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Goal 5
"Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls"

Gender equality is not only a basic human rights, but also an essential foundation for a sustainable world seeking peace and prosperity. One in five women between the ages of 15 and 49 stated that they had experienced physical violence or sexual violence by close partners within 12 months of the survey date, and 49 countries do not currently have laws to protect women from domestic violence. Child marriages have been on the decline over the past decade, with harmful practices such as a 30% decrease in female genital resection (female circumcision), but more intensive efforts are needed to eradicate these practices.

Providing women and girls with education, health care, quality jobs, and increasing their participation in the political and economic decision-making process will bring overall benefits to the sustainable economy, society, and mankind. Therefore, establishing a new legal system for women's equality in the workplace and eradicating harmful practices against women is very important in ending gender discrimination in many countries around the world.

5.1 End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere

5.2 Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation

5.3 Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation

5.4 Recognize and value unpaid care and domestic work through the provision of public services, infrastructure and social protection policies and the promotion of shared responsibility within the household and the family as nationally appropriate

5.5 Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life

5.6 Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights as agreed in accordance with the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome documents of their review conferences

5.a Undertake reforms to give women equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, financial services, inheritance and natural resources, in accordance with national laws

5.b Enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women

5.c Adopt and strengthen sound policies and enforceable legislation for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls at all levels

SDG 5 the UN Human Rights Mechanisms

      1st UPR Cycle

      2nd UPR Cycle

      3rd UPR Cycle

Recommending State
Continue taking concrete measures to further promote and protect human rights, particularly for women and children
Continue to implement national laws in compliance with international human rights instruments in all areas, especially on the human rights of vulnerable groups, rights of the child, women's rights, rights of persons with disabilities and elderly persons
Take more practical measures for the protection of children, women and other vulnerable groups and full enjoyment of their rights
Make further efforts to enhance awareness of rights of women and children as contained in the newly adopted laws
Take more active steps to eradicate all forms of discrimination against women
Take immediate measures to ensure gender equality
Consider further legislative and administrative measures to encourage the increase of women's participation in public life
Strengthen efforts to ensure women's representation in influential posts in national and regional government
Empower women’s participation in decision-making institutions
Ensure women an equal treatment with respect to men, especially with regard to the rights to food, education and work
Further develop measures to generate better conditions for the activities of organizations on the rights of women
Establish measures to combat discrimination and violence against women
Punish under law violence against women, establishing adequate measures to protect victims
Strengthen its national efforts in the area of combating trafficking in persons, especially women and children, including through human rights education and training for law enforcement officials
Carry out a reproductive health strategy and other programmes for women's health with a view to reducing the maternal mortality rate as set out in the MDG
Take steps aimed at eliminating violence against women, including ratifying the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women
Adopt the necessary measures to implement the recommendations received from the Committee on the Rights of the Child and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women
Scale up its efforts in the promotion and protection of the rights of vulnerable groups in society사회 내 취약 계층의 권리 보호와 증진을 위한 노력 확대 권고
Maintain the design of action to guarantee the well-being of its population, in particular children, women, older persons and persons with disabilities, in its economic and social development plans북한 주민 특히 아동, 여성, 노인, 장애인의 복지를 보장하기 위해 사회, 경제 발전 계획의 행동 계획 유지 권고
Further strengthen programmes to protect the rights of vulnerable groups including women, children, persons with disabilities and the elderly성, 아동, 장애인 및 노인을 포함한 취약계층의 권리를 보호하기 위한 프로그램 강화 권고
Expand the measures designed to uplift the well-being of women, children, persons with disabilities and elderly people여성, 아동, 장애인, 노인의 복지를 증진시키기 위한 대책 확대 권고
Enhance measures to ensure the availability and accessibility of essential services for all and the enjoyment of rights by women, children and persons with disabilities여성, 아동, 장애인의 모든 권리와 그 권리의 향유를 위해 필요한 서비스에 대한 접근성 및 서비스의 유용성을 보장하기 위한 조치 강화 권고
Take immediate measures to ensure gender equality and protect women from gender-based violence양성평등을 보장하고 여성을 성에 기반한 폭력으로부터 보호하기 위한 즉각적 조치 시행 권고
Implement measures to ensure gender equality in practice, and end impunity for violence against women and girls성평등의 실질적 보장 및 여성, 소녀에 대한 폭력 근절을 위한 조치 시행 권고
Strengthen measures to address the gaps in the promotion and protection of the rights of women and children여성과 아동의 권리 증진,보호 및 격차 해소 강화 권고
Develop and adopt a comprehensive plan of action to promote women's rights and their empowerment, and monitor and assess its implementation여성의 권리와 권한을 증진하기 위한 종합적인 행동 계획의 개발 및 채택, 그 구현의 감시 및 평가 권고
Continue efforts to stop violence against children and to empower women to access leadership positions in government institutions아동에 대한 폭력 근절 및 여성들의 정부 기관의 지도부 진출을 위한 지속적 노력 권고
Take concrete action to increase the recruitment of female officers and strengthen their roles in the policymaking agencies여성공무원 채용확대 및 정책결정기관에서의 역할 강화를 위한 구체적인 조치 권고
Further strengthen measures to promote women's empowerment여성 권한 증진 정책 강화 권고
Take measures to improve gender equality양성평등 개선을 위한 조치 권고
Strengthen its legislation in order to identify and amend discriminatory provisions against women, in particular those governing access to education and employment교육 및 고용에 대한 접근을 통제하는 여성 차별 조항을 선별 및 개정을 위한 법률 강화 권고
Review the Law on the Protection and Promotion of Women's Rights to ensure that all forms of gender-based violence against women in all spheres are criminalized전 영역에서 발생하는 여성에 대한 성 기반 폭력을 처벌할 수 있도록 하는 여성의 권리 보호 및 증진에 관한 법률 검토 권고
Consider reviewing its national laws on child protection, in order to cover all children under the age of 18 years and raise the minimum age of marriage to 18 years18세 미만의 모든 아이들을 대상으로, 결혼 최소 연령을 18세로 변경할 수 있도록 아동 보호에 관한 국내법 검토 권고
Recommending State
Fully comply with the principles and rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the two international covenants, the CRC and CEDAW, to which it is a party
Review its legal and administrative measures with a view to ensuring the dignity and better living conditions of the vulnerable groups, including women and children
Pass legislation specifically dealing with violence against women, including domestic violence, providing for prosecution of individuals committing acts of violence against women
United States of America
Increase the number of women in management posts and in decision-making processes and envisage establishing full legislative provisions to promote and protect the rights of women
Ensure that the rights of women, children and persons with disabilities are more effectively realized through the implementation of the strategy for the promotion of reproductive health, 2006- 2010, the national strategy for the prevention of AIDS, 2008-2012, the primary health care strategy, 2008-2012, the national action plan for the well-being for children, 2001-2010 and the comprehensive action plan for persons with disabilities, 2008-2012
Syrian Arab Republic
Invite the Special Rapporteur on violence against women and the Special Rapporteur on torture to visit the country and provide more extensive recommendations
United States of America
Strengthen its efforts to promote gender equality and the rights of women
Enact specific legislation to punish violence against women and establish structures for the protection of victims
Enhance protection of rights of women and children, in particular those in the most vulnerable situations
Take further measures to prohibit all forms of violence against children and women
Step up measures to comprehensively address the problem of trafficking and violence against women, including by increasing public awareness campaigns
Consider, as appropriate, increasing the percentage of representation of women in the supreme People's Assembly and other State decision-making bodies
Sri Lanka
Provide more opportunities for women to gain access to leading positions in both the political and economic spheres and strengthen funding and visibility of the national institutions that promote gender equality
Intensify its efforts to promote and protect the human rights of specific groups within society, such as women, children, disabled persons and the elderly, with a view to empowering them and alleviating their vulnerability
Implement regulations to protect women from torture and abuse in detention facilities, and hold female criminal offenders separately from men, guarded by female guards
United States of America
Create and adopt a law that specifically addresses trafficked persons in the country and abolish all practices of penalizing trafficked women and children for unlawfully exiting the country upon their deportation back to DPRK
Conduct thorough investigation of cases of the use of torture and other forms of cruel treatment, in particular cases of violence against women in the penitentiary system
Russian Federation
Immediately establish a system to prevent sexual violence against female prisoners
Enact national legislation to combat violence against women, including a definition of rape that applies to domestic rape and rape in detention centres
Enhance measures to address the issues of trafficking and violence against women, especially through awareness programmes and by strengthening the institutional and legal framework
Sri Lanka
Tackle impunity by investigating and timely prosecuting those responsible for acts of violence and human rights violations, in particular those committed by law enforcement and other authorities, and pay special attention to women and children to avoid that they are subjected to sexual abuse in detention
End State-sponsored discrimination based on the "songbun" system, as well as pervasive discrimination against women
United States of America
Take immediate measures to end discrimination against its citizens for the alleged sins of their grandparents under the songbun system, ensure gender equality in practice, and address violence against women and girls
Extend an invitation to the Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice to visit the country
Take concrete measures to improve conditions of detention by implementing the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules) and the United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders (the Bangkok Rules)
Adopt legislation to criminalize trafficking, in accordance with international standards, and provide support for women survivors of trafficking
Intensify the fight against violence against women by: (a) introducing in the penal code a definition of violence against women, including rape and trafficking; (b) putting in place training programmes for law enforcement officials, magistrates and civil servants to identify, prevent and punish violence against women; and (c) prohibiting forced genital searches on repatriated women
Review laws, including the Law on the Protection and Promotion of Women's Rights, to include definitions of violence against women, including rape and trafficking of women
Take measures to criminalize marital rape and to prevent and punish domestic violence against women, including awareness campaigns, legal services, support and shelter for survivors
Step up the implementation of the Law on the Protection and Promotion of Women's Rights, and reform criminal legislation to clearly define and punish rape and trafficking of women
Establish a system to prevent sexual violence against women in detention
End the practice of forcing all married women to join the Socialist Women's Union of Korea, and the demand to provide unpaid labour as part of the membership
Acknowledge the existence of human rights violations and end all State-sanctioned practices that breach fundamental human rights, including arbitrary detention, torture, forced abortion and other sexual violence
New Zealand
Prohibit and effectively end exploitative practices that require women who support families through private economy to contribute quotas of goods, money and unpaid forced labour for the Government and military investments

SDG 5 and the North Korean Government

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The DPRK ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1981 and has since submitted two periodic reports highlighting the government’s efforts to tackle discrimination against women and support gender equality in the DPRK. In its most recent report submitted for 2021 VNR, the DPRK strongly asserted that “The DPRK has achieved gender equality long time ago, thus most of the targets of the global SDGs have been achieved.” Additionally, in its 2016 report, the DPRK frequently refers to the Law on the Protection and Promotion of Women’s Rights which was adopted in 2010. The DPRK has stated that “the law is a reflection and manifestation of the firm commitment of the state not to tolerate any forms of discrimination against women.” In its review with the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, DPRK representatives stated that “domestic violence is not a social problem in the DPRK. There are, however, some families that tend to resolve in a violent manner conflicts or problems arising due to differences in lifestyle, management of domestic economy and child upbringing. Most of them, in the end, were resolved amicably with the help of advice and persuasion of neighbours, colleagues and relatives.” 

In the effort to promote shared responsibility within the household and the family, the DPRK government has stated that “child care and medical treatment facilities like nurseries, kindergartens and children’s wards were set up so that working women could be free from worries about their children.” In recent years, the DPRK has also promoted its appointment of women to leadership positions in its state media and also in its state reports submitted to the UN. According to its report submitted to the UN ahead of the third UPR cycle, “as of 2018 23.3% of women on average are served on the people’s committees at all levels.”

According to state media, the DPRK has made efforts to ensure universal access to reproductive health and rights, showcasing that women from all over the country receive “free medical service at the Pyongyang Sanwon, which is well equipped with advanced medical facilities and modern treatment conditions.” In regards to economic resources, property ownership and financial services, the DPRK stated to CEDAW that “Married women share the ownership of family property with their husbands. Women are entitled, without regard to their income, to possess, use and dispose of the family property on the basis of equality with men.”

SDG 5 and North Korean Escapees

“Men and women are not treated the same. Out of 100 state officials, women comprise 3-4 per cent. It’s mostly men who do it. If there is one position and there is a man and a woman, they have to give it to the man, I think that’s the condition.”91 

[Interview by NKDB in 2020 (NKDB Unified Human Rights Database)]

“He used to (hit me) when we fought because he didn’t have the right words. Men will use their fists if they can’t find the words.”

[Interview by NKDB in 2020 (NKDB Unified Human Rights Database)]

“People think housework is a woman’s job. Men go out and work, so of course I just thought that women have to take care of the work and do things like that. Women go out and earn money, too. But people think children should be raised by women at home.” 

[Interview by NKDB in 2020 (NKDB Unified Human Rights Database)]

“I have seen female representatives of the People’s Assembly. Our citizens are voting just formally. People simply submit a ballot with the name of the candidate already [written] on it. It is meaningless. It is just a formality. There are cases in which women become managers at the special office. The manager of the textile factory was a woman. Women can be Party members, but only women who have graduated from a university, served in the military, and are loyal to the Party can hold such positions. Women with a bad social status and family background can never take these posts. Also, those who were in prison cannot take such posts either.”

[Interview by NKDB in 2017 (NKDB Unified Human Rights Database)]

“A woman can only become a homeowner when her husband dies.”

[Interview by NKDB in 2020 (NKDB Unified Human Rights Database)] 

SDG 5 and the International Community

Discrimination between genders is seen from a young age as girls in North Korea learn that they are not equal to boys. Human Rights Watch reported that it is seen everywhere in schools where boys are almost always made leaders and male teachers usually make decisions in schools despite the fact that the majority of teachers in schools are women. Regardless of their academic abilities, girls are expected to learn to become good housewives, and human rights reports have found that students are discriminated against in terms of primary and secondary education because they are female.

According to Citizens’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights, “there has been little progress in the last decade in raising awareness about violence against women and lack of institutional responses to the problem, including support for women and children suffering from such violence.” Despite the widespread problem of domestic violence, it is treated as a private issue by police, doctors, or heads of People’s Units (Inminban), with no resources or support for victims of domestic violence. In an interview with Human Rights Watch (HRW), a North Korean defector also stated that “she didn’t believe the authorities would care, and added she never heard of any person who had filed any case about violence against women.”

Human trafficking is a severe problem for North Korean women as they cross the border into China looking for work. Though many of the women have left the country voluntarily and are aware of the potential risks facing women in China, the problem still exists as they become victims to local trafficking networks through deception, fraud and occasional abductions. NKDB’s findings show that there are a lack of legal provisions to prevent human trafficking and ensure the protection of the victims. Instead, human trafficking victims, upon their repatriation, became subject to further human rights violations committed systematically by the DPRK’s law enforcement institutions such as the State Security Department, labour training camps, or prisons.

HRW highlighted the violence inflicted on repatriated women in its report, such as an “officer in charge of questioning her in the police pre-trial detention facility (kuryujang) near Musan city in North Hamgyong province touched her body underneath her clothes and penetrated her several times with his fingers.” Despite the widespread violence “there are no protocols for medical treatment and examination of victims of sexual violence to provide therapeutic care or secure medical evidence. They said there are no training programs for medical practitioners on sexual assault and said they never saw a rape victim go to the hospital to receive treatment.”

According to human rights reports, the representation of women in political, economic, and public service is found to be at a low level. In North Korea, more women work in the informal sector, contrary to men who are primarily “involved in international trade and business” in the official sector. As a result, North Korean women still bear the burden of doing both the housework as well as upholding their position as the breadwinner through their economic activities in the informal sector such as the markets and smuggling. While the DPRK government has claimed that there are special measures to strengthen gender equality, human rights reports have found that “the majority of women engaged in private economic activities are unemployed housewives, so they do not receive the existing social security benefits.”

Although the North Korean authorities prepared “ Guidelines on Early Detection and Management of Cervical Cancer and Breast Cancer,” women do not receive substantial benefits. In an interview conducted by Citizens Alliance for North Korean Human Rights, North Korean women answered that they “received little national support from breast cancer to birth control and childbirth.” Additionally, the prevalence of abortions in North Korea caused by the lack of proper contraceptive education remains a serious problem. North Korean women are not guaranteed adequate medical treatment even for their menstruation. According to NKDB’s comprehensive analysis of testimonies related to menstruation-related disorders, ordinary North Korean women are not able to receive adequate medical treatment for menstruation-related disorders.  

While the DPRK government states that men and women are given equal economic rights, human rights reports have found that in North Korea only men are considered to be the ‘head of the household’ and that overall family life is decided and centred around the male head of the household.

Many human rights reports highlight the legal and institutional deficiencies to improve the status of women in North Korea. In the research conducted by Citizens’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights, a man who used to be a high-ranking Party official, “claimed that no new instructions, or policy promoting women’s rights, were ever issued after 2010...Neither had any interviewee heard of any government policy or order to increase the proportion of women in positions of influence, and no interviewee knew about any institution delegated to monitor the situation of women in institutions, enterprises and organizations.”

Additionally, legal restrictions on domestic violence are weak in North Korea. According to the Human Rights Watch report, the “2010 Law on the Protection and Promotion of Rights of Women bans domestic violence” and instructs municipal People’s Committees, institutions, corporate, associations, and organizations to ‘adequately educate residents and employees against domestic violence.’ This law does not criminalize domestic violence or marital rape, however, and does not provide punishments for perpetrators.” The report also pointed out the weak binding power of the criminal law. The relevant provisions of the Criminal Code specify that only women and girls can be victims of rape but does not explain what elements must be present for an act to constitute ‘rape.’

The Socialist Women’s Union of Korea is the most well-known organisation for women of North Korea. While the North Korean government reports that the Women’s Union operates as a civil society organisation that empowers women, the reality shows that they exist only to reinforce the state. According to the NKDB research, women are still expected to become housewives once married, with membership in the Women’s Union incumbent upon marriage and not maintaining a workplace outside home. In interviews with women who were part of the Women’s Union while in North Korea, the vast majority stated that they received no education regarding the rights of women, rather describing the organisation as another way for the state to elicit forced labour and mandatory education on the state’s ideology.

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