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Putting some meaning into ‘justice for all’

by Linda Bloom
July 8, 2011

Okay, I know the fact that women “continue to experience injustice, violence and inequality in their home and working lives” is not exactly news.

But, still it was rather depressing that The New York Times could devote only a single paragraph in its July 7 print edition to the report from which that fact was taken.

U.N. Women, a fairly new organization dedicated to empowering women, is trying to launch “a powerful call to action” with Progress of the World’s Women: In Pursuit of Justice, the report released July 6.

Yes, there has been progress compared to a century ago, when only two countries allowed women the vote. But, as Michelle Bachelet, former president of Chile and executive director of U.N. Women, points out, “full equality demands that women become men’s true equals in the eyes of the law – in their home and working lives, and in the public sphere.”

And, that just isn’t happening. A few “for instances” from the report:

  • Globally, 603 million women live in countries where domestic violence is not considered a crime.
  • More than 2.6 billion women live in countries where marital rape has not been explicitly criminalized.
  • Laws based on custom or religion still restrict women’s rights within the family.
  • In practice, women still are paid up to 30 percent less than men in some countries, despite the fact that 117 countries have equal-pay laws.
  • Some 600 million women work in jobs unprotected by labor laws.

Legal reform is only the beginning of the process. Laws need to be implemented to have an impact. “Changes in the law, when properly enforced, lay the groundwork for changing attitudes and improving women’s position in society,” U.N. Women says.

Some countries have taken creative, practical steps toward justice for ordinary women. In South Africa, “one-stop shops” offer justice, legal and health care services in one place. Mobile courts in the Democratic Republic of Congo assist women in remote rural areas who are under constant threat of sexual violence. Some Latin American countries have found that hiring more female police officers has led to an increase in the reporting of gender-based violence.

Progress of the World’s Women says it has 10 “proven and achievable” recommendations to make justice systems work for women instead of against them.

I would say that’s worth some study, especially at the local church level.

Read the full report at http://progress.unwomen.org.