London, September 2 : A report published by an influential committee of the United Nations highlights how sexual discrimination has been affecting British women's daily lives.
The UN's Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women points out in its report that British women are under-represented in Parliament, paid less than men at work, and increasingly being sent to prison for committing minor offences.
Noting that only one in five members of the House of Commons and the House of Lords was a woman, the committee called for an improvement in the standing of women.
It also argued for "benchmarks and concrete timetables" to increase their number in political and public life, and to use "special measures" to promote women to positions of leadership.
As regards "gender segregation" in the workplace, the committee said that its members were concerned about the "persistence of occupational segregation between women and men in the labour market and the continuing pay gap, one of the highest in Europe".
The report, suggesting that the average hourly earnings of full-time female employees amount to approximately 83 per cent of men's earnings, also stresses the need for greater measures to tackle violence against women and the practice of forced marriages.
Amnesty International UK said that it strongly supported the committee's recommendation that the British Government implement a national strategy to eliminate violence against women and girls.
"We're delighted that the UN committee underlined the UK's need to review its policy to protect women who are victims of violence but who currently have 'no recourse to public funds' because of their insecure immigration status ... We would urge the UK Government to heed the United Nations' call to re-assess their policy so as to ensure that all women, regardless of their status, can access adequate protection and the support they need," the Independent quoted Liz McKean, gender policy adviser at Amnesty International UK, as saying.
"We would urge the Government to heed the recommendations offered by the UN committee and to redress these failings," Amnesty added.
The UN committee agreed that the UK Government had made new laws and polices to combat discrimination in public life and the workplace, but insisted that more steps should be taken across a broad number of issues.
It recommends: "To that end, the committee urges the state party (UK) to increase the availability of training and capacity-building programmes for women wishing to enter or already in public office."
The report also highlights the treatment of women in prison, saying that many women are being jailed for failing to pay their TV licences or committing other minor offences.
It suggests that the Government "intensify its efforts to reduce the number of women in conflict with the law, including through targeted prevention programmes aimed at addressing the causes of women's criminality."
Specifically, the UN wants to see "alternative sentencing and custodial strategies, including community interventions and services, for women convicted of minor offences."