UN: North Korean women suffer discrimination, rape and malnutrition

 

GENEVA, Nov 20 (Reuters) - North Korean women are deprived of education and job opportunities and are often subjected to violence at home and sexual assault in the workplace, a U.N. human rights panel said on Monday.

After a regular review of Pyongyang's record, the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women also voiced concern at rape or mistreatment of women in detention especially those repatriated after fleeing abroad.

North Korean women are "under-represented or disadvantaged" in tertiary education, the judiciary, security and police forces and leadership and managerial positions "in all non-traditional areas of work," the panel of independent experts said.

"The main issue is first of all the lack of information. We have no access to a large part of laws, elements and information on national machinery," Nicole Ameline, panel member, told Reuters. "We have asked a lot of questions."

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North Korea celebrates 20th anniversary of Kim Jong Il's appointment
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North Korea celebrates 20th anniversary of Kim Jong Il's appointment
North Koreans celebrate the 20th anniversary of former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's appointment as the General Secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea in Pyongyang October 8, 2017 in this photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on October 9, 2017. KCNA/via REUTERS. ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Fireworks explode as North Koreans celebrate the 20th anniversary of former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's appointment as the General Secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea in Pyongyang October 8, 2017 in this photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on October 9, 2017. KCNA/via REUTERS. ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT.
North Koreans celebrate the 20th anniversary of former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's appointment as the General Secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea in Pyongyang October 8, 2017 in this photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on October 9, 2017. KCNA/via REUTERS. ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT.
In a photo taken on October 8, 2017 participants described as 'working people, youth, and students of Pyongyang' perform during a mass gala event marking the 20th anniversary of late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's election as general secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) on Kim Il-Sung square in central Pyongyang. Meanwhile North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un has promoted his sister to a senior ruling party post, state media said, and praised the country's nuclear weapons programme which has sparked international alarm. / AFP PHOTO / KIM Won-Jin (Photo credit should read KIM WON-JIN/AFP/Getty Images)
In a photo taken on October 8, 2017 participants described as 'working people, youth, and students of Pyongyang' perform during a mass gala event marking the 20th anniversary of late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's election as general secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) on Kim Il-Sung square in central Pyongyang. Meanwhile North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un has promoted his sister to a senior ruling party post, state media said, and praised the country's nuclear weapons programme which has sparked international alarm. / AFP PHOTO / KIM Won-Jin (Photo credit should read KIM WON-JIN/AFP/Getty Images)
In a photo taken on October 8, 2017 participants described as 'working people, youth, and students of Pyongyang' perform during a mass gala event marking the 20th anniversary of late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's election as general secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) on Kim Il-Sung square in central Pyongyang. Meanwhile North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un has promoted his sister to a senior ruling party post, state media said, and praised the country's nuclear weapons programme which has sparked international alarm. / AFP PHOTO / KIM Won-Jin (Photo credit should read KIM WON-JIN/AFP/Getty Images)
In a photo taken on October 8, 2017 participants described as 'working people, youth, and students of Pyongyang' perform during a mass gala event marking the 20th anniversary of late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's election as general secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) on Kim Il-Sung square in central Pyongyang. Meanwhile North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un has promoted his sister to a senior ruling party post, state media said, and praised the country's nuclear weapons programme which has sparked international alarm. / AFP PHOTO / KIM Won-Jin (Photo credit should read KIM WON-JIN/AFP/Getty Images)
In a photo taken on October 8, 2017 participants described as 'working people, youth, and students of Pyongyang' perform during a mass gala event marking the 20th anniversary of late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's election as general secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) on Kim Il-Sung square in central Pyongyang. Meanwhile North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un has promoted his sister to a senior ruling party post, state media said, and praised the country's nuclear weapons programme which has sparked international alarm. / AFP PHOTO / KIM Won-Jin (Photo credit should read KIM WON-JIN/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - In a photo taken on October 8, 2017 participants described as 'working people, youth, and students of Pyongyang' watch fireworks as they perform during a mass gala event marking the 20th anniversary of late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's election as general secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) on Kim Il-Sung square in central Pyongyang. Meanwhile North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un has promoted his sister to a senior ruling party post, state media said, and praised the country's nuclear weapons programme which has sparked international alarm. / AFP PHOTO / KIM Won-Jin (Photo credit should read KIM WON-JIN/AFP/Getty Images)
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North Korea told the panel on Nov. 8 that it was working to uphold women's rights and gender equality but that sanctions imposed by major powers over its nuclear and missile programs were taking a toll on vulnerable mothers and children.

Domestic violence is prevalent and there is "very limited awareness" about the issue and a lack of legal services, psycho-social support and shelters available for victims, the panel said.

It said economic sanctions had a disproportionate impact on women. North Korean women suffer "high levels of malnutrition," with 28 percent of pregnant or lactating women affected, it said.

"We have called on the government to be very, very attentive to the situation of food and nutrition. Because we consider that it is a basic need and that the government has to invest and to assume its responsibilities in this field," Ameline said.

"Unfortunately I am not sure that the situation will improve very quickly."

The report found that penalties for rape in North Korea were not commensurate with the severity of the crime, which also often goes unpunished. Legal changes in 2012 lowered the penalties for some forms of rape, including the rape of children, rape by a work supervisor and repeated rape.

This has led to reducing the punishment for forcing "a woman in a subordinate position" to have sexual intercourse from four years to three years, the report said.

It said women trafficked abroad and then returned to North Korea, are reported to be sent to labor training camps or prisons, accused of "illegal border crossing," and may be exposed to further violations of their rights, including sexual violence by security officials and forced abortions. (Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Robin Pomeroy and Alison Williams)

RELATED: See photos of Kim Jong-Un's wife, Ri Sol-ju: 

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Kim Jong-un's wife, Ri Sol-ju
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Kim Jong-un's wife, Ri Sol-ju
This undated picture released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on October 29, 2017 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (C) inspecting the Pyongyang Cosmetics Factory, as his wife Ri Sol-Ju (R, floral dress) looks on. / AFP PHOTO / KCNA VIA KNS / STR / South Korea OUT / REPUBLIC OF KOREA OUT ---EDITORS NOTE--- RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT 'AFP PHOTO/KCNA VIA KNS' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS THIS PICTURE WAS MADE AVAILABLE BY A THIRD PARTY. AFP CAN NOT INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, LOCATION, DATE AND CONTENT OF THIS IMAGE. THIS PHOTO IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY AFP. / (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
This undated picture released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on October 29, 2017 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (2nd L) inspecting the Pyongyang Cosmetics Factory, as his wife Ri Sol-Ju (R) looks on. / AFP PHOTO / KCNA VIA KNS / STR / South Korea OUT / REPUBLIC OF KOREA OUT ---EDITORS NOTE--- RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT 'AFP PHOTO/KCNA VIA KNS' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS THIS PICTURE WAS MADE AVAILABLE BY A THIRD PARTY. AFP CAN NOT INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, LOCATION, DATE AND CONTENT OF THIS IMAGE. THIS PHOTO IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY AFP. / (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
This undated picture released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on October 29, 2017 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (L) inspecting the Pyongyang Cosmetics Factory, as his wife Ri Sol-Ju (2nd R) looks on. / AFP PHOTO / KCNA VIA KNS / STR / South Korea OUT / REPUBLIC OF KOREA OUT ---EDITORS NOTE--- RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT 'AFP PHOTO/KCNA VIA KNS' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS THIS PICTURE WAS MADE AVAILABLE BY A THIRD PARTY. AFP CAN NOT INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, LOCATION, DATE AND CONTENT OF THIS IMAGE. THIS PHOTO IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY AFP. / (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
This undated picture released by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on September 10, 2017 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (front C) and his wife Ri Sol-Ju (front 2nd L) attending an art performance dedicated to nuclear scientists and technicians, who worked on a hydrogen bomb which the regime claimed to have successfully tested, at the People's Theatre in Pyongyang. / AFP PHOTO / KCNA VIA KNS / STR / South Korea OUT / REPUBLIC OF KOREA OUT ---EDITORS NOTE--- RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT 'AFP PHOTO/KCNA VIA KNS' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS THIS PICTURE WAS MADE AVAILABLE BY A THIRD PARTY. AFP CAN NOT INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, LOCATION, DATE AND CONTENT OF THIS IMAGE. THIS PHOTO IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY AFP. / (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
This undated picture released by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on September 10, 2017 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (centre row 2nd L) and his wife Ri Sol-Ju (centre row L) attending an art performance dedicated to nuclear scientists and technicians, who worked on a hydrogen bomb which the regime claimed to have successfully tested, at the People's Theatre in Pyongyang. / AFP PHOTO / KCNA VIA KNS / STR / South Korea OUT / REPUBLIC OF KOREA OUT ---EDITORS NOTE--- RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT 'AFP PHOTO/KCNA VIA KNS' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS THIS PICTURE WAS MADE AVAILABLE BY A THIRD PARTY. AFP CAN NOT INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, LOCATION, DATE AND CONTENT OF THIS IMAGE. THIS PHOTO IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY AFP. / (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
This picture taken by North Korean news agency KCNA (Korean Central News Agency) on March 2, 2017 and released on March 3 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (C) and his wife Ri Sol-Ju (2nd R) visiting the Mangyongdae Revolutionary School in Pyongyang to plant trees with its students on a tree planting day. / AFP PHOTO / KCNA VIA KNS / STR / South Korea OUT / REPUBLIC OF KOREA OUT ---EDITORS NOTE--- RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT 'AFP PHOTO/KCNA VIA KNS' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS THIS PICTURE WAS MADE AVAILABLE BY A THIRD PARTY. AFP CAN NOT INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, LOCATION, DATE AND CONTENT OF THIS IMAGE. THIS PHOTO IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY AFP. / REPUBLIC OF KOREA OUT ---EDITORS NOTE--- RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT 'AFP PHOTO / KCNA VIA KNS' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
This March 2, 2017 picture released by North Korean news agency, KCNA (Korean Central News Agency) on March 3, 2017 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (C) and his wife Ri Sol-Ju (front 2nd R) visiting the Mangyongdae Revolutionary School in Pyongyang to plant trees with its students on the Tree-planting Day. REPUBLIC OF KOREA OUT ---EDITORS NOTE--- RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT 'AFP PHOTO / KCNA VIA KNS' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS / AFP PHOTO / KCNA VIA KNS / STR / South Korea OUT / REPUBLIC OF KOREA OUT ---EDITORS NOTE--- RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT 'AFP PHOTO/KCNA VIA KNS' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS THIS PICTURE WAS MADE AVAILABLE BY A THIRD PARTY. AFP CAN NOT INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, LOCATION, DATE AND CONTENT OF THIS IMAGE. THIS PHOTO IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY AFP. / REPUBLIC OF KOREA OUT ---EDITORS NOTE--- RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT 'AFP PHOTO / KCNA VIA KNS' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
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