VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The need to recognize women as having equal worth as men and allow them to fully exercise their human rights is increasingly urgent due to the “resurgence of divisions in today’s world,” a top Vatican official told the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva.

“An increased fragmentation of social relations in our multicultural societies, with spontaneous acts and words of racism and xenophobia, social and racial discrimination, and political exploitation of differences, is evident in everyday experiences,” said Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic, Vatican observer to U.N. agencies in Geneva.

During a Sept. 25 speech regarding the impact of racial discrimination and intolerance on the human rights of women, the archbishop explained that women are “too often undervalued” and vulnerable to discrimination, not only when they are part of an ethnic, religious or linguistic minority, but for simply being women.

He said that women provide “an irreplaceable value in political, economic and social life,” and he emphasized the need to eliminate any form of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance toward women.

He told the council that recognizing the equal dignity and fundamental rights of all people is not enough. Legislation should be coupled with education — at school and in homes — for shaping minds and forming consciences that recognize differences as a richness and reject all forms of racism, he said.

He also called on government agencies, the media and others to avoid stereotyping minorities, saying they “must join the rest of society in upholding human dignity.”

“To overcome the moral bankruptcy of prejudice, it is essential to put in place a real solidarity at the social, national and international level, founded on the recognition of everyone as having equal human worth,” the archbishop said.