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Gender Equality is a Myth? | CSS Essay

Gender Equality is a Myth? | CSS Essay
Written by CSS Times

Gender equality is achieved when women and men enjoy the same rights and opportunities across all sectors of society, including economic participation and decision-making, and when the different behaviors, aspirations and needs of women and men are equally valued and favored. Let’s explore the concept of feminism so that all of us can better understand the issue of gender equality.

What is feminism?

Feminism is the belief that everyone should have equal rights and opportunities regardless of their gender. Simply put, feminism means a belief in gender equality, the belief that both male and females should receive equal treatment and not be discriminated against based on their gender.

Why should you care about feminism?

There are various ways in which gender inequality is affecting every individual of every age, even you.

For example, if you’re a girl, were you told that you can’t participate in a sport because it’s a “boys’ thing”? Did you ever feel that when you spoke up in class, the teacher barely acknowledged your answer whereas when the boys spoke up, they were praised and encouraged to speak?

If yes, you know what gender discrimination is, and you know why feminism is important.

If you’re a boy, did people ever make fun of you when you wanted to play with your sisters’ doll houses? When you hurt your knee or scratched your elbow, were you ever told that “Boys don’t cry”, when in fact the pain was so much that the effort to not cry actually made it worse?

If yes, you’ve felt the restraining influence of gender norms — what society considers male and female behaviour, and the roles males and females are expected to take in society — and you know why feminism is essential for every individual’s freedom.

Gender inequality is limiting the freedom of people to act as individuals; it is trapping them within a narrow range of behaviours when in reality we could all do so much more and be so much more, if we were free to act without the limitations imposed by gender bias.

Who’s a feminist?

It doesn’t matter if you’re a boy or a girl, a woman or a man — if you believe in gender equality for everyone, you’re a feminist.

Nowadays, more and more people are embracing feminism. Some of the self-proclaimed feminists range from Barack Obama and Malala Yousafzai to J.K. Rowling and Ban Ki-moon. Can you think of any others?

What is the cost of gender inequality?

Women and men, girls and boys — we’re all human beings first and our gender is not what defines us, but our humanity does. The sad fact is, even though we’re born with equal abilities, we’re not treated in the same way or given the same opportunities. In some parts of the world — even in some regions of Pakistan — people do not rejoice when a girl is born, whereas a boy’s birth is considered to be a cause for celebration. This is unfortunate and unjustifiable because every human life is equally valuable, and every boy and every girl deserves their parents’ love and care.

Gender stereotypes — in other words ‘fixed ideas about men’s and women’s traits and capabilities and how people should behave, based on their gender’ — come into effect the moment we’re born. Boys are given toys such as trucks, action figures, Lego sets while girls have to play with dolls, tea sets and doll houses. Gender-specific toys — toys intended for either male or female — discourage girls from pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). This is alarming because we need both males and females in these fields to expand the economy, create new ideas and things, and improve the quality of life. If we can break gender stereotypes and allow people to be freer in their choices, we can make the world a better place for each of us.

In the workplace, women do the same amount of work but they’re paid less than men doing the same work. Sometimes, they’re not even allowed to seek employment (which only makes things worse for a family by placing all the financial pressure on the men) because some people wrongly think that a woman’s place is at home. A woman’s place, or a man’s place, or any individual’s place is wherever they want it to be. But as long as gender inequality exists, we will not be able to make free choices for ourselves.

Likewise, millions of girls are deprived of their right to education, even though education is a fundamental human right of everyone and benefits not only the individual, but also the society at large. However, due to gender discrimination, we’re missing the contributions of millions of females all over the world.

Gender norms are also harmful to men, who are supposed to act tough all the time and hide their feelings (especially vulnerability), even though bottled up emotions hurt their psychological health in the long run and may lead to anger or violent behaviour, and other destructive reactions.

While these are just a few examples of how we’re hurting our world by ignoring the basic issue of gender inequality, there are innumerable ways in which this phenomenon plays out in every area of our lives. The way to fight it is to be aware of how it seeps into our lives and what steps we can take to stop it.

However, the tales tell that this very trail has never been smooth. Women have always been, and still are, subject to violence and objectification. For as long a history can tell, be it any era, civilization or culture – Greeks or Aryans, European or Arabs, Muslims or Hindus – women have been treated despicably in every possible manner. Women, since their birth as a ‘different’, yet not inferior, gender have been dealing with such impregnable challenges.

To live free from violence and inhumane treatment is one of the most fundamental human rights that should be given to everyone regardless of gender. Yet, it is estimated that one in every three women worldwide experience violence and in some countries, almost 70 percent of women have their basic human rights violated. These manifestations of violence range from rape to domestic abuse, honor-killing and acid burnings.

According to the Girls and Women’s Education Initiative, an organization that attempts to meet the needs of the educationally disadvantaged, “one in three women and girls in the developing world live on less than $2 a day.” The same amount of money we usually spend on a bottle of water is the same amount other people have to stretch in order to feed themselves and their family, buy clothes, pay rent while trying to send one’s children to school; a strenuous choice that often has negative effects on young women who are often excluded from gaining an education.

According the 2012 report “Because I am a Girl,” only 74 percent of young women between the age of 11 and 15 are in school globally, compared to 83 percent of boys. As indicated by the report, these numbers do not share the reality of poorer and rural girls or girls in conflict-affected regions. Consequently, the average number would drop even further if these lives were to be included.

It’s essential to remember that once young women are excluded from school, choices become few and far between, leaving marriage as the most practical path one can take to survive poverty. It is estimated that more than 10,000 girls a day will eventually get married before they turn 15 and most of them give birth before they turn 18. Unfortunately, the world is already losing too many young lives to maternal mortality.

According to the 2012 report by the World Health Organization, every day, more than 800 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. Moreover, 99 percent of all maternal deaths occur in developing countries.

When examining the world and the listless issues that women face, particularly in developing countries, one can quickly make the assertion that industrialized countries like the U.S. have come a long way and the work of feminism has been very fruitful in achieving gender equality. But this is a fallacious proclamation that erases everyday reality of women.

The Global Gender Gap report 2017 is out and Pakistan continues to rank second worst country with the rank of 143 out of 144 countries, with a score of 0.546 on a scale where zero denotes gender imparity and one represents parity. However, before we go into the specifics of findings, there is need to take stock of the larger framework of efforts to promote gender equality.

Pakistan continues to rank among the bottom most countries by Global Gender Gap report for many years since its inception in 2006. One can discuss specifics year after year and there has been some improvement in some indicators, yet the overall scenario remains unchanged.

There are three main stakeholders working to promote gender equality: the government of Pakistan, international donors and civil society. All of them need to hold themselves accountable and show results that bear improvement in gender equality status in Pakistan.

Rather we’ve failed as human beings to achieve the real goal of humanism that attaches more importance to human beings above any standards, after shedding all lenses of biases. In a country that dominates the world by its immense military power, high economic growth, sophisticated technology and weapons; a country that claims to be a savior of humanity and liberal values, fails to elect its first ever going-to-be woman president, not because she was incompetent, but just for something her husband did more than sixteen years ago. Isn’t it a depiction of discrimination and bias? It certainly is, and if not, one needs to shed the ‘tinted glass’. The tale does not end here; in another part of the world, that too, the profounder of basic human rights publicly shames, insults and criticizes a woman for wearing an ‘extra’ piece of cloth – a burkini, while visiting the beach. The cloth is however only meant to cover her body. Yet, in another part of the world, a woman is being killed for ‘showing-off’ her body on social media in practice of her freedom. Ironically, no savior of humanity and human rights speaks in favor of wearing bikini as result of freedom of choice in this part of the world. The dilemma is, no matter how civilized, modern and liberal a nation is, it can never put down the arrows of tirade pointed at women. If a woman accuses a man for harassing or sexually abusing her, it is not that man’s fault but it’s the fault of the woman who provoked him to commit such heinous acts. But one may ask, what about little innocent girls who become victim of a man’s lecherousness? Is this, once again, their fault in some way that incited a man to assault them? No, it certainly is not! But then who is to be blamed and held accountable? This is a question many would avoid answering.

The anathema of our society is that it cannot stop slut-shaming just to scour the sins of the male gender. Hence, in this world of cat-calling, hooting, harassing, torturing and killing of women, gender equality can be anything but reality.

For decades, blood has been spilled and tears shared in order to achieve gender equality. We have fought for the right of girls and women to be seen and heard as human beings; to be respected for their individual work, dedication, and integrity. More importantly, to make sure that they are able to walk safely on this earth without fearing that their gender might be the cause for an early, unjustifiable and inhumane death. Women in this world are not asking for much. All they want, and most definitely deserve, is to be treated and respected as human beings; a cost-free demand that should be in everyone’s interest to provide.

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