90% of people worldwide found to be biased against women

A third of men and women think it’s acceptable for a man to beat his wife, finds UN study

Sophie Gallagher
Thursday 05 March 2020 11:39 GMT

Almost 90 per cent of people are biased against women, according to new findings published by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) on Thursday.

Despite steps towards closing the equality gap, 91 per cent of men and 86 per cent of women hold at least one bias against women regarding politics, economics, education, violence or reproductive rights.

This is the first ever ‘gender social norm index’ conducted by the UNDP, analysing data from 75 countries that make up more than 80 per cent of the world’s population.

It found almost 50 per cent think men are superior politicians and more than 40 per cent believe men make better business leaders.

A third of men and women think it’s acceptable for a man to beat his wife.

The data was collected from 2005-09 and 2010-2014, the latest year for which there is data.

Of the 75 countries studied, there were only six in which the majority of people held no bias towards women.

Even in Andorra, Australia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and Sweden – found to be some of the most progressive societies – only half of the population were totally free from gender prejudice.

Pedro Conceição, director of the UNDP’s human development report office, said of the findings: “We all know we live in a male-dominated world, but with this report we are able to put some numbers behind these biases.

“And the numbers, I consider them shocking,” he added.

And the problem in some places is getting worse, he said: “If you take the overall average of the information we have, we show that on average we are sliding back – that biases, instead of shrinking, are growing back.”

Sweden, for example, was one of several countries – including South Africa, India, Rwanda and Brazil – in which the number of people who held at least one bias increased over the nine years.

More than half of people in the UK and the US held at least one bias.

As a result of the survey, the UNDP is calling on governments to introduce legislation and policies that address the ingrained gender prejudice evident in the findings.

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