Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of UN Women, speaks to reporters during a news conference in 2017. FILE PHOTO: African News Agency (ANA)

JOHANNESBURG  - United Nations Women executive director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, will on Tuesday launch the organisation's flagship report about the current status of females in the world.

The report is an extensive assessment of the reality of families today, taking into account sweeping economic, demographic, political and social transformation. It proposes a comprehensive agenda for laws, economic and social policies and public action to ensure gender equality within families and accelerate women’s rights and empowerment.

On Monday, Mlambo-Ngcuka published an opinion piece which argued that too many countries enshrined different legal rights for men and women.

"Discrimination in law is commonplace. It can take the form of different standards for women and men in passport application, the transfer of nationality to a child or foreign spouse, participation in court proceedings, receipt of inheritance or choice of employment or marriage partner," she said.

"Often these laws reflect long-standing exclusion of women and girls from the spaces where laws are designed, implemented or studied. The result has been to normalise – and legitimise – gender inequality."

Mlambo-Ngcuka said more than 2.5 billion women and girls around the world were affected by discriminatory laws and lack of legal protection, often in complex, intersecting ways. 

She said when a state allowed gender discrimination in its nationality laws, it was implicitly endorsing the notion of women as inferior, with 'second class' citizenship. 

"Children can be left stateless when their mothers are unable to pass on their nationality to them, especially when children cannot acquire their fathers’ nationality. As adults, they may not be able to get paid work, move freely, open a bank account, own or inherit property or fully participate in society," she said.

Mlambo-Ngcuka called for a broad law reform and the repeal or revision of discriminatory laws.

UN Women, the African Union, the Commonwealth, the Inter-Parliamentary Union, Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie and Secretaría General Iberoamericana have jointly issued a strategy to fast-track the repeal of discriminatory laws in 100 countries.

"This will address the legal needs of over 50 million women and girls between 2019 and 2023, building on existing related programmes and partnerships and sharing platforms, resources and technical expertise," Mlambo-Nguka said.

- African News Agency (ANA)