United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres referred to gender inequality as “stupid” and a cause for global shame during a speech at The New School on Thursday. Guterres called for an end to discriminatory laws that infringe upon women’s rights.
“Just as slavery and colonialism were a stain on previous centuries, women’s inequality should shame us all in the 21st. Because it is not only unacceptable; it is stupid,” he said, Reuters reported.
In anticipation of the UN Commission on the Status of Women next month, which aims to evaluate the progress of gender equality on a global scale and assess a plan for action, Guterres warned that the current state of women’s inequality is critical.
“Everywhere, women are worse off than men, simply because they are women,” he said, adding that women of color and migrant women face even more obstacles.
Guterres claimed that, while so many barriers have been broken, progress has come to a halt, citing the rolling back of legal protections against rape and domestic violence and the overall increase in violence against women.
Guterres also said that women’s reproductive rights are currently under attack.
The United States and several other countries have moved to eliminate words and phrases like “abortion” and “reproductive health” from future UN resolutions, which could threaten a number humanitarian resolutions in need of support and funding.
In 2017, the US cut funding to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) because officials believed it was connected to a program that conducted abortions, which the UN denied.
Guterres went on to say that women are essential in the fight against the effects of climate change. He also noted that the gender pay gap must come to a close to ensure equal economic rights and opportunity for all.
“Gender equality is a question of power — power that has been jealously guarded by men for millennia,” Guterres said. “We must urgently transform and redistribute power, if we are to safeguard our future and our planet.”