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					          Statistique, Développement et Droits de l‘Homme

               Session C-Pa 4a

Statistics to Measure Progress in Women's
Human Rights: The World's Women 2000

          Francesca PERUCCI

                       Montreux, 4. – 8. 9. 2000
                            Statistique, Développement et Droits de l‘Homme

Statistics to Measure Progress in Women's Human Rights:
The World's Women 2000
Francesca PERUCCI
Gender Statistics Consultant
Piazza Spirito Santo, 1
51100 Pistoia, Italy
T. + 39 0573 977275 F. + 39 0573 978176


       The Beijing Platform for Action adopted by the Fourth World Conference on Women
identified the human rights of women as a critical area of concern. The Platform for Action
reaffirmed that the human rights of women are an integral part of universal human rights and that
full enjoyment of all human rights is critical to women’s empowerment and autonomy. It further
acknowledged that equality between women and men would benefit society as a whole. Since the
Fourth World Conference on Women, efforts to promote the human rights of women have increased
at the international, regional and national levels.
       This paper presents some figures and findings related to women and human rights drawing
from the recent United Nations publication The World’s Women 2000. Trends and Statistics. In
particular, the following policy areas will be addressed:
       - childbearing and reproductive health, looking to the extent possible given the available
data, at desired family size, the unmet need for contraception, the provision of maternal care and
men’s reproductive roles and responsibilities;
       - working conditions and a rights based perspective of access to work and career
opportunities, looking at all forms and sectors of work, including the informal sector, unpaid work
in family enterprises, and unpaid housework as well as the more formal employment;
       - women and political decision-making, looking at the human right of women to have equal
access to and full participation in all power structures and decision-making.;
       - harmful traditional practices, including female genital mutilation;
       - violence against women in its various forms, as defined by the UN Declaration on the
Elimination of Violence Against Women, which considers violence against women as any act of
gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or mental harm or
suffering to women;
       - refugees and gender-related issues.
       Measuring women’s progress is a new and evolving discipline that depends on limited
available data. The paper will also highlight data gaps and problems in the area of human rights.


                                         Montreux, 4. – 8. 9. 2000
                              Statistique, Développement et Droits de l‘Homme

      La Plate-forme pour l'action de Beijing, adoptée par la Quatrième Conférence mondiale sur
les femmes, a défini les droits humains des femmes comme un domaine critique de préoccupations.
La Plate-forme pour l'action a affirmé que les droits humains des femmes constituent une partie
intégrante des droits humains universels, et que la pleine jouissance de l'ensemble de ces droits est
essentielle à la promotion et à l'autonomie des femmes. Elle a en outre reconnu que l'égalité entre
femmes et hommes profiterait à l'ensemble de la société. Depuis la Quatrième Conférence mondiale
sur les femmes, les efforts de promotion des droits humains de la femme se sont intensifiés aux
niveaux international, national et régional.
      Cet article présente quelques chiffres et faits établis concernant les femmes et les droits
humains, et cités à partir de la récente publication des Nations Unies "Les femmes dans le monde
en 2000: tendances et statistiques". L'article traite en particulier des domaines suivants d'action
      - grossesse et santé de la reproduction et, en particulier, dans la mesure du possible compte
tenu des données disponibles, dimensions désirées de la famille, besoins de contraception non
satisfaits, fourniture de soins maternels, et rôles de la femme et de l'homme dans la reproduction;
      - conditions de travail et perspectives, basées sur la loi, d'accès au travail et aux
responsabilités de carrière, compte tenu de tous les types de travail et domaines d'activité, y
compris le secteur informel, le travail non payé dans les entreprises familiales et le travail
domestique non rétribué ainsi que les emplois plus formels;
      - la femme et les prises de décisions politiques, compte tenu des droits humains des femmes,
en particulier celui d'un accès égal et d'une pleine participation à toutes les structures de pouvoir et
organes de prise de décisions;
      - pratiques traditionnelles nocives, y compris les mutilations génitales féminines;
      - violence contre les femmes, sous ses diverses formes telles que définies dans la Déclaration
de l'ONU sur l'élimination de la violence contre les femmes, qui considère cette violence à l'instar
de toute violence basée sur le sexe et infligeant effectivement ou potentiellement des dommages ou
des souffrances physiques, sexuelles ou mentales;
      - réfugiés et questions ayant trait au sexe.
      La mesure de la promotion des femmes est une discipline nouvelle et en cours d'évolution qui
dépend de données disponibles limitées. L'article vise également à mettre en évidence les lacunes
des données et les problèmes qui se posent dans le domaine des droits de la personne.

1. Introduction

      In Vienna in 1993, the World Conference on Human Rights asserted that women’s rights are
human rights. Building on the advances made in the recognition of women’s human rights, the
human rights approach was also adopted by the International Conference on Population and
Development (ICPD) in Cairo, in 1994. Women’s rights, empowerment and health, including
reproductive health, were placed at the center of population and sustainable development policies
and programmes.
      The Beijing Platform for Action adopted by the Fourth World Conference on Women in
1995, also identified the human rights of women as a critical area of concern. (United Nations,
1996) The Platform for Action reaffirmed that the human rights of women are an integral part of
universal human rights and that full enjoyment of all human rights is critical to women’s
empowerment and autonomy.
      Since 1993, efforts to promote human rights of women have been made at all levels.
Governments, national institutions and women’s organizations have worked to reshape a new vision
of women’s lives and to include issues of women’s human rights in national plans and programmes.
      To promote action on this new consensus and combat and eliminate human rights violation
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                             Statistique, Développement et Droits de l‘Homme

advocates of gender equality need timely and reliable figures. However on many human rights
issues, especially those of particular concern to women – such as domestic violence, living
conditions of women refugees, or harmful traditional practices – there are only recent and limited
efforts in the production of official data.
      A right based approach in measuring and monitoring the progress towards gender equality
implies a shift from the simple measurement of outcomes in various areas to a much broader and
comprehensive measurement of women’s and men’s participation and contribution in all areas of
      The United Nations Statistics Division in its continuous efforts to contribute to the
development of gender statistics and disseminate existing data to a wide range of users, has recently
published The World’s Women 2000. Trends and Statistics, the third in a series of statistical reports
on the situation of women and men worldwide.
      This paper presents some figures and findings related to women and human rights drawing
from the publication, and highlights some of the data gaps and problems in the measurement and
monitoring of women’s human rights.

2. Child-bearing and reproductive health

Women in almost all countries are having fewer children. In Eastern Asia, for example, women are
having two or fewer children in every country except Mongolia. Fertility has decreased to 3.2 births
per woman in south-eastern Asia and 3.8 in western Asia. Some south-eastern Asian countries have
attained gender equality in education as well as generally high levels of enrolment — Indonesia,
Singapore, and Thailand. Fertility in these countries is also close to or below replacement level. In
Malaysia, also, changes in education are related to a higher age at marriage and first birth, which in
turn has a positive effect on school completion. (Brien and Lillard, 1994)
Latin American women are also having smaller families, especially in the Caribbean. Even in Sub-
Saharan Africa, where fertility remains the highest in the world with 5.4 births per woman, between
1990-1995 and 1995-2000 fertility levels have declined slightly in almost all countries.
Women in almost all developing countries also want fewer children. The number of children
desired has declined significantly, according to surveys undertaken in the 1980s and 1990s. The
largest absolute decline was in sub-Saharan Africa, where families have been particularly large.
Women there generally want two fewer children than women did in the 1980s.
Whether women and men achieve their desired family size depends on whether the society satisfies
their demand for contraceptives. It is now internationally recognized that women have the right to
quality reproductive health and services. In particular, ICPD urged governments to make
reproductive health services available to all women for the entire duration of their reproductive
years. Efforts to expand the availability of family planning services and allow more women and
men to control their reproduction have been widespread.
However, UNFPA has recently estimated that 120–150 million women want to limit or space their
pregnancies but are without the means to do so effectively. (UNFPA, 1997) The large number of
unwanted pregnancies often results in unsafe abortions or unwanted children, with serious
consequences for the lives of the children and their parents. WHO estimates that two of every five
abortions performed every year around the world are unsafe and may have serious consequences on
women’s health and life. (WHO, 1999)
Access to health services is also essential during pregnancy and childbirth. Preventing and avoiding
maternal morbidity and mortality is increasingly recognized as an issue of social justice and human
rights. Most international instruments and most governments acknowledge that it is unacceptable
for a woman to die or suffer life-long complications as a result of having a child. Reducing maternal
mortality was first established as a goal in the 1987 meeting in Nairobi which launched the Safe
Motherhood Initiative. It became one of the seven major goals of the World Summit for Children in
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                            Statistique, Développement et Droits de l‘Homme

1990 and in 1994, the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) set a goal
of reducing maternal mortality to about half the levels of 1990 by 2000 and another half by
2015.(United Nations, 1999) In 1995, governments in Beijing agreed upon a set of measures and
actions to be taken to reduce maternal mortality to those levels.(United Nations 1996)
 Access to health services during pregnancy and childbirth and use of health care facilities,
especially of emergency life-saving obstetric services are crucial pathways to reduce maternal
morbidity and mortality. However, WHO estimates that almost 45 million pregnant women still
lack access to any form of prenatal care, mostly in developing regions. While women’s access to
health care during pregnancy is almost universal in developed regions, in the developing regions 35
per cent of pregnant women receive no care at all. (WHO, 1996) (Table 1)

                                         Montreux, 4. – 8. 9. 2000
                                     Statistique, Développement et Droits de l‘Homme

Table 1. Many women still lack appropriate health care during pregnancy and delivery

                                                                                                  % deliveries
                                                  % pregnant women         % deliveries in health attended by skilled
                                                  with prenatal care, 1996 facilities, 1996       attendant, 1996

Northern Africa                                                               65                        57                   66
Southern Africa                                                               86                        64                   67
Rest of Sub-Saharan Africa                                                    66                        37                   42

Latin America and the Caribbean
Caribbean                                                                     95                        86                   88
Central America                                                               75                        62                   70
South America                                                                 79                        76                   80

Eastern Asia                                                                  93                        89                   95
South-eastern Asia                                                            77                        52                   64
Southern Asia                                                                 49                        28                   39
Central Asia                                                                  90                        92                   93
Western Asia                                                                  82                        79                   82

Oceania                                                                       84                        87                   81

Developed regions                                                             97                        98                   99
Source: United Nations, The World’s Women 2000. Trends and Statistics, United Nations Publication, Sales No. E.00.XVII.14.

More than 15 million women a year suffer from injuries and disabilities from maternal causes,
often for the rest of their lives. (Population Reference Bureau, 1998) Also estimates indicate that in
1990, 585,000 women died as a result of pregnancy—99 per cent in the developing regions. (WHO
and UNICEF, 1990)
Maternal mortality is largely preventable, and is rare in countries where women have access to
adequate prenatal care and essential obstetric care services, covering complications both in
pregnancy and delivery.
Monitoring maternal deaths is indispensable to formulate policies and programmes to prevent them.
Moreover, the maternal mortality ratio can provide indications of how well the health system is
functioning in relation to women’s needs. However not withstanding the importance placed on this
goal by international organizations and by countries, measuring and monitoring progress is very
      Although countries are increasingly making efforts to measure maternal mortality, accurate
are difficult to obtain. Few countries have a complete vital registration system, recording causes of
death, and even fewer explicitly record pregnancy status on the death form. Moreover, maternal
deaths are often misclassified even in countries where, in general, other causes of death are
correctly attributed. Data derived from household surveys are also unreliable mainly because
maternal mortality is a relatively rare event in the overall population, and even very large samples
would still provide results with large margins of error.
Given the difficulty in measuring maternal mortality alternative indicators have been proposed to
monitor the process by which maternal mortality is reduced. These indicators are called process
indicators and measure women’s access to reproductive health care, which has been shown to
reduce maternal mortality. (AbouZahr and Wardlaw, 2000) In 1997, UNICEF, WHO and UNFPA
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issued guidelines and recommended a set of indicators to monitor the availability and use of
obstetric services and to indirectly assess progress in reducing maternal mortality.

3. Work

Over the last few years, female economic activity rates have increased in almost all regions,
including those where women had traditionally been discouraged from working outside the home—
29 per cent of women are in the labour force in Northern Africa and 33 per cent in Western Asia.
(Table 2) Women’s labour force participation has also increased in Latin America and the
Caribbean, with the largest increase in South America (from 38 to 45 per cent). In these regions,
women have taken advantage of expanded opportunities for education, particularly higher
education. Fertility rates have decreased and contraceptive use has become more common.
Women’s activity rates have generally increased in Eastern and South-eastern Asia, although in
some countries of these regions, rates have stagnated or decreased slightly. More women are
economically active also in most of Europe and in the other developed regions.
The only notable decline in women’s activity rates was in Central Asia and Eastern Europe, where
economies have been undergoing a significant transition. Between 1990 and 1997, rates decreased
in 15 of the 19 Eastern European countries - by 10 per cent or more in 8 of them.

Table 2. Economic activity rates of women have increased in most regions

                                          Economic activity rates
                                          1990                             1997
                                          women              men           women              men

Northern Africa                                     27.6            77.9               28.8           77.3
Southern Africa                                     50.3            82.4               46.7           77.1
Rest of Sub-Saharan Africa                          63.9            87.5               64.0           86.8

Latin America and Caribbean
Caribbean                                           49.8            75.1               53.1           75.3
Central America                                     35.3            84.3               38.8           83.2
South America                                       37.7            80.4               44.5           77.9

Asia and Pacific
Eastern Asia                                        58.8            81.1               60.2           80.3
South-eastern Asia                                  62.7            84.8               62.0           83.7
Southern Asia                                       46.8            85.3               44.8           84.4
Central Asia                                        57.9            75.8               59.2           75.1
Western Asia                                        31.3            79.1               32.9           77.9
Oceania                                             53.2            84.4               56.5           83.1

Developed regions
Eastern Europe                                      56.2            73.8               52.7           69.9
Western Europe                                      47.2            72.0               48.9           69.0
Other developed regions                             54.4            75.8               55.5           74.4

Source: United Nations, The World’s Women 2000. Trends and Statistics, United Nations Publication, Sales No. E.00.XVII.14.

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These statistics on the labour force however do not fully measure women’s participation and
contribution to the economy and their working conditions. Unpaid work and informal sector work –
including home-based work and street vending – although key components of women’s labour force
(Table 3), are often invisible in official statistics.

Table 3. Most home-based workers are women

                  Share of women among
                  home-based workers
                  (%), 1991/1999

Tunisia                                       71
Kenya                                         35
Benin                                         74
Thailand                                      80
Philippines                                   79
Chile                                         82
Peru                                          35
Brazil                                        79

Source: United Nations, The World’s Women 2000. Trends and Statistics, United Nations Publication, Sales No. E.00.XVII.14.

The recognition and understanding of women’s role and contribution is indispensable to their
empowerment. The Beijing platform of Action calls on national, regional and international
statistical services to ―develop a more comprehensive knowledge of all forms of work and
employment .‖ It also recognizes that the lack of information and insufficient gender analysis has
often resulted in policy and programmes that continue to contribute to inequalities between women
and men. (United Nations 1996) In recent years, governments and international organizations have
made considerable efforts to expand the coverage of all forms of work in official statistics. This is
happening at a time when there is an increasing attention to the rights and conditions of all workers.
For instance, ILO in its 1996 Convention on Home Work, recognizes the rights of home-based
workers to equality of treatment with other workers and set a standard for minimum pay and for
working conditions.
The limited information available however is still insufficient for the formulation of the necessary
policies and regulation for the protection of these workers and perpetuates a situation of poor
working conditions, low pay and scarce access to resources, training and markets.
       Discrimination against women and difficult working conditions are particularly evident for
women who need to reconcile work outside the home with family life. More women are spending
their childbearing and child-rearing years employed outside the home and their rights have
increasingly been considered in labour legislation. For example, all but 31 countries surveyed by
ILO, offer 12 or more weeks of maternity leave, and the large majority of countries provide fully-
paid (or nearly) leaves.
However, most women still experience unequal treatment in employment at some point during their
professional life due to their reproductive role. (ILO, 1999) Discriminatory practices based on
potential or actual maternity are widespread. Some countries have passed legislation prohibiting
employers from requiring a sterilization certificate as a condition of employment, or a commitment
from the employee that she will not become pregnant during her contract. (ILO, 1999)
Even a basic right such as the equal pay to women and men for equal work or for work of equal
value is not yet guaranteed. Although this principle has been incorporated in the labour legislation
of many countries, in no country for which data are available do women earn as much as men. In
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only a few of 39 countries with available data, women earn at least 80 per cent of what men do. In
all other countries, women’s pay is well below men’s.

4. Seeking influence

Gender-based discrimination in its various forms, and power relations that prevent women from a
full participation in all areas of life, operate at many levels, including political decision-making. As
stated in the Beijing Platform, ―achieving the goal of equal participation of women and men in
decision-making will provide a balance that more adequately reflects the composition of society and
is needed in order to strengthen democracy and its proper functioning‖. (United Nations, 1996)
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone has the right to take part in the
Government of his/her country. However, in 1998, only 8 per cent of the world’s cabinet ministers
were women. In 1998, women held an average of 5 per cent or less of ministerial level positions in
Asia and Northern Africa. The average was slightly higher but still below 10 per cent in sub-
Saharan Africa, Latin America, and Eastern Europe. The average exceeded 10 per cent only in the
Caribbean, Western Europe, and the developed regions outside Europe.
Although women are still poorly represented, some signs of improvement are visible. The number
of countries where women held no ministerial positions dropped from 59 in 1994 to 45 in 1998. The
number of countries where women held neither ministerial nor sub-ministerial positions went from
23 in 1994 to 13 in 1998.
Gender parity in parliamentary representation is also still a remote perspective, although it is being
promoted by a growing number of organisations in many parts of the world. The world average of
12.9 per cent women parliamentarians in August 1999 is below the 1988 record of 14.8 per cent,
despite dramatic progress in a number of individual countries and in some regions.
Progress was registered in Latin America and the Caribbean, Western Europe, the developed
regions outside Europe, and South-eastern and Western Asia. Some progress was also registered in
Eastern Europe, although the setback that followed the collapse of the system in the late 1980s has
yet to be fully overcome. The only regional decreases in women’s participation in parliaments
between 1995 and 1999, were in Northern Africa and Central Asia.
Women remain also largely excluded from decision-making in the economic, financial, educational
and scientific areas. They are under-represented among all management positions, including the
top-level management in national and transnational corporations, in the banking and financial
world, in academic and scientific institutions and in international organizations, including those of
the United Nations system. Almost everywhere, women are still largely underrepresented among
administrative and managerial workers, although their share is slowly increasing. (Table 4)

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Table 4. Women continue to be a minority among administrative and managerial workers

                                            Share of women in administrative
                                            managerial workers, around 1990

      Northern Africa                                                          10
      Southern Africa                                                          23
      Rest of Sub-Saharan Africa                                               14
     Latin America and Caribbean
      Caribbean                                                                39
      Central America                                                          29
      South America                                                            24
     Asia and Pacific
      Eastern Asia                                                             12
      South-eastern Asia                                                       24
      Southern Asia                                                             8
      Western Asia                                                              9
      Oceania                                                                  15
     Developed regions
      Eastern Europe                                                           40
      Western Europe                                                           26
      Other developed regions                                                  35
Source: United Nations, The World’s Women 2000. Trends and Statistics, United Nations Publication, Sales No. E.00.XVII.14.

In 1999, women held just 11 per cent of all corporate officer positions of the 500 largest
corporations in the US and only 12 per cent of corporate positions of 560 largest corporations in
Canada. (Catalyst, 1999) In Brazil, in 1991 only 3.5 per cent of top executives were women in the
300 largest private companies, less than 1 per cent in 40 largest state-owned companies, and a mere
0.5 per cent in the 40 largest foreign-owned companies. (ILO, 1997)

Table 5. Few women hold decision-making positions in higher education
                                                                       Members            % Institutions

    NGO                                                                                   led by women

    Association of African Universities                                             120                5
    Association of Arab Universities                                                103                2
    Association of Commonwealth Universities                                        463               81
    Association of French-speaking Universities                                     270              5-7
    Association of European Universities                                            497              6-8
    Association of Universities of Asia and the Pacific                         1402                   5
    Inter-American Organization for Higher Education                                350               53
    Union des Universidades de America Latina                                       177               27
  10 in non-ACU member universities
  founding member universities
  14% in Brazil
Source: United Nations, The World’s Women 2000. Trends and Statistics, United Nations Publication, Sales No. E.00.XVII.14.
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       Although women represent the majority of the world’s teachers, as in other fields, they are
underrepresented in leadership and management roles in education. (Table 5)
One of the most important constraints on women’s participation in high level professional and
managerial work is their responsibility for rearing children and managing the household, seldom
shared with their partner. Women who opt for part-time work during their child-rearing years are
often excluded from career advancement, while their male counterparts are generally able to fully
invest their energy and time throughout their careers. Even women who work full time and long
hours have difficulties in advancing to the higher levels if they bear an additional burden at home.
(ILO, 1997)
As stressed in the Beijing Platform, ―there is insufficient use of existing databases and
methodologies in the important sphere of decision-making‖. (United Nations, 1996) Statistics on
political decision-making are often limited to participation in political life at the national level,
overlooking women’s and men’s roles in local administrations, communities and informal
organizations. In the economic area, the main limitation for adequate gender analysis is the lack of
information on career developments and socio-economic factors that contribute to gender
differentials. Also, different concepts and definitions used for data classification in top and senior
positions make international comparisons almost impossible.
Responding to the Beijing Platform, a number of countries have engaged in specific activities to
improve data collection and analysis on women’s participation in decision-making in different
fields. However, without a common framework of concepts, definitions and classifications,
comparison across countries will remain difficult.

5. Violence and harmful practices

Violence against women has long been recognized as a major obstacle to the enjoyment by women
of their human rights and fundamental freedom. The 1993 United Nations Declaration on the
Elimination of Violence Against Women recognizes as acts of violence women, inter alia, ―physical,
sexual and psychological violence occurring in the family and in the general community including
battering, sexual abuse of female children, dowry-related violence, marital rape, female genital
mutilation and other traditional practices harmful to women, non-spousal violence and violence
related to exploitation, sexual harassment, and intimidation at work, in educational institutions and
elsewhere, trafficking in women, forced prostitution, and violence perpetrated or condoned by the
state”. (United Nations, 1993) All these forms of violence are associated with inequality between
women and men.
Knowledge of incidence, causes and consequences of violence against women is indispensable to
formulate and monitor programmes and specific interventions for its eradication. However, few
countries have made violence against women part of their regular data collection, so that information is
limited and not easily comparable across countries. The Beijing Platform for Action states that ―The
absence of adequate sex-disaggregated data and statistics on the incidence of violence makes the
elaboration of programmes and monitoring of changes difficult‖. The Platform also calls on data
producers to ―develop improved gender-disaggregated and age-specific data on the victims and
perpetrators of all forms of violence against women, such as domestic violence, sexual harassment,
rape, incest and sexual abuse, and trafficking of women and girls, as well as on violence by agents
of State‖.(United Nations, 1996)
The existing data however, represent a significant improvement in comparison with the situation of
only a few years ago, when information on violence against women was limited to small ad hoc
studies. Also, many governments are beginning to acknowledge and address issues of violence
against women and have introduced changes in legislation following the Beijing Conference.

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Data on 25 countries, deriving from 11 national surveys and 21 smaller scale studies over a period
between 1991 and 1999 clearly indicate that domestic violence is widespread. The percentage of
women who reported to have been abused by an intimate partner ranges from 5 to 48 per cent in
national surveys and from 10 to 58 per cent in smaller scale surveys.
Statistics are even more limited on issues related to trafficking of women and forced prostitution,
although there is some evidence that the phenomenon has large dimensions and might be
increasing. For instance, a recent UNICEF study on women in transition countries reports that
adverse economic conditions and lack of opportunities have increased trafficking out of Eastern
Europe for forced prostitution over the last decade. (UNICEF, 1999)
Since the 1950s, several intergovernmental bodies of the United Nations have been addressing
harmful traditional practices affecting the health of women and girls, including female genital
mutilation. Attention to these practices heightened during the 1970s and 1980s.
More recently, these practices have been brought to the attention of the international community
through the efforts of the United Nations and civil society, including NGOs and the media. WHO,
UNICEF, and UNFPA issued a joint statement on female genital mutilation in April 1997,
expressing their intention to support the efforts of Governments and communities in promoting and
protecting the health and development of women and children, including strategies to eliminate
female genital mutilation.
Based on the limited data available, an estimated 100 to 132 million girls and women have been
subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM) worldwide. Each year, an estimated 2 million more
girls are at risk of FGM. As far as known, it is practised in 28 African countries, a few countries of
Western Asia, and some minority communities in other Asian countries. (Table 6) FGM is also
increasingly reported among immigrant communities in Europe, North America, Australia, and
New Zealand. (WHO, 1996)

Table 6. The traditional practice of female genital mutilation is prevalent in many countries in
                           Estimated          Survey or study
Benin                                 50      Not stated
Burkina Faso                          70      Report of the National Committee, 1995
Cameroon                              20      Southewest and far north provinces, 1994
Central African Republic              43      DHS 1994-95
Chad                                  60      Three regions, 1990/1991
Cote d'Ivoire                         43      DHS 1994
Dem. Rep. of Congo                     5      Not stated
Djibouti                              98      Not stated
Egypt                                 97      DHS 1995
Eritrea                               95      DHS 1995-96
Ethiopia                              85      Five regions and twenty adminsitrative regions, 1995
Gambia                                80      Limited study, 1985
Ghana                                 30      Upper East region, 1986, and in migrant settlements in Accra, 1987
Guinea                                50      Not stated
Guinea-Bissau                         50      Limited survey
Kenya                                 38      DHS 1998
Liberia                               60      Not stated
Mali                                  94      DHS 1995-96
Mauritania                            25      Not stated
Niger                                  5      DHS 1998
Nigeria                               50      Not stated
Senegal                               20      National study, 1991
Sierra Leone                          90      Not stated
Somalia                               98      Not stated
Sudan                                 89      DHS 1989-90
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Togo                                          50      Not stated
Uganda                                         5      Not stated
United Republic of Tanzania                   18      DHS 1996
Source: United Nations, The World’s Women 2000. Trends and Statistics, United Nations Publication, Sales No. E.00.XVII.14.

Data on FGM have always been anecdotal or limited to small ad hoc studies. Motivations and
characteristics of families who choose to have their daughters undergo the mutilation had never
been adequately addressed in surveys. Recently, the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) have
provided for the first time data on prevalence rates, trends, and socio-economic characteristics of
girls who undergo FGM and their families. DHS findings indicate, for instance, that even among
these women who oppose to the practice many already had or will have their daughters undergo
FGM, because of strong community norms or influence of older family members. The surveys also
indicate that, especially where prevalence is high, there is no sign of decline and that the practice is
not confined to some social groups, rather, in many countries, it is widespread among the whole
population irrespective of the level of education or the residence. (Carr, 1997)

6. Women refugees

UNHCR estimates that as of 1 January 1999, there were 11.5 million refugees falling under its
mandate. (UNHCR, 1999) The High Commission also provides data by sex for a sub-set of this
population – 4.2 million – of whom, 50.4 per cent are women. Available data indicate that half of
refugees are women in Africa and in Asia, and that 53 per cent are women in Eastern Europe. Only
in Latin America and the Caribbean, is women’s share of refugees below 50 per cent – 47 per cent.
        Accurate statistics on the refugee population and its characteristics – such as sex, age, ethnic
origin, household structure – are an indispensable tool for both host and origin countries, for
humanitarian agencies and other actors, including the media. Also, when refugee populations return
to their homeland, even more detailed statistics are needed to plan and implement effective
repatriation and reintegration. As stated by the organization Médecins sans Frontières, “without
registration, refugees have no rights and families cannot be reunified”. In the 1999 Kosovo
emergency, identification, registration and documentation of refugees became a priority.
        The improvement of refugees statistics has become an important component of UNHCR
work, and increasingly refugees are being accurately registered on the basis of detailed guidelines
developed by the agency. Since the early 1990s, UNHCR has regularly published statistics on
        Because of the many conceptual and operational problems, however, refugees statistics are
still limited, especially on topics relevant to gender and women’s issues. There is little information
for instance on women’s and men’s access to health services in refugees camps, or on women
refugees victims of violence and rape. More detailed data on socio-demographic characteristics of
refugees would facilitate planning, implementation and monitoring of protection, assistance and
repatriation programmes.

7. Conclusions

The development and improvement of gender statistics is clearly a crucial pathway for the
promotion and protection of women’s human rights. Over the last few years, the efforts done by
countries and international organizations, to improve the availability and dissemination of gender-
based information have already significantly contributed to a better understanding of the situation of
women and men in their social, political and economic life. Almost all countries have engaged in
some activities and programmes to strengthen the production and dissemination of gender statistics,
through a close collaboration between users and producers.

                                                   Montreux, 4. – 8. 9. 2000
                            Statistique, Développement et Droits de l‘Homme

However, much work remains to be done especially on issues that are unique to women’s life –
such as maternal mortality, reproductive rights, violence against women, and trafficking and forced
prostitution. Also, there is a need for improved data collection and analysis on areas that have
regularly been part of the work of the statistical system – such as the measurement of all forms of
work, the assessment of women’s and men’s sharing of family responsibilities and the ways this
influences women’s participation in the economic and public life.

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