In Davos, Canada's Justin Trudeau speaks up on women's rights, says gender equality a G-7 priority

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivering a speech during the World Economic Forum 2018 annual meeting on Jan 23, 2018 in Davos, eastern Switzerland. PHOTO: AFP

DAVOS, Switzerland (REUTERS) - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gave a passionate defence of gender and social equality in Davos on Tuesday (Jan 23), days before United States President Donald Trump was due to take the stage at a forum traditionally seen as an enclave of the global elite.

Mr Trudeau, whose country has the presidency of the Group of Seven industrialised nations this year, said gender equality would be a priority in "everything the G-7 does this year".

Mr Trudeau, who appointed a Cabinet with an equal number of women and men on taking power in 2015, also referenced social media campaigns against sexual harassment and misconduct and women's marches in several US cities last weekend in which speakers blasted Mr Trump for policies they said had hurt women.

"MeToo, TimesUp, the Women's March, these movements tell us that we need to have a critical discussion on women's rights, equality and power dynamics of gender," said Mr Trudeau.

The movements sprang up after a string of scandals involving powerful men in Hollywood, Washington and elsewhere.

"Sexual harassment, for example, in business and in government, is a systemic problem and it is unacceptable. As leaders, we need to recognise and act to show that, truly, time is up," he said.

Over the past two years, more than a dozen women have accused Mr Trump of making unwanted sexual advances against them years before he entered politics. Mr Trump has denied the accusations, and the White House has accused the women of lying.

Since the 2016 presidential campaign, Mr Trump has had sharply lower approval ratings among women than among men. A Pew Research Centre poll in May showed 46 per cent of men approving of Mr Trump's job performance, while only a third of women did.

Mr Trudeau also called on global leaders to not forget "the people who aren't here in Davos and never will be".

"The people in this room are immensely privileged. We owe it to society to use this privilege for good. We should ask ourselves: Do we want to live in a world where the wealthy hide in their gated enclaves while those around them struggle, or do we want to create a world grounded in the notion of fairness?"

In his speech on Friday, Mr Trump is expected to urge investors to take advantage of his deregulatory and tax-cut policies. His Democrat opponents have described these policies as a giveaway to the wealthy which will widen the income gap between rich and poor.

Mr Trump signed sweeping tax legislation into law last year, in a Bill that slashes taxes for corporations and the wealthy while giving mixed, temporary tax relief to middle-class Americans.

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