Stereotypes hinder women's rights – UN human rights chief

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School girls from El Sereif, Sudan perform traditional songs and dances during the cultural and sports event organized by UNAMID. UN Photo/Albert González Farran

The recent kidnapping of over 200 schoolgirls in Nigeria is an example of the harm that stereotypes about the role of women can cause, according to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Navi Pillay spoke at the start of the UN Human Rights Council's annual full-day discussion of women rights in Geneva on Tuesday.

She said millions of girls around the world are not permitted to seek higher education simply because they are female.

"The outrageous recent kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls in northern Nigeria is yet another in a long line of attacks on women's rights and dignity premised on deep stereotypes regarding women's proper roles. I have urged the authorities, in the strongest possible terms, to take action to ensure the safety of these girls and that their abductors are punished." (24")

Ms Pillay said that "in the past few decades, almost every State has acknowledged women's equality- in principle" but it is rarely fully recognized.

She identified "a lack of real commitment on the part of decision makers" as one of the obstacles in realizing women's rights.

Another obstacle, she added, "stems from deep-seated gender stereotypes about women's supposedly proper attributes, characteristics or place in the family and society."

Sophie Outhwaite, United Nations

Duration: 1’29″

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