By Ellen McGirt
Updated: February 12, 2018 1:10 PM ET | Originally published: February 14, 2018

UN Women, the organization dedicated to issues of gender equity around the world, has released a new report today that shows that women around the world remain underpaid, under-supported and likely to be victims of violence.

Turning promises into action: Gender equality in the 2030 Agenda, is the first data-driven look at the condition of women around the world as considered through the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – among them poverty, social justice, clean water, health, education, and climate change – that were adopted by world leaders in 2015.

Data was collected from some 89 countries, but in-depth case studies were conducted in Colombia, Nigeria, Pakistan, South Africa, Uruguay and, in an interesting twist, the United States. The issues will be familiar:

One in five women and girls have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner within the last 12 months. Yet, 49 countries have no laws that specifically protect women from such violence. Despite their increasing presence in public life, women continue to do 2.6 times the unpaid care and domestic work that men do.

But the U.S. data, in particular, shows that many women are struggling, often in ways that are comparable to women in developing nations. Here’s just a sample:

  • The global female homicide rate is 2.3 per 100,000 population, (although, the report states, figures vary widely across and within regions. In the U.S., the female homicide rate stands at 2.1 per 100,000 as of 2010; a figure as high as that of Sudan.
  • While U.S. women of all ages are more likely to live in poverty than men, black and Native American/Alaskan Native women of all ages are disproportionately represented among the poorest, at 27.4% and 28%, respectively.
  • As of 2015, the national average of Americans who did not complete high school is 10.3%. That number drops to 4.1% in wealthy communities and soars to 38.3% for Hispanic women in the poorest quintile.
  • The maternal mortality ratio in the United States increased by 14 % between 1990 and 2015.
  • Globally, women hold an average of 23.7% of parliamentary seats; in the US, women held only 19.4% of congressional seats in 2017.

Every page of this report reaffirms that women’s safety, along with fair and accommodating compensation practices, would go a long way to making sure all women are able to be happy, productive citizens while helping to raise the GDP.

And yet, the violence and underinvestment continue. And even a cursory review of the headlines will show that countries that do have laws protecting women are having trouble enforcing them. It’s the same conundrum in every fight for equity — the business case is clear, but the moral case remains murky, particularly when it comes to making things right.



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