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UNAIDS calls for protecting women’s rights to protect their health

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As the world gears to mark International Women’s Day, UNAIDS is calling for the protection of women’s rights to protect their health.

The world is way off track to meet the gender, equality and HIV targets that are part of the Sustainable Development Goals. At the current rate of progress, it will take an estimated 300 years to end child marriage, 140 years for women to be represented equally in positions of power and leadership in the workplace, and 47 years to achieve equal representation in national parliaments.

In addition, around the world at least five women or girls are killed every hour by someone in their own family. One in three women worldwide experience sexual or gender-based violence.

Women who experience violence are more at risk of acquiring HIV. This risk is heightened for the 600 million women and girls who live in the world’s conflict-affected countries, facing an increased danger of sexual violence. And in the majority of the world’s poorest countries, the debt crisis is squeezing out investment in education, health, and social protection, particularly hurting women and girls.

Women are further threatened by the organized pushback against women’s rights. “Today, women’s hard-won rights are under a globally coordinated, ruthless attack. Those facing the most vicious attack are already the most marginalized women,” said Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of UNAIDS. “The injustices faced by women are not natural disasters to prepare for, like hurricanes or storms. They are man-made, and, as such, we can unmake them.”

The good news is that across the world, women and girls are leading struggles for equality and rights. Women are standing up against oppression in their homes, workplaces, and communities. Women’s movements are providing direct support to women and girls who face violence, and marching and striking for equality. To protect women’s rights, it is vital to support and resource these community organizations, civil society groups and women’s organizations—the frontline defenders of those rights. Like justice, health is never given, it is won.

UNAIDS’ call this International Women’s Day, is to protect women and girls’ health, protect women and girls’ rights. In doing so, the world will end AIDS, and will overcome the inequalities driving it.

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