New UN rights chief decries women's rights 'pushback'
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The new United Nations rights chief voiced deep concerns Wednesday over a swelling "pushback" on women's rights across much of the world.
During his first press conference as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Turk said he was deeply worried to see rises in misogynistic attitudes and efforts to reverse the rights of women and girls in many countries.
There has been "a real pushback, and that's very worrying and it affects women and girls in many parts of the world in a way that is unparallelled," he told reporters.
Turk, who became the UN rights chief two weeks ago, did not point to specific country situations.
His comments however came as Iran continues to be rocked by over six weeks of deadly protests following the death of Mahsa Amini after she was arrested by the morality police in Tehran over the way she was wearing her headscarf.
Protests are also continuing, albeit on a much smaller scale, in Afghanistan, where the Taliban have issued a slew of restrictions controlling women's lives since they returned to power in August 2021.
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They have also blocked girls from returning to secondary schools and barred women from many government jobs.
Turk meanwhile hinted that there was a much broader trend of pushbacks against women's rights "both in the global north and in the global south".
'Very divided world'
The Austrian national, who has spent most of his career within the UN system, voiced alarm at a growing "strongman mentality" and "autocratic tendencies" in a number of places.
This was contributing to an erosion of civic space and "the repression of and the silencing of dissent," with particular impacts for women and girls, he said.
Slamming "the rise in misogyny and misogynistic attitudes", he insisted that this was not something we should need to "even deal with ... in the 21st century".
More broadly, Turk voiced deep concern about the deepening geopolitical divisions at a time when the world is still wallowing in the Covid crisis and reeling from the conflict in Ukraine.
"I am taking up my function in a world where we see a lot of geopolitical tensions, where we see a lot of fragmentation within the international system," he said.
"We face incredible challenges... We are in a very divided world."
Turk warned that countries' refusal to cooperate towards resolving those challenges was taking a dire toll on the respect for human rights "which we cannot afford".
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