Sunday, 29 July 2012

Gender Equality: Fact or Fantasy?

we can do it, gender equality, feminismby Shireen Avasthi

In the Western world, many people are under the illusion that gender inequality is alive and thriving in the East, and in the West everyone is equal. Despite this being a common opinion, it is far from the truth. Admittedly, the East has a lot of problems where gender inequality is concerned, but the West definitely doesn't have a clean slate either.

So let's start with the East. Here are 10 of the most shocking examples of gender inequality that exist there:

headscarf, saudi arabia, burkha, gender equality, feminism10. Driving - In Saudi Arabia women are forbidden from driving or riding a bike (they're even forbidden from being driven anywhere by men they aren't very closely related to!). In a place where women are denied the basic right of being able to transport themselves from one place to another, it's obvious that some serious changes need to be made.

9. Clothes - In Muslim countries, women are required to wear a burqa (a garment that covers their clothes from head to toe). There have been incidents where men threw acid in the faces of women who didn't do this. I'm sure we can all agree that gender equality definitely doesn't exist in countries where women are forced to wear garments that they don't want to, or risk getting abused. Should anyone have the right to dictate what a woman wears?

divorce, saudi arabia, sharia  law, gender equality, feminism
"Talaq, talaq, talaq!"
8. Divorce - This is extremely unfair in most Muslim countries. Men can divorce their wives much too easily - in a lot of Muslim countries, men can divorce their wives instantaneously by simply saying "Talaq, talaq, talaq!" - whereas a woman's access to divorce is ridiculously limited, if it is even available (women are often not allowed the luxury of a divorce).

7. Education - In a lot of Afghani schools, girls are no longer allowed to go to school once they reach puberty. This is clearly a major contributing factor as to why literacy rates among Afghan women are so disturbingly low (only 18% of women between 15 and 24 can read).

6. Travelling - Imagine having to live with the fear that your husband could file a complaint against you at the airport to have you forbidden from leaving the country for any reason. That is what Egyptian and Bahraini women have to deal with. Libyan, Iraqi, Moroccan, Jordani, Yemeni and Omanian women have to have their husbands' written permission to travel, and could be barred from doing this for any reason. Saudi Arabian women need the written permission of their closest male relative to use public transport or leave the country. Would you be able to live like this?

gender equality, feminism, domestic violence
Domestic Violence
5. Violence - Women's rights are so unequal that they leave them more vulnerable and exposed to violence. In many Muslim countries, there are no specific laws that penalise domestic violence, despite it being an extremely widespread problem. In these countries, domestic violence is commonly thought of as a private matter that should be dealt with within the family. Battered women who try to file complaints with the police are showered with verbal abuse and then told to go home. A country that has this problem is clearly very far  from achieving gender equality.

4. Custody - Bahrain is one of the countries where judges have all the power: they have power to deny women any and all custody of their children for any reason they choose to put forward, not matter how outrageous it may be. The few women who were unblenching enough to challenge the outrageous decisions made by the sexist judges were sued for slander by eleven family court judges.

3. Citizenship - A lot of Muslim countries only allow fathers to pass on citizenship to their offspring.Women are denied this basic right.

2. Sexual Peonage - Many Muslim countries view sex outside marriage as a criminal offence. In Morocco, women are more likely to be charged with having violated laws on sexual relations outside marriage than men. In Morocco, rape of a virgin is seen as a much more dire offence than rape of a woman who is more sexually experienced. The sickening reality is that the degree of harshness of the punishment that the perpetrator receives is concluded by how sexually experienced the victim is.

female infanticide, gender equality, feminism
Female Infanticide
1. Infanticide - Infanticide is a huge problem in Eastern countries. Unsurprisingly, female infanticide rates are much higher than male rates. China's one child law has made it much easier to identify the disparagement for female children that is widespread all over the country. due to this, the ratio of child birth has gone from 105 males for every 100 females to 114 males for every 100 females.

Surely killing a baby is the height of disdain. How could someone have so much hatred for a gender that they would end the life of an innocent child? But things like infanticide aren't only present in the East.

As I said at the beginning of the article, gender inequality is definitely present in the West; it's just a lot more subtle.

pay gap, gender inequality
Pay gap
In the U.K., female managers are paid £31,895 on average every year, whereas men doing the same job are paid £42,441. You might hear people saying that the pay gap between males and females is barely there - that it's minuscule. I would hardly describe a difference of £10,500 as minuscule, and the gap widens every year. It seems we're going backwards; instead of closing the gap and making everyone more equal, society is creating a wider chasm between men and women every year.

In today's day and age, almost everyone you ask will say that gender inequality is long gone, but in fact, it's alive and thriving. When we should be moving forward and advancing, we seem to be moving backwards and slipping back into habits of the past. It seems that gender equality really is a fantasy, despite everyone insisting it's cold, hard fact. So what can we do, as a community and as a society? Can we change the present and make way for a better future?

What do you think? Is gender equality fact or fantasy? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.


  1. I absolutely love this article, Shireen! It's so relevant as although so much development has occurred in terms of gender equality, we mustn't fall into the delusion that enough has been done.

    1. Thanks! I'm really glad you enjoyed the article!

  2. Such an interesting article! Well written and contains many facts. I don't think it's fair that females and males are still not equal.

    1. Thank you :) I agree, it isn't fair that men and women aren't equal, but what's even worse is that Western society is convinced that sexism is a thing of the past, when that's just not the case. It can be hard to believe how many people are oblivious to the injustice that continues every day.

  3. Hey guys. awersome article. lol, i find it really cool that you added the american "we can do it" pic from world war 2 in there!

    1. Thanks. I thought this article would be the perfect place for that picture, and I'm glad you think so too!


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