Texarkana Gazette

UN commission calls for closing the gender digital divide


UNITED NATIONS — The U.N.’s premiere global body fighting for gender equality on Saturday called for wide-ranging efforts to close the gap between men and women in today’s technology-driven world and urged zero tolerance for gender-based violence and harassment online.

In a document approved by consensus after all-night negotiatio­ns at the end of a twoweek meeting, the Commission on the Status of Women expressed grave concern at the interrelat­ion between offline and online violence, harassment and discrimina­tion against women and girls — and it condemned the increase in these acts.

It called for a significan­t increase in investment­s by the public and private sector to bridge the gender digital divide. It also called for the removal of barriers to equal access to digital technology for all women and girls, and new policies and programs to achieve gender parity in emerging scientific and technologi­cal fields.

Sima Bahous, executive director of UN Women, an entity of the United Nations focusing on gender equality and the empowermen­t, called the document “game-changing” in promoting a blueprint for a more equal and connected world for women and girls. The challenge now, she said, is for government­s, the private sector, civil society and young people to turn the blueprint “into reality for all women and girls.”

At the start of the commission’s two-week meeting, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said its focus was very timely because women and girls are being left behind as technology races ahead.

“Three billion people are still unconnecte­d to the internet, the majority of them women and girls in developing countries, (and) in least developed countries just 19% of women are online,” Guterres said. “Globally, girls and women make up just one-third of students in science, technology, engineerin­g and mathematic­s” and men outnumber women two to one in the tech industry.

Bahous told the opening meeting that “the digital divide has become the new face of gender inequality,” with 259 million more men than women online last year. She also cited a survey of female journalist­s from 125 countries that found three-quarters had experience­d online harassment in the course of their work and a third had engaged in self-censorship in response.

The “agreed conclusion­s” document adopted Saturday by the 45-member commission calls for equal quality education for women and girls in science, technology, engineerin­g, mathematic­s, informatio­n and communicat­ions technology, and digital literacy so they can thrive in the rapidly changing world.

During lengthy negotiatio­ns on the document, which has 93 paragraphs, U.N. diplomats said language on women’s rights was challenged by Russia, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Holy See and human rights language was also challenged by those countries as well as Cuba and China. There were also intense debates over language on gender-based violence facilitate­d by technology, they said, speaking on condition of anonymity because negotiatio­ns were closed.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States