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No progress on biases against women in a decade: UN report

Data tracking biases against women has shown no progress over the past decade, with prejudices remaining “deeply embedded” in society despite rights campaigns such as MeToo, a UN report said Monday.

Among both men and women, “biased gender social norms are prevalent worldwide: almost 90 percent of people have at least one bias” among the seven analyzed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

These prejudices “are widespread among men and women suggesting that these biases are deeply embedded and influences both men and women to similar degrees”, the report says.

The UN agency has updated its Gender Social Norms Index (GSNI) — which takes into account political, economic, education and physical integrity metrics — using data from the World Values Survey, an international project studying how values and beliefs are changing worldwide.

The index shows “no improvement in biases against women in a decade,” the UNDP said, “despite powerful global and local campaigns for women’s rights” such as MeToo.

For example, 69 percent of the world’s population still believes that men make better political leaders than women, and only 27 percent believe that it is essential for democracy that women have the same rights as men.

Nearly half the population (46 percent) believes that men have more right to a job, and 43 percent that men make better business leaders.

A quarter of the population also think it justifiable for a man to beat his wife, and 28 percent believe that university is more important for men.

Prejudices create “hurdles” for women and are “manifested in a dismantling of women’s rights in many parts of the world,” the report said.

“Without tackling biased gender social norms, we will not achieve gender equality or the Sustainable Development Goals,” it said.

The lack of progress on gender biases comes as the UN also reports declining human development metrics in general, linked in particular to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Social norms that impair women’s rights are also detrimental to society more broadly, dampening the expansion of human development,” Pedro Conceicao, director of the UNDP’s Human Development Report Office, said in a statement.

“Everyone stands to gain from ensuring freedom and agency for women,” he said.

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