The Myth of Gender Equality: Just How Far Do We Need To Go To Achieve It?

Posted: July 20, 2019

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Is gender equality still a myth or are we on the track to tackle the elephant in the room that is feminism? A journalist writes about her observations.

While working as a journalist in a media portal, I came across a report by the United Nations that said that no country is really on track to achieve gender equality.

Alison Holder, the director of Equal Measures 2030 that put together the SDG Gender Index report said that countries are literally failing millions of women and girls.

The report revealed that wealthy countries like Sweden and Finland are faring better while poorer countries such as Yemen and Nigeria are suffering. It is no secret that poverty and oppression of women go hand-in-hand because factors such as education, health and employment are all prioritised towards men.

Mainstream feminism in itself is filled with women from privileged races, class and caste across the world. Which means that marginalised women suffer more, mostly due to their lack of voice.

Gender equality is more than a goal in itself. It is a precondition for meeting the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development and building good governance,” – Nobel peace prize winner Kofi Annan.

Existing discriminatory practices

If gender equality is represented by a woman struggling to swim then discriminatory practices are a rock tied to her feet that drags her to the depths of the ocean.

Female genital mutilation, child marriage, sexual violation, systemic discrimination, lack of access to health and education are persisting forms of discrimination that are backed by cultural and ritualistic practices. Most of them are tied to religious fundamentalism and it no secret that all religions are regulated by men in their roles as priests, imams, preachers, writers, etcetera.

Due to this massive influence of fundamentalism and simultaneous lack of access to those resources that empower make women vulnerable to discrimination. Mind you, some times, women themselves perpetuate the same.

Horrifying move backwards in different sectors

America is currently making a terrifying move backwards by cutting access to safe and legal abortion, even to minor rape survivors and this is justified with the help of religious fundamentalism.

Alabama made all abortions illegal;  a bill is set in motion to make miscarriages illegal in Georgia which may put women in jail for over 30 years. Texas is going for capital punishment for women who seek an abortion.

The painful ironic reality is that there were plenty of cases where Caucasian rapists were lenient to no jail term, even for raping minors. Which means that rape survivors who seek abortion will go jail longer than men who rape them.

Further the lawmakers are also making access to birth control difficult with one of them even claiming it was the reasons why pregnancies don’t happen.

America’s global influence will only affect other countries to make similar moves. Trump’s Muslim ban influenced Kuwait to make a similar move.

We know what abortion laws did to a woman in Ireland. The point is that the right to an abortion is closely tied to women’s reproductive health where her physical, mental, physiological and psychological health is taken into consideration along with this problematic factor called population explosion.

More than that, history screams on how sexuality and pregnancy is often both a boon and a bane for women judging by how society treated her.
We have seen Saudi Arabia take two steps back when they banned women from driving. Though the male guardianship law is relaxed, they introduced an app to track women’s movements.

Brunei introduced the draconian stoning to death law only to be revoked at the last minute. A community in South India wanted a girl’s marital age to be reduced from 18 to 16.

The fact is that although countries are struggling to move forward, there are also these attempts to take women’s rights and human rights backwards.

While striving for equality, this hijacking of the process by fundamentalism and dictatorship is a concern.

Marriage, children and sexual exploitation

Women face the responsibilities of domestic work and often don’t have to share the same with their men. They are forced to take part-time jobs to raise children, due to which they don’t get to excel in their field.

Another factor that stops women empowerment is sexual exploitation. Just like the social 6 pm curfew in India, sexual exploitation is often an obstruction between women and their career.

Possibility of facing sexual exploitation and chastity is often the foundation of marriage or even child marriage. Both of which are seen as processes to keeping women “safe”.

The #MeToo movement managed to expose some of the workplace toxicity and harassment but even then it became less about making the workplace safe for women and more about telling men not interact with women like it was seen in Wallstreet.

Sexual exploitation as a power structure gives women more disadvantages on a personal note such as preventing them from taking night shifts and travelling. Due to these reasons, most companies are reluctant to hire women. The transport sector still sees a meagre number of women’s participation.

Existing gender gap

If you look at any field, right from STEM to education; from politics to business to arts and agriculture, every area is mostly male-dominated. Apart from the history that has been denying access to women, cultural obstacles still play a role in denying women enough access. Added to that, sexist stereotypes related to women’s inability to deliver work as well as men in traditional masculine sectors such as governance, politics, and all adds fuel to the fire.

There was another report from Japan, where a University rigged the entrance exam results in given men an unfair advantage. After it was removed, women ended up faring better than men!
Culture plays a huge role in cutting women’s access to higher education and career for the sake of marriage and children.

Wrong notions of equality and dismissal

A prominent Malayalam actor, when asked about the equality in Malayalam cinema initially, said that men and women are equal and he never witnessed anything wrong.

He later clarified that men and women can’t be equal due to the physicality. “Men can’t give birth,” is one of the arguments he used. It is not just his but many others’ rebuttal to the question.

Equality is looked at as something at par with physicality and physiology instead of it being about cerebral matter or the development of skills. It is the talents and skills that make a person.

Added to that, a lot of people see women’s lack of participation in providing and lack of pressure on them to be in the earning sector as a ‘privilege’. Which is not true and that is the point.

Equality is about harmony and about making sure there is no bar or obstacle, as far as gender, sexual orientation and race are concerned especially when it comes to access to education, employment, security, freedom and individuality.

We need to keep striving towards this equality  for the sake of the next generation.

Picture Credits: Pixabay

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