Women in North Korea endure rape, malnutrition and a segregated workforce that ensures their "subservient" place in society, a United Nations committee has found.

The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women has released a damning assessment of the way the rogue nation treats its women, revealing "deep-rooted gender stereotypes" that put females at a distinct disadvantage.

A woman's role in North Korean society was confined to bringing up children.

North Korean women work at the assembly line of the factory of shoemaker Samduk Inc. at the Kaesong industrial complex. Photo / Getty Images
North Korean women work at the assembly line of the factory of shoemaker Samduk Inc. at the Kaesong industrial complex. Photo / Getty Images

"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 committee said in its final report.

Advertisement

"The committee is also concerned about the persistence of discriminatory stereotypes on the roles and responsibilities of women and men in the family and in society, which confine women to the 'mission' in 'society and family' of 'upbringing and education of children' and make them responsible for maintaining the family unit, often at the expense of their physical safety and emotional wellbeing.

"This impacts women throughout their life cycle, from the education they receive, which for the vast majority ends at the secondary level, the fields of study and career paths they are allowed or encouraged to choose, and limits their economic opportunities."

These "deep-rooted gender stereotypes" extend to the classroom and workplace.

Women are shunned from higher education, which limits their job prospects, and there is a high incidence of sexual harassment in schools.

The stringent gender roles led to a segregated workforce where women were restricted to certain jobs and denied senior positions.

The committee also found that the law did not adequately protect women from domestic violence and rape, and male perpetrators often went unpunished.

Marital rape is not a crime in North Korea and punishments for sexual assault are relatively lenient.

North Korean women work at the assembly line of the factory of South Korean Watch company Romanson at the Kaesong industrial complex. Photo / Getty Images
North Korean women work at the assembly line of the factory of South Korean Watch company Romanson at the Kaesong industrial complex. Photo / Getty Images

The committee noted with regret that penalties for some forms of rape — including rape of children, rape by a work supervisor and repeated rape — had been lowered in 2012. The punishment for forcing a woman in a subordinate position to have sexual intercourse was also reduced from four years' jail to three.

"The committee is also concerned about the limited information available regarding cases of domestic violence filed with the courts, which is indicative of an overall indifference and unresponsiveness, both from the police and the judiciary, towards this crime," the report stated.

The committee expressed concern about women being forced into prostitution and slavery, especially when they fled the country for economic reasons.

"The committee is further concerned that upon repatriation, women victims of trafficking are reportedly sent to labour training camps or prisons, accused of 'illegal border crossing', and may be exposed to further violations of their human rights, including sexual violence by security officials and forced abortions," the report stated.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un delivering a statement in response to U.S. President Donald Trump's speech. Photo / AP
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un delivering a statement in response to U.S. President Donald Trump's speech. Photo / AP

The committee also found there were high levels of malnutrition among women, with 28 per cent of pregnant and lactating women considered to be undernourished.

There is also a lack of contraception and sex education, and women were under-represented in politics, courts, universities, the police force and human rights committees.

The committee also criticised the fact that North Korean laws were not publicly available.

North Korea told the panel earlier this month that the sanctions imposed over its weapons programmes had limited its ability to uphold women's rights, Reuters reported.

US President Donald Trump declared on Monday that North Korea was a state sponsor of terrorism, a move designed to increase pressure on the nation to give up its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.