UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres denounced gender inequality as an “overwhelming injustice” across the globe and said that the 21st century “must be the century for women’s equality”.

Speaking ahead of the annual meeting of the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women in New York next month, Guterres warned that the state of women’s rights was dire and said he would seek to end “default male thinking” across the United Nations.

“Just as slavery and colonialism were a stain on previous centuries, women’s inequality should shame us all in the 21st. Because it is not only unacceptable; it is stupid,” Guterres said in a speech to The New School in New York.

“Legal protections against rape and domestic violence are being diluted or rolled back in some places. Rape within marriage continues to be legal in 34 countries. Women’s sexual and reproductive rights are under threat from different sides,” he said.

He insisted that the discrimination affects all women, including the leaders and public figures who face “harassment, threats and abuse online and offline” and who are excluded from the highest levels in politics, business or art.

The US Supreme Court ruled in 1973 that women have the right to choose whether or not to have an abortion but the issue is still divisive in the United States.

Guterres said that 137 women are killed around the world every day by a member of their own family.

“In other words, we have men waging war on women, but no one is calling for a ceasefire or imposing sanctions,” he denounced.

The digital divide and technology bias against women and political representation complete the areas in which Guterres identified gender equality as a priority.

 (With inputs from agency)