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Girls & Women

To Really Win Gender Equality, New Attitudes, and Laws, Are Needed, Experts Say

By Karla Mendes

LONDON, Jan 22 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Even countries keen to advance women's rights, like Germany and Switzerland, are unlikely to achieve true gender equality by the 2030 target agreed by world leaders as women are held back by harmful attitudes, charity Plan International said on Monday.

Deeply-rooted norms and expectations often have a negative impact on women and girls — attitudes that are likely to persist despite anti-discrimination laws.

Take Action: Call on Influential Companies to Incorporate Women-Owned Businesses in Global Supply Chains

"No country will come even close to true gender equality unless they broaden their focus beyond laws, policies and equal access to services and employment to also tackle harmful gender norms," Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen, chief executive of Plan International, said in a statement.

"Countries like Germany, Switzerland and the US are in the vanguard for gender equality thanks to their excellent anti-discrimination laws and policies and high female labour-force participation... But focusing on these areas is not enough."

The assumption that men have more right to a job than women often leads to gender gaps in employment rates. For example, a fifth of German men still believe that when jobs are scarce, they have more right to a job than women, said Plan.

There is also a widely-held belief that domestic and care work are the responsibility of women. In Belgium, for instance, 81 percent of women do the cooking or household chores every day, compared to a third of men, according to a 2017 index.

Even in the most gender equal countries, the belief that a husband or partner is justified in beating his wife or partner under certain circumstances is worryingly pervasive, said Plan, which campaigns for child rights and equality for girls.

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In Australia, 57 percent of women have faced physical and/or sexual violence, UN Women found in 2011 research.

The charity urged business and political leaders attending the annual World Economic Forum in Davos this week to adopt a zero-tolerance approach to harassment and gender-based violence.

It called on leaders to reject advertising that uses harmful gender stereotypes and create safe and family-friendly working environments.

The Sustainable Development Goals to end poverty and fight inequality agreed in 2015 included a target to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls by 2030.