Global Issue Women's Rights and Gender Equality Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Women's Rights

Although women have seen substantial progress as a group in the United States due to the women's rights movement, globally women still struggle to attain parity with men, particularly in the resource-poor developing world. Although women have assumed politically prominent leadership positions in the U.S., Germany, Canada, and other major national powerhouses, overall, females have struggled to attain parity with men in the world community as a whole. Globally, women make up "just 17% of parliamentarians" and "over the past 25 years only 1 in 40 women were peace agreement signatories" (Inequality statistics. 2014 Womankind Worldwide). There are significant health disparities regarding women's health: for example, "99% of maternal deaths occur in developing countries, with women continuing to die of pregnancy-related causes at the rate of one a minute" and while "women produce up to 80% of food in developing countries" they are "more likely to be hungry than men, and are often denied the right to own land" (Inequality statistics. 2014 Womankind Worldwide).

Women have less access to adequate food, high-paying work and are often politically and economically disenfranchised, resulting in what is often called the 'feminization of poverty.' They lack the tools to ameliorate their condition in a meaningful fashion. "Of all the people in the world living in poverty, 70% are women. They are also more often the primary caretakers of children, which further drains their resources. Women also constitute the majority of the 1.5 billion people living on $1 a day or less" (Abbate, 2010). The term 'feminized poverty' refers not only to the immediate status of women as less financially well-off than men but also to the structural inequalities that make it so challenging to remedy their circumstances. "Being naturally classified as caretakers, women have often been corralled into specific lines of work, such as teaching, caring for children and the elderly, domestic servitude, and factory work such as textile production. These kinds of jobs lack stability, security and a higher income" (Abbate, 2010). By virtue of being perceived as caretakers women are thus relegated to a status whereby they are seen as automatically second-class citizens. Women who are single mothers are the most vulnerable to falling into poverty (Feminization of poverty, 2014, Boundless).

Violence against women is still tacitly normalized in many regions of the world. "Recent global prevalence figures indicate that 35% of women worldwide have experienced either intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime" and "on average, 30% of women who have been in a relationship report that they have experienced some form of physical or sexual violence by their partner" (Violence against women, 2013, WHO). Women are also more likely to be victims of violent crime, including sex- and employment-related crimes like human trafficking (where women are often duped or coerced into entering the sex trade or working for slave wages).

Creating an effective public policy response to this is challenging given the profound cultural as well as economic obstacles in the face of change. Improving access to education is seen as a critical tool of female empowerment, as is ensuring women have control over their fertility (this is also vital in stopping the spread of AIDS, a disease from which women suffer disproportionately in the developing world where condom use is still not accepted in many areas). Helping women is a vitally important issue to study given that women make up of the majority of the world's population -- yet are also disenfranchised and denied their basic rights. Improving women's state of being is critically tied to improving literacy; improving health and sanitary conditions; and also reducing over population.

The world over, women and girls still remain prone to many negative activities such as trafficking where they are forced into hard labor or slavery, especially for sex. These deny them opportunities to access education and participation in societal activities such as politics. In some communities, women are prone to rape, which is deemed as a weapon of war. These are some of the challenges facing women.

In terms of maternal health, women face challenges as a result of deaths as a result of pregnancy. In developing countries, maternal mortality remains high and these are preventable in many ways. Often, governments and public health agencies have organized efforts to eliminate needless maternal deaths but these have little chance of success when taking into consideration the huge societal inequalities, lack of education, and lack of protection of women rights, which create deeper issues preventing women from benefitting from these laudable activities.

In Muslim countries, efforts to empower women have also been unsuccessful as a result of reformers and traditionalists being unwilling to let go of their traditional views. In Islam, even in developed countries, the religion allows misogynist views to be perpetrated. Women are generally disallowed from doing many things without their husband's approval such as travelling outside town. Other misogynist views include that a witness statement provided by a woman is half that provided by a man and that the inheritance that a woman gets must be half that of the other males. During their menses, women are also barred from performing their obligations as a result of being seen as 'unclean'. These traditionalist views are perpetrated and many a times Sharia law continues to indicate that women are inferior to men. Some scholars have argued that the fact that women are given some inheritance and recognition as witnesses, albeit unequal to men, is a revolution to the traditional Islamic misogynist views. These scholars also argue that most Muslim communities involve women in their rituals and cultural obligations compared to other communities suggesting Islam has made great strides in improving gender equality (Frias, 2008). They also paint the picture that traditionally women were not allowed to hold political offices, which is not the case today as seen in countries such as Pakistan, Turkey, and Bangladesh where women hold many key political positions (Lagerlof, 2003). However, whatever side a person looks at the argument, it is evident there is still a lot of effort required to achieve full gender equality in Muslim countries and states.

There is growing recognition of the fact that countries and efforts to promote gender equality cannot be sustained by sidelining the population. The population is key in ensuring the efforts made to promote gender equality. The population thus needs to be educated and provided with equal opportunities for work. They also need to be included in decision-making regarding strategies to promote gender equality in order to introduce sensible and feasible laws (Noia, 2002). These laws need to focus on equal pay for equal positions in the workplace, equal opportunities for education and work, and safeguarding of women's rights. The population needs to ensure these strategies are sustained through changing attitudes towards women.

Gender equality is thought to stem greatly from obstacles that women face in their involvement in normal public and private life. They are prevented from equal decision-making in terms of decisions they make and the opportunities they have to make these equal decisions. With the backlash of rape, battering, and other activities such as female genital mutilation (FGM) looming in their shadows, it is evident that women are still not welcome in round table discussions about gender equality (Norgaard & York, 2005).

Groups and organizations that promote women's rights are also underfunded and they face different challenges. Though their focus is largely on issues affecting women and girls, their work spans across all genders since they have sensitization work to be conducted at all levels to promote gender equality by raising awareness of the benefits of gender equality and working to increase equality using basic interventions and strategies (Eastin & Prakash, 2013).

In developing countries, these organizations have been unsuccessful since they do not draw on pragmatic and feasible solutions…

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