Page last updated at 01:16 GMT, Saturday, 5 April 2008 02:16 UK

Women face bias worldwide - UN

Indian women. File photo
The report says that 70% of the world's poor are women

Women are discriminated against in almost every country around the world, a UN-commissioned report says.

It says that this is despite the fact that 185 UN member states pledged to outlaw laws favouring men by 2005.

It adds that 70% of the world's poor are women and they own just 1% of the world's titled land.

The report, which was prepared for UN Human Right Commissioner Louise Arbour, says rape within marriage has still not been made a crime in 53 nations.

'Life-long violation'

The report was compiled by Fareda Banda, a law professor at London's School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS).

At a news conference in Geneva, Prof Banda said that other laws discriminating women included statutes on divorce, maternity benefits and pensions.

EVERY woman I know has experienced discrimination or abuse
J K Holtz , Chicago

She said that even basic laws like the legal ages for marriage could have a huge impact on women's lives:

"Many states still have different ages of marriage for young women than they have for young men, and the age for girls is always lower then the age for boys.

"This leads to violations, for example of a girls' right education, if she has to leave school at 14 to get married, and this impacts upon her life chances.

"It ends up being a life-long violation of her rights in terms of forfeiting education, having children too early, possibly being damaged herself."

The report recommends the introduction of a new, separate mechanism to fight discrimination because existing UN and international human rights laws are not being upheld.

It also calls for a new UN expert to focus specifically on laws which damage women's chances in life.

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