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Millions of Women Still Face Poverty, Discrimination and Violence: UN

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres calls himself a proud feminist

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Women rights
About 200 women form a human chain calling for an end to gender violence, on the eve of International Women's Day in central Mexico City. VOA

Calling himself “a proud feminist and supporter of women,”  U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres lashed out at men who abuse power and declared before Sunday’s observances of International Women’s Day that the fight for gender equality is “the biggest human rights challenge we face.”

Twenty-five years after 189 countries adopted a 150-page road map for achieving equality for women, a new report by UN Women says the reality is that millions of women still face poverty, discrimination and violence. It notes more than 70% of lawmakers and parliamentarians and managers are men and nearly 500,000 women and girls older than age 15 are illiterate.

Bias against women

The U.N. Development Program’s new Gender Social Norms Index also had some bad news for women. It found that close to 90% of both men and women hold some sort of bias against women.

Women rights
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres speaks during a press briefing at United Nations headquarters. VOA

According to the index, about half the world’s men and women believe men make better political leaders and more than 40% think men make better business executives and have greater rights to a job. Further, 28% feel it is justified for a husband to beat his wife.

Guterres told the U.N.’s International Women’s Day observance Friday that “gender inequality is the overwhelming injustice of our day.”

“Deep-rooted patriarchy and misogyny have created a yawning gender power gap in our economies, our political systems, our corporations, our societies and our culture,” he said. “Women are still very frequently denied a voice; their opinions are ignored and their experience discounted.”

The secretary-general cited examples in recent months, including high-profile peace agreements being signed with no women at the table and emergency health care meetings on the new coronavirus held with few or no women participating.

Scaled-down event

International Women’s Day is taking place a day before the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women holds a drastically scaled down one-day event so delegations in New York can adopt a draft political declaration commemorating the 25th anniversary of the 1995 U.N. conference in Beijing that adopted the wide-ranging plan to achieve gender equality.

The commission had been expecting up to 12,000 people from its 193 member nations to be at its annual meeting. But it decided to postpone the major event until a later date because of the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.

Bold platform, slow progress

The Beijing platform called for bold action in 12 areas for women and girls, including combating poverty and violence, ensuring all girls get an education, and having women at the top levels of business and government as well as at the table in peace negotiations.

It also said for the first time in a U.N. document that women’s human rights include the right to control and decide “on matters relating to their sexuality, including their sexual and reproductive health, free of discrimination, coercion and violence.”

The draft declaration expected to be adopted Monday reaffirms the Beijing platform for action and expresses concern “that overall, progress has not been fast or deep enough.” It pledges to take “concrete action to ensure the full, effective and accelerated implementation” of the road map.

Olof Skoog, the European Union’s top diplomat at the U.N., said the EU wasn’t happy with the initial draft but “we played hardball, I think it’s fair to say,” to produce “the most detailed and action-oriented political declaration ever adopted” by the commission.

He said there are advances in some areas and the declaration avoids “backtracking on some of the issues where there was huge push back.”

Among those issues was the definition of the family, with traditionalists insisting on a mother, father and children and progressive countries wanting to include LGBT families as well, he said. Another was on how to mention sexual and reproductive health and rights for females.

In the end, Skoog said, direct references to both issues were dropped in the declaration. But since the declaration affirms the Beijing platform, what that document says about the family and women’s rights and health will stand.

Women rights
Members of a civil society take part in a pro-women demonstration ahead of Women’s Day in Peshawar, Pakistan. VOA

‘Positive sign’

Francoise Girard, president of the International Women’s Health Coalition, said it was critical that governments recommit fully to the Beijing platform and called it heartening that they did so. She said governments also recommitted to achieving U.N. goals for 2030 that include sexual and reproductive rights for females, “so we feel that that is an extremely positive sign.”

What could really change the trajectory to achieve gender equality, Girard said, is ensuring that young girls can control their bodies, and there is still a long way to go.

“Controlling your body — sexual and reproduction and free of violence — is critical to everything else,” she told The Associated Press. “It’s critical to education, to employment, to political participation, to sitting on boards of companies. All these things won’t happen unless you control your body.”

Also Read- Know About the Similarities and Differences Between the Healthcare System of India and USA

On Friday, Guterres urged young women to keep up activism, and “please hold the world to account.”

“Twenty-five years after the Beijing conference, progress on women’s rights has stalled and even reversed,” he said. “We must push back against the push back. … It is more important than ever for men to stand up for women’s rights and gender equality.” (VOA)

 

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Women Live Longer Than Men: Study

New Study Looks into Why Females Live Longer than Males

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Men women
Among humans, women’s life span is almost 8% on average longer than men’s life span. Pixabay

By Zlatica Hoke

Women live longer than men across the world and scientists have by and large linked the sex differences in longevity with biological foundation to survival. A new study of wild mammals has found considerable differences in life span and aging in various mammalian species.

Among humans, women’s life span is almost 8% on average longer than men’s life span. But among wild mammals, females in 60% of the studied species have, on average, 18.6% longer lifespans. The ratio is considerably different for different groups of mammals.

An international team of scientists led by Jean-François Lemaître, from the University Lyonin France, collected information on age-related mortality for 134 populations of 101 wild mammalian species.

Men women
Women live longer than men across the world and scientists have by and large linked the sex differences in longevity with biological foundation to survival. Pixabay

“It was surprising to observe that this gender gap in lifespan often exceeds the one observed in humans and is, at the same time, extremely variable across species,” said Lemaître. 

“For example, lionesses live at least 50% longer in the wild than male lions,” said Tamás Székely, from the University of Bath, one of the authors of the study.

“We previously thought this was mostly due to sexual selection – because males fight with each other to overtake a pride and thus have access to females, however our data do not support this,” said Székely. 

Scientists have found that even though females consistently live longer than males, the risk of mortality does not increase more rapidly in males than in females across species. Therefore, they say, there must be other, more complex factors at play, such as environmental conditions in which the animals live and sex-specific growth, survival and reproduction through the history of the species.

For example, the authors of the study say, roaming males could be exposed to more environmental pathogens. This was noticed in three populations of the bighorn sheep.

The magnitude of the lifespan gap could also be shaped by local environmental conditions with a trade-off between reproduction and survival. In some species, males allocate more resources to sexual competition and reproduction, which, scientists say, could lead to bigger sex differences in lifespans.

“Another possible explanation for the sex difference is that female survival increases when males provide some or all of the parental care,“ said Székely. “Giving birth and caring for young becomes a significant health cost for females and so this cost is reduced if both parents work together to bring up their offspring.” 

Men women
Men and women symbols on texture, partial graphic. VOA

In order to measure the extent to which biological differences between the sexes affect life expectancy, scientists plan to compare the data on wild mammals with the data on mammals kept in the zoo, where they do not have to fight with predators or compete for food and mates.

Scientists hope the findings will contribute to better understanding of what affects human longevity. In the past 200 years, the average life expectancy of humans has more than doubled due to improved living conditions and advances in medicine. Yet women continue to live longer than men, suggesting the biological differences also have a role.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the average American man will live to age 76, while the average woman in America will live to age 81. Women can also expect to be healthier than men in their senior years. Experts shave said the gap is due to a combination of biological and social differences.

Also Read- All You Need to Know About Victim Blaming Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

Men’s hormone testosterone is linked to a decrease in their immune system and risk of cardiovascular diseases as they age. It is also linked to risky behavior: smoking, drinking and unhealthy eating habits.  If diagnosed, men are less likely than women to follow doctor’s advice.  Statistics show that men are more likely to take life-threatening risks and to die in car accidents, or gun fights.

Authors of the new study say the differences between male and female longevity are shaped by complex interactions between local environmental conditions and sex-specific reproductive biology. They say that more research is likely to provide “innovative insights into the evolutionary roots and physiology underlying aging in both sexes.”  (VOA)