Women sex abuse cases tip of iceberg: UN

The head of the UN agency promoting equality for women says the global spotlight on sexual harassment and abuse and the punishment of some powerful men is an important moment but it's just "a tip of an iceberg."

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said that is because the number of women who have "come out" is small and the number of perpetrators who have been "brought to book" is limited compared to the number who haven't been exposed.

But in an interview with The Associated Press on International Women's Day, she said in the future there is a possibility of reducing and halting the continuation of abuse because perpetrators now know "there is actually a possibility that your victim might tell."

"This is a tipping point and a critical time for everyone," said Mlambo-Ngcuka, the executive director of UN Women. "And what we need to be guarding is that the pendulum must not swing backwards."

She said the follow-up that is needed is for all institutions to communicate with their employees what their rights are, so they know how to report any violations and can be assured "that they will be believed and that they will not end up being on trial themselves."

Mlambo-Ngcuka stressed that while the spotlight has been on powerful male offenders in Hollywood, business and the high echelons of society, sexual harassment and abuse is prevalent around the world from factories and farms to buses, trains and homes.

And not a single country has achieved gender equality, she said.

Even in Iceland, which comes closest and has the "highest levels of consciousness about gender equality, violence against women is a problem, and unequal pay is a fact, and under representation of women in decision-making is a fact," Mlambo-Ngcuka said.

"This is the same thing we are fighting in India, in South Africa, in the US," she said. "So all of these countries do not value women the way they value men."

And 150 countries have at least one law that discriminates against women, she added.

Australian Associated Press

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