UNITED NATIONS (AFP) - Women's rights are under fresh assault worldwide, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned on Monday (March 13, 2017) as a two-week conference kicked off at the United Nations to take stock of the fight for gender equality.
President Donald Trump's "global gag rule" cutting US funding to groups that offer abortion services and Russia's decision to ease punishment for domestic violence are casting a long shadow on the annual gathering of the Commission on the Status of Women.
"Globally, women are suffering new assaults on their safety and dignity," Guterres told the opening session of the conference at UN headquarters in New York. "Some governments are enacting laws that curtail women's freedoms. Others are rolling back legal protections against domestic violence."
"Women's rights are human rights - and attacks on women are attacks on all of us. This is why we have to respond together," he added.
Trump, who declared himself opposed to abortion during his campaign, signed a decree just days into his presidency barring US funding for foreign non-governmental groups if their work touches on abortion.
A few weeks later, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a bill that reduces penalties for domestic violence to a fine instead of a jail term, if the assault is a first offence and does not cause serious injury.
UN Women executive director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka told the gathering that it was "ever more urgent" that women's sexual and reproductive rights be protected.
The United Nations has set a global goal of achieving gender equality by 2030.
This year's gathering focuses on women's economic empowerment in the changing world of work, with attention turning to pay inequality and paid parental leave.
On a global average, women only make 77 cents for every dollar men earn.
A recent study by the International Labour Organization warned that without stronger measures, it will take 70 years to close the gender wage gap.
In her remarks, Mlambo-Ngcuka called the pay gap "daylight robbery," saying generations of women had been robbed of income, future security and just reward.
"Each year, they work three months more than men for equivalent pay," she said.
Oscar-winning American actress Patricia Arquette and Olympic gold medallist and soccer star Abby Wambach are to join trade unionists and politicians later Monday to launch the "#StopTheRobbery" campaign to raise awareness of the gender pay gap.