gender-sensitive law reform is the foundation for women’s access to justice. CEDAW provides the internationally agreed gold standard for legal reform to achieve gender equality. Action is needed to repeal laws that explicitly discriminate against women; to extend the rule of law to protect women in the private domain, including from domestic violence; and to address the actual impact of laws on women’s lives.
Use quotas to boost the number of women legislators
From the United Republic of Tanzania to Costa Rica, Rwanda to Spain, where quotas have been used to boost the number of women legislators, progressive laws on violence against women, land rights, health care and employment have followed. Where women have organized, sometimes across party lines, to ensure women’s interests are represented, change has followed.
Put women on the front line of law enforcement
Employing women on the front line of justice service delivery can help to increase women’s access to justice. Data show that there is a correlation between the presence of women police officers and reporting of sexual assault
Train judges and monitor decisions
Balanced, well-informed and unbiased judicial decision-making is an essential part of ensuring that women who go to court get justice. However, even where laws are in place to guarantee women’s rights, they are not always properly or fairly applied by judges
Increase women’s access to courts and truth commissions during and after conflict
Very significant advances in international law in the past two decades have, for the first time, made it possible to redress sexual violence crimes. However, prosecutions are rare. To increase the number of convictions, it is vital that international courts prioritize gender-based crimes in their prosecution strategies
Implement gender-responsive reparations programmes
In Sierra Leone, women survivors of gender based violence are benefitting from a Government reparations programme. Supported by United Nations partners, this programme provides skills training and micro-grants to women to set up their own businesses
Invest in women’s access to justice
Strengthening the rule of law has been a major priority for governments for several decades, but only a fraction of this funding is being spent on justice for women and girls.
Put gender equality at the heart of the Millennium Development Goals
More than a decade since 189 Governments signed up to the MDGs, there has been impressive progress, especially on poverty and education. However, with four years left to achieve the Goals, it is clear that further advances depend on accelerating progress on gender equality and ensuring that excluded women and girls are not left behind.