Ever since god created the universe and created Adam and Eve the question of man and woman being equal has become increasingly debatable. It is the official start of gender equality issue. Many men argue that if women were superior or equal to men then god would have made woman first.
As time progressed women took on a more subservient role first that of a daughter , then a loyal and faithful wife and then as a loving and caring mother.
Her work involved performing all domestic chores, cleaning, washing, cooking and maintaining the house in proper condition.
Women had no say in worldly matters, politics, government, commerce which for centuries was the domain of the man.
Of course, there have been exceptions where women of royalty or privileged backgrounds have dominated the world stage such as Isabella of Spain whose patronage of Christopher Columbus helped him discover the new world in what is the present-day the USA.
Queen Elizabeth, I who ruled England at the height of England’s glory days under whose reign the Spanish Armada was defeated.
However, the average woman always felt restricted and confined and never felt equal.
Throughout the ages, women have relentlessly crusaded for gender equality demanding not to be judged on the basis of their sex.
What actually is gender equality, which is also defined as sex equality, gender egalitarianism, sexual equality, or equality of the genders.
It is a generally held view that everyone should receive equal treatment and not be discriminated against on the basis of gender .This is one of the objectives of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights which seeks to create equality in law and in social situations, such as in democratic activities and securing equal pay for equal work.
It is perhaps in the last 100 years the terms Suffragettes, feminism, sexist or other gender-related remarks were heard.
Suffragettes were members of women’s organizations in the late-19th and early-20th centuries which advocated the extension of the “franchise”, or the right to vote in public elections, to women. It particularly refers to militants in the United Kingdom such as members of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU). Suffragist is a more general term for members of the suffrage movement.
In the western world it can be said that gender equality has made significant strides especially in the European countries, Canada and the United States of America where women have actively struggled for their rights and laws have been promulgated protecting women in their homes, at the workplace, particularly in cases of sexual harassment, granting them rights to proceed against any form of gender discrimination In the sixties and seventies women came out in street burning bras as a symbolic gesture to demand equality.
They even demanded that when a man is unmarried he is called Mr and even after marriage he is called Mr whereas in case of females they are called Miss when unmarried and Mrs when married and this should change and so now in the west a married woman has the right to call herself Ms or Mrs as she so chooses.
There are some countries that have achieved a high example of gender equality for example Finland where women have been accorded very high opportunities in public and professional life but at the same time they have a very weak record on violence against women.
Women or gender issues are multifarious and even in countries where the status of women is very high many issues need to be addressed the two major ones being sexual violence and spousal abuse.
Japan has made a lot of progress with its feminist movement which has resulted in the Gender Equality Bureau where women can have their grievances redressed
However, in the lesser developed countries of the world as in Asia and Africa, It is a harsh and very sad fact that despite this day and age gender equality is virtually non-existent.
In the Middle Eastern countries and the Subcontinent, women have the far way to go even before it can be said that they have attained the same semblance of gender quality. Firstly it is a sad fact that cultural preference in this part of the world is for a male child even in China.
In India ,Pakistan and other parts of Asia the birth of a girl child is frowned upon as families prefer males to carry on family and where patriarchal culture is predominant. Cases of female feticide are one of the highest in India where the female fetus is aborted.
Another very disturbing feature with regard to women is honor killings where women are brutally murdered for what male members of the family say besmirching the honor and name of the family. In Pakistan, Vani (forcible marriage of young child brides to members of another clan or tribe to atone for the sins or crimes of a male member of her tribe), Haq Bakhshish (Marriage to the Holy Quran, the holy book of Muslims simply to prevent female members to claim their share of property if they marry outside the family.
Lack of education, abject poverty, slave bondage and a feudal mindset contribute to the miserable circumstances women find themselves in that part of the world.
Pakistan, where there is a growing female population and Benazir Bhutto, the Oxford and Harvard educated, was elected twice as Prime Minister very little could be achieved with regard to women’s issues and their mistreatment.
Although human rights groups, NGOs, the United Nations, women’s are doing their best to alleviate the sufferings of the women the situation is still abysmal.
Religious and social taboos, superstitions and sheer illiteracy are also factors that play a major role in the miserable plight of women especially in the rural areas in the sub-continent.
So what exactly can be done to create a culture of gender equality where it is needed to be addressed the most.
They say that education is the panacea for all evils but unfortunately the underdeveloped countries have not given much importance and allocated only a minuscule portion of their annual budgets to education
Respect for women and their status in society must be ingrained into the minds of people. Women can not be treated as chattel or mere child breeding machines. Society must realize and believe in the famous saying “If you educate a man you educate an individual, You educate a woman you educate a family”.
In all religions the status of women is equal to the man and religious scholars must play an active role in preaching this vital point to the population at large. The government must promulgate anti-honour killing laws, anti-discriminatory laws, Child marriages, spousal abuse and other despicable practices.
In Africa the issue of Female Genital Mutilation, a barbaric practice is very common where young women who reach puberty hair circumcised to prevent them having sex.
UNICEF has estimated that 200 million women have undergone this procedure up to 2016. It is being practiced in 27 countries in Africa, as well as in Indonesia, Iraqi Kurdistan and Yemen, with a rate of 80–98 percent within the 15–49 age group in Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Guinea, Mali, Sierra Leone, Somalia and Sudan. The practice is also found elsewhere in Asia, the Middle East, and among communities from these areas around the world.
It is abhorrent and deeply rooted in gender inequality and attempts to control women’s sexuality and ideas about purity, modesty, and aesthetics. It is usually initiated and carried out by women, who see it as a source of honor, and who fear that failing to have their daughters and granddaughters cut will expose the girls to isolation.
FGM has been outlawed or restricted in most of the countries in which it occurs, but the laws are poorly enforced.
The United Nations has tried to prevent the practice with partial success.
In the west, females have risen to the top as in the case of Angela Merkel, the powerful chancellor of Germany. Theresa May has become the leader of the UK and it is quite likely that a woman will be elected to the most powerful office in the world. The president of the United States of America. Women are emancipated, liberal in their views and men treat them as equals a lesson leaders of the underdeveloped countries need to understand.
Thus, promoting gender equality is seen as an encouragement to greater economic prosperity and progress and in 2008, Arabs countries were warned that denying women equality would jeopardize their return as ranking leaders in commerce, learning, and culture if they continue to retain their culturally accepted attitudes towards the status of women.
A lot has to be done if we really wish to promote and cultivate a worldwide culture of gender equality but the sad and harsh reality is we have a very long distance to reach our destination.
The onus lies on every individual to respect women, give them their due status in society and treat them with equality. We all must contribute our share to gender equality.