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UNDP: 9 in 10 people biased against women

  • Published at 09:34 pm March 7th, 2020
women-rmg-garment worker
Photo: Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

More than a quarter of the world, about 28%, think it is justified for a man to beat his wife, as per the index

A newly published index shows almost nine out of 10 men and women across the globe hold some amount of bias against women.

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) on Thursday published the findings as part of the new Gender Social Norms Index (GSNI).

This index measures how social beliefs obstruct gender equality in areas like politics, work, and education, and contains data from 75 countries, covering over 80% of the world’s population, reads a press release issued by UNDP.

The world is not on track to achieve gender equality by 2030, also reports the study titled – “Tackling Social Norms: A game changer for gender inequalities.”

More than a quarter of the world, about 28%, think it is justified for a man to beat his wife, as per the index.

Despite decades of progress closing the equality gap between men and women, close to 90% of men and women hold some sort of bias against women, providing new clues to the invisible barriers women face in achieving equality, and a potential path forward to shattering the “glass ceiling.”

According to the index, about half of the world’s men and women feel that men make better political leaders, and over 40% feel that men make better business executives and that men have more right to a job when jobs are scarce.

Bangladesh in Gender Inequality Index

Although Bangladesh did not feature in the GSNI, the country ranked 129 out of 162 countries that had been ranked in Gender Inequality Index-2018 with a value of 0.536, placing it a few steps behind India (122) and ahead of Pakistan (136).

Sri Lanka and Bhutan, among South Asian countries, scored relatively better ranking 86 and 99, respectively.

Bangladesh’s maternal mortality ratio as of 2015 stood at 176 (deaths per 100,000 live births).

Adolescent birth rate from 2015-2020 is as high as 83% (births per 1,000 women ages 15–19).

The country with a woman as the prime minister had a parliament comprising of 20.3% women as of 2018, as per the index.

Among Bangladeshi women aged 25 and older (between 2010 and 2018), 45.3% received at least some secondary education while for men it was 49.2%.

However, labour force participation rate saw a stark division where 36% women aged 15 and older were part of the labour force as opposed to 81.3% men, as of 2018.

Switzerland topped the list with a value of 0.037 and Yemen ranked 162. 

‘Bias and prejudices’

Information is also available on how bias is changing in around 30 countries.  It shows that while in some countries there have been improvements, in others, attitudes appear to have worsened in recent years, signaling that progress cannot be taken for granted.

“We have come a long way in recent decades to ensure that women have the same access to life’s basic needs as men. We have reached parity in primary school enrollment and reduced maternal mortality by 45% since the year 1990.

“But gender gaps are still all too obvious in other areas, particularly those that challenge power relations and are most influential in actually achieving true equality. Today, the fight about gender equality is a story of bias and prejudices,” said Pedro Conceição, head of UNDP’s Human Development Report Office.

‘The Power Gap’

The new analysis sheds light on why enormous “power gaps” still exist between men and women in our economies, our political systems, and our corporations despite real progress closing gender inequalities in basic areas of development like education and health; and the removal of legal barriers to political and economic participation. 

For example, while men and women vote at similar rates, only 24% of parliamentary seats worldwide are held by women and there are only 10 female heads of government out of a possible 193.

Women in the labour market are paid less than men and are much less likely to be in senior positions: less than 6% of CEOs in S&P 500 companies are women.  And while women work more hours than men, this work is more likely to be unpaid care work, said the UNDP report.

2020 marks the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (Beijing+25), the most visionary agenda on women’s empowerment to date. 

UNDP’s measures

UNDP is calling on governments and institutions to use a new generation of policies to change these discriminatory beliefs and practices through education, and by raising awareness and changing incentives.

For instance, the report said, by using taxes to incentivize fairly sharing child-care responsibilities, or by encouraging women and girls to enter traditionally male-dominated sectors such as the armed forces and information technology.

Raquel Lagunas, UNDP Gender Team acting director, said: “We must act now to break through the barrier of bias and prejudices if we want to see progress at the speed and scale needed to achieve gender equality and the vision laid out in the Beijing Declaration over two decades ago and the Sustainable Development Goals.”

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