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News > World

United Nations Women Chief: Sex Abuse Cases Tip of Iceberg

  • Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of U.N. Women.

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of U.N. Women. | Photo: UNMISS

Published 8 March 2018

The head of U.N. Women called for the globalization of the MeToo movement.  

The Director of the United Nations agency to promote equality for women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, has said in an interview that the number of sexual harassment and abuse cases publicized recently are only the “tip of the iceberg.”

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Mlambo-Ngcuka explained that the number of cases highlighted and the number of women who have come forward represent a small fraction of the cases of sexual harassment and abuse that have taken place around the world.

On the eve of the International Working Women’s Day, Mlambo-Ngcuka told the Associated Press that in the future there is a real possibility this type of abuse will decrease because perpetrators know "there is actually a possibility that your victim might tell" but the true extent of the problem still isn't known. 

Moving forward, the head of U.N. Women argued: “what we need to be guarding is that the pendulum must not swing backward.”

International Working Women’s Day, now known as International Women’s Day commemorates women’s struggles for political, social and economic equality, a still-distant goal according to Mlambo-Ngcuka, who lamented that not a single country had achieved gender equality.

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

Mlambo-Ngcuka also stressed the importance of "globalizing" highly publicized movements such as MeToo, taking it out of Hollywood to make an impact on women in factories, farms, buses, trains, and homes across the globe.

Resistance to gender-based violence has its forms in different contexts.

For example, in Latin American women’s movements have repeatedly taken to the streets since 2015 to demand an end to machismo violence against women under the banner “Not one less. We want us alive!” The movement also seeks to shed light on the institutional violence women face when taking legal action against their aggressors.

Women across the globe have also led the struggles to defend their territories and fight against the expansion of transnational corporate control of national resources.

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