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UN Women chief: Sex abuse cases tip of iceberg

AP  |  United Nations 

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

Phumzile said yesterday 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 on the eve of International Women's Day, she said that in the immediate future at the very least there is a possibility of reducing and halting the continuation of 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 of UN Women.

"And what we need to be guarding is that the pendulum must not swing backwards."

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

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."

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

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

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

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

The theme of is "Time is Now: Rural and urban activists transforming women's lives." To keep the global spotlight on the #MeToo movement, Mlambo-Ngcuka said #MeToo activists have been invited to participate in today's events at

"It's about talking about the globalization of sisterhood," she said, "and ensuring that when you are saying MeToo, MeToo have been harassed in Hollywood and MeToo have been harassed in a train in And we both felt the pain."

The aim of bringing the #MeToo participants is for them "to get the feel of the woman who is not from Hollywood, who, however, is just as concerned about the issues," Mlambo-Ngcuka said.

"When a perpetrator stands in front of you and attacks you, whether you are a celebrity or an ordinary woman in a village, the violation and the humiliation that you feel is the same," she said.

"The one thing we have in common, when a perpetrator attacks me, or attacks someone who is a queen, or a woman who is sitting in a shantytown, in front of the perpetrators we are all equal."

"And what we need to be fighting for is a society and a generation of men, of all sorts, of all classes, of all countries, not to be violators," Mlambo-Ngcuka said.

She expressed hope that "the millennials who are rising up in the companies and are destined for the corner office, they will know that the corner office doesn't come with a girl, that you will get it trouble ... that the boards of organizations cannot afford these cases and the stigma, and the public will punish you."

Mlambo-Ngcuka, who is from South Africa, said addressing sexual and abuse and achieving equality for women will take years, and there is a lot of work to do in all countries.

Some women have been encouraged by sexual abusers and harassers losing jobs and facing criminal proceedings, she said, but it takes a long time "for women to actually master the courage to speak for themselves."

Mlambo-Ngcuka said UN Women is also working with men and boys who are key to changing norms, attitudes and cultural practices from engaging in child marriage and beating wives to accepting that they can be a partner to a woman.

UN Women also is working with the on changing discriminatory laws, increasing the number of women decision-makers, and getting police to prosecute crimes against women.

Next week, the will be meeting at with the theme: "Challenges and opportunities in achieving equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls."

Mlambo-Ngcuka said she expects and abuse to be a hot topic at side events.

"It is the beginning of a conversation that maybe is going to take us five years or so before maybe we see a critical mass of countries that are actually getting it the right way," she said, "but we cannot afford to waste this moment, which we've all created.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Thu, March 08 2018. 14:35 IST