UN finds 'deep-rooted gender stereotypes' in the way North Korea treats women

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (R) stands next to his wife Ri Sol Ju
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (R) stands next to his wife Ri Sol Ju as they attend the 2014 Combat Flight Contest among commanding officers of the Korean People's Air Force in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang May 10, 2014. Reuters/KCNA

A new report shows that women in North Korea endure malnutrition, a segregated workforce and rape. Female roles in the rogue nation’s society reportedly only involves bringing up children.

The way North Korea treats women has been assessed, and “deep-rooted gender stereotypes” that put females at a distinct disadvantage was found. The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination released the report, expressing concerns about North Korea’s approach to women.

The law does not provide adequate protection for women from rape and domestic violence, the committee has found. Also, North Korea reportedly does not consider marital rape a crime. Male perpetrators usually went unpunished. Penalties for various forms of rape such as rape of children, repeated rape and rape in the workplace had been lowered, the committee noted.

Its report further points out a limited information available on cases of domestic violence. It also mentions females forced into prostitution and slavery.


“The committee remains concerned that [North Korea’s] approach to women’s rights reflects a protectionist attitude which reinforces cultural and social values ascribing a particular role to women as caregivers and subservient to men and do not result in the substantive equality,” the report reads. It also stresses stereotypes on women’s role in the society.

The discriminatory stereotypes, the committee said, confine females to the “mission” in society and family of upbringing children. Women are responsible for maintaining the family unit, usually at the expense of their physical and emotional health.

The report adds that it impacts women through their life stages from their education to economic opportunities. They are said to be shunned from higher education.

As a result, they are forced to deal with limited job prospects. Deep-rooted gender stereotypes are happening in the classroom as well, with high incidence of sexual harassment in schools.


High levels of malnutrition among women in North Korea were noted in the report. Twenty-eight percent of pregnant and lactating women are considered to be undernourished.

Lack of sex education and contraception is also viewed as a problem. In politics, women are under-represented. It is the same case in human rights committees, universities and courts.

Earlier this week, US President Donald Trump declared that North Korea is a state sponsor of terrorism. The move seeks to boost pressure on the nation to give up its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

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