Role and discrimination of women in society
Before the human evolution, male dinasours were in charge of brooding the eggs. Even today, 90% of the modern male bird species performed the role of parental care. Unfortunately, the human world today appear to be otherwise. Women were discriminated because they were seems capable of doing trival matter like ‘brooding of eggs’. Although some rebuked, none were willing to give them a chance to prove themselves, especially in third world countries when they have deep rooted cultures and traditions.
In the past centuries, women are often seen to be inferior to the men. Even today, this situation prevail, especially in the third world countries as majority are traditionalistic and uneducated. Thus, they disregard women’s rights; respect and even opportunities. This is also known as ‘glass ceiling’ whereby it creates an invisible barrier that disallows women to achieve a higher status in the society. The cause is mainly due to stereotypes in assuming women are lack of knowledge, social capital and networks.
There are two reasons which spurred my interest in writing this topic. Firstly, many have the misconception that men and women are equal in today’s society. However, this is merely a façade. In some parts of the world, women are still being prejudiced and discriminated, especially in the third world countries. According to the recent statistics of UN Secretary-General's Campaign to End Violence against Women, 2008, worldwide, as many as one in two women experiences intimate partner violence and up to one in five experiences or is threatened with sexual assault. More than 80 per cent of trafficking victims are women. Up to 130 million women have been genitally mutilated. (UN Secretary, 2008) This indicates that prejudicing and discriminating women is rising at an alarming rate and this has drawn my attention to this matter.
Secondly, I grew up in a family whereby my dad who is the sole bread-winner makes all the decisions. Regardless of what the women point of view are, the men in the family will still have the final say. Thus, this anger in me accumulated because I believe that everyone should have equal rights and opportunities in this modern society. However, this was not the case. Why should women be prejudiced or discriminated and be seen as a symbol and repository as a community’s cultural tradition?
“Women are Incapable, Passive, Follower, Household slave and Weak.” All these are common stereotypes that men have against women. Thus, because of all these ‘vulnerabilities’ in us, we could only be a syombol of culture and tradition. For instance, in the olden days whereby only men have the privilege of attending school, they are often the ones going out to work and bringing home the “bacon”. Controversially, women are to stay at home and take charge of all housework as many believed that women should not be educated. Despite the significant developments made in the 3rd world countries, the discrimination against women still remain prominent. For example, in Albania, women are discriminated as they’re deprived of basic rights and needs such as limited access to education, employment, and health care services. According to Deputy Secretary-General Asha Rose Migiro, she stated that 99% of women and girls from developing countries are estimated to die during their pregnancy and childbirth every year. (Deputy Secretary-General Asha Rose Migiro, 2010) Why men are often considered the privileged ones?
Looking back, some developed countries like Singapore, have progressed impressively throughout the years. One of the reasons is because of our effective utilise of our human resources. In comparison with the third world countries, they are unable to progress and improve economically, socially and politically because they restricted their full potential which is known as Human Development. When there is discrimination of gender in a country, the victim’s rights will be denied such as inability to have a say in their future and limitations to their basic needs. Hence, there will be no democracy and caused the country to be instable and underperform. This inequality will greatly influence a child and they will be brought up with the wrong perceptions and values in their life. Hence, this vicious cycle will prevail. UN secretary- general mentioned that "Violence against women is thus an attack on all of us, on the foundation of our civilization." (Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, 2009)
With reference to global issues website, woman’s rights is an indicator of a country’s overall well-being. An extract of speech made by her on International Women’s Day on how violation on women’s right will lead to slowly progression of a country. (Please refer to Appendix 1)
Unfortunately, feminization poverty is on the rise. Despite women doing most of their time doing housework and producing 75%-90% of crops for the country, they barely earn 10% of the world’s income and 1% of the crops production. This explains how women’s rights do have a direct impact on a country’s poverty, trade and economic issues.
Most importantly, a woman who has been discriminated either by abusing or disregarding of her rights will cause her to feel inferior and this will result in low esteem. In the long run, this might results in depression and serious mental illnesses.
Hence, discrimination against gender will impede the progress of a country and affect oneself mentally. Isn’t living considered to be a blessing? Why must we let these inequalities destroy and ruin these women?
In the following context, several discrimination acts will be listed in five 3rd world countries namely Yemen, Israel, India, Africa and Afghanistan and the areas that we are going to analyse will be the crime rates whom victims are women; women’s rights in marriage; opportunties given to women in society; freedom of movement and some real life stories.
In Yemen society, women are labelled as “Akhdam” which mean “servant” in Arabic and they are ranked the last among the other countries for gender inequality. (Please refer to Appendix 2). Dr. Salma A. DhaifAllah, Administrative Officer and Sister at the Arab Forum for Human Rights reported that the main cause for this discrimination, such as abuse, rape, assault and insults was due to Yemeni’s culture and traditions. This is a common sight in Yemini as they believed that Akhdam women are all prostitutes without dignity. (Dr. Salma A. DhaifAllah, 2009) This caused these Akhdam women to live in darkness because nobody is willing to help them.
In Yemeni’s marriage, early marriages are prevalent and with reference to United Nations which reported in Year 2004 that an estimation of 27% of Yemeni girls aged between 15 and 19 years of age were married, divorced or widowed. Women cannot conclude their own marriage contracts neither could they choose their own spouse. Instead, the agreement is decided by the woman’s male guardian and the groom. (United Nations, 2004)
As for women’s basic needs, there is limited access to health care, jobs and education opportunities. In reality, Yemen has one of the world’s largest gaps between net primary school attendance rates for girls and boys (Social Institutions and Gender Index, 2009) and more than 70% of Yemen women are employed in the agricultural sector. (Please refer to Appendix 3)
In addition, their movements are limited as well. Generally, they have to seek their husband or guardian’s permission to either leave the house or obtain a passport. Due to their culture, women are legally required to live with their husbands and the husbands will have the final say in the family such as the place on where the family will reside on.
The video below depicts real life stories and their cries. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-3MqjbkwVEI.
A real life story from Yemen: S.M.H., a marginalized girl, 18 recounted her tragedy few years back when she was raped by a man named Sheikh M.T., and all her family members were kicked out of the house because of a dispute over a piece of land. Despite reporting the case to the higher authority, nobody was willing to stand up for justice as Sheikh M.T., held a high position in the community. Apart from this, upon hearing her cry, I felt extremely helpless and despondent. (Basheer Al-Selwi, 2009)
“We have to wait for the justice of God since there are no laws to protect us or punish people responsible for raping and exploiting us,” She added”
In Israel, Arab women were forced into prostitution and structural discrimination. According to BBC news, more than 3000-5000 women have been smuggled into Israel in the past four years to work as prostitutes. These women were put up for auctions for $10,000 and forced to work for 18 hours a day. On average, these victims earned only 3%. (BBC News, 2005) This intensity of discrimination is as high as Yemni which lead to high crime rates in Israel.
In Israel’s marriage, the women are deprived of their basic rights as they’re prohibited from divorcing as the husband has the final say. Hence, even if the husband has an affair, these helpless women could do nothing but wait. According to Year 2004 United Nations reported that 4% of girls between 15 and 19 years of age were married, divorced or widowed. (United Nations, 2004)
Similarly, women in Israel were deprived of education employment in contrast with Yemeni. Research has shown that 80% of Arab women are unemployed. It also revealed that the women’s salary is a far cry as compared to the men as women only take 57% of a men’s take home pay and there is only an inadequacy of women in the higher authority.
For movement wise, Palestinian women are constantly being attacked by Israeli soldiers. Being the minority and consider being a women brings them even more disadvantages. For instance, women who are able to reach the health centres safely might not be attended by the doctors. Thus, this caused high infant mortality rates as the delay in hours brought the death in newborn babies.
With reference to 2009 World Association of International Studies, it stated that Israel women who board the bus are supposed to move to the rear and they’re not supposed to occupy the middle or front portion. Sometimes, man who was seated will spit on the empty seat beside them to prevent the lady from sitting.
In Year 1998, The National Crime Records Bureau reported that the growth rate of crimes against women would be greater than the population growth rate by 2010. (The National Crime Records Bureau, 1998) Eve teasing is a commonly used by men in India as a tool for sexual harassment. Especially for the Dalit women, they suffered psychological trauma after they were being raped and assaulted. In addition, they would be labeled as prostitutes and this dehumanized will create a greater impact on them psychologically.
Despite the implementation of Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, there were still many cases of young girls being trafficked and were forced either into prostitution, domestic work or child labor.
In India, it is uncommon to hear someone say, “The servant of your household has been born.” In India, women were seen as a burden to a family and in marriage, dowry was seen as compensation to the men for taking on a woman. In fact, 5,000 India women were died because of dowry. (Wikipedia, 2010)
India widow women are not allowed to remarry unless they fling onto their husband’s funeral pryes and they’re often known as ‘jinx’. Unlike in modern cities, widow women in India are ‘abandoned’ once their husband died and currently, there were over 1,300 widow women gathered in the temple. They were shaven bald and made to wear red or white sari without ornaments and eat single meal. They are forbidden to attend public family functions and some even have to slog in joint families. They chant in the temple everyday to earn $4.50 a month for a living. Madhavi Devi, a 70-year-old widow claimed that she felt useful while nurturing her children but now she was old and of no more use. (Madhavi Devi, 2007) Despite their living condition, many chose to stay instead of returning home. Even though India gave better law protection to the widow, they’re still discouraged from remarrying.
According to a 1998 report by U.S. Department of Commerce, the main cause of low literacy rate is due to inadequate school and sanitary facilities, shortage of manpower and women are being prejudiced as weak and helpless.
According to the statistics, rural female labor in agriculture took up 89.5%. On average, women’s contribution in the farm production is estimated from 55% to 66%. In Year 1991, World Bank reported that women accounted for 94% of total employment in dairy production in India. (World Bank, 1991)
With their uneducated background and traditional mindset, it has caused them the inability to be independent. (Please refer to Appendix 4)
A real life story in India: One woman named Lakshmi from Tamil Nadu, an impoverished region of India, fed her baby sap from an oleander bush mixed with castor oil until the girl bled from the nose and died. "A daughter is always liabilities. How can I bring up a second?" said Lakshmi to explain why she chose to end her baby's life. "Instead of her suffering the way I do, I thought it was better to get rid of her."
In Africa, the widows are left homeless after their husband’s death as the family’s son will inherit all the assets passed down. However, as African women are very reliant on their husband, some resorted to beggars to earn a living.
According to a recent research done, 60% of Africa women aged between 15 and 25 contracted new HIV/AIDS infections because women they were deprived of basic women’s rights to reject unprotected sex. This is especially so in Sub Saharan African whereby 22.3 million people are living in HIV region. There were many factors which led to such disastrous situations such as the lack of education, the high rate of crimes committed, especially raped cases and the lack of health care given. (Please refer to Appendix 5)
In West Africa, the AIDS orphan faced increased health problems due to inadequacy of basic needs such as housing, clothing and health care. This is especially so in Nigeria as 1 million children’s parents have died due to HIV/AIDS.
According to a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report released on World AIDS Day, only about half of those Kenyan children infected with HIV have access to medical help. Over the last year, the number of HIV-infected children has increased to about 28,000. This would lead to serious repercussion as this would affect African’s life expectancy and its country’s growth and development. (Please refer to Appendix 6)
Research has also shown that there were only 19 African women members of Parliament out of 230 at the national level. Similarly, in South Africa and Senegal, women only took up 40%-45% of the positions in parliament. Apart from politics involvement, African women faced similar situations as India and Yemen as they have low in employment. (Please refer to Appendix 7) Personally, I believe that women should have a greater participation rate in economic and governance as we should have a say in the country’s affair and allow them to contribute to the economy.
During Taliban’s governance in Afghanistan in 1997 to late 2001, only 3% of the women’s population received primary education. Women were deprived of medical services which caused high infant and mortality rate. In addition, Taliban’s policies have restricted women’s freedom of movement. They could only travel when they were accompanied by a man. This caused isolation and widows to be withdrawn from the society. Women were attacked by the Taliban if their appearance is found to be disrespectful with Taliban edicts. They could not have a say in governance and domestic violence has prevailed for the past 25 years. The following link depicts on an Afghanistan woman shot dead in public http://www.rawa.org/murder-w.htm
However, even though Taliban has been overthrown, discrimination against women still remain prominent in Afghanistan today. In Year 2002, Channel NewsAsia has reported that the Working Group on the Rights of Afghan Women and Womankind showed that Afghanistan women are still suffering and enduring old, Taliban-style restrictions and brutal violence. (Channel NewsAsia, 2002) The reason for lack of involvement in public life is because of the insecurity within them. They have been threatened that if they took off their burkha, they might be kidnapped and raped.
Women and girls were still subjected to rape and kidnapping, particularly in areas outside Kabul. Child labour and Trafficking of women were major problems as well. In addition, overcrowding and limitation of food and medical supplies further deteriorating the health and even death among prisoners in Afghanistan. This caused the women to suffer even more due to the gender discrimination.
In marriage, despite the law, there is still 57% of marriages involved girls younger than 16,. Under Afghan law, men are allowed to have more than one wife, but women are prohibited to have more than one husband. Global Rights' "Living with Violence: A National Report on Domestic Abuse in Afghanistan" reported that more than 87% of Afghan women had experienced forced marriage or physical or sexual abuse. (Eve Lopez, 2010)
According to the research, only 14 percent of Afghan women are literate. In contrast to rural area, it is almost impossible for any children to attend school due to the lack of education.
For health care wise, less than 15% of births are attended to by a health care professional as almost all births are done with no professional help and this lead to high infant mortality rate.
In Year 2007, Ms. COLEMAN, who is a senior fellow for U.S. foreign policy at the Council of Foreign Relations expressed that the harsh treatment of Afghanistan women are due to their conservative and narrow thinking. The astonishing level of violence against women is embedded in their cultural tradition’s system in which women have no status and are dependent humans. Thus, the women’s vulnerabilities have resulted in continuation of Afghanistan women bring discriminated as of today. (Isobel Coleman , 2007) (Please refer to Appendix 8).
Based on the all the above case studies, it has clearly shown how discrimination against women could lead to inequalities in the society. For instances, discrimination against women will lead to income disparity in the society. If a country perceives men to be superior and give them privileges, men will definitely receive the better quality of jobs and eventually a higher income. Controversially, women will be downgraded and receive lower wages. For education wise, majority of the privileged men will gain more skills and knowledge in all fields. For women, they will be left at home and be labeled as ‘ignorant housewives’. Whenever there is discrimination or prejudice in a country, it will lead to inequalities as all these are driven by stereotypes mindset. These stereotypes mindset are developed either through past experiences or their culture and tradition. Example of such stereotype mindset is, ‘Women are weak and not as capable as men’. Thus, discrimination or prejudice will result in one party to be favored and privileges will goes to them. The losing party will feel indignant and injustice which eventually will lead to conflicts and riots.
As discrimination and prejudice could result in undesirable consequences, we need to find feasible solutions to eliminate or minimize such acts.
For the next few paragraphs, I would use Singapore as an example on how these developing countries could learn from Singapore because even though Singapore is small country, it has proved that ‘impossibilities’ are always possible. For instance, in the 1960s, the women population in Singapore is only about 900 thousands as compared to men population of 970 thousands. Indeed, the literacy rate for women was lower than the men. Also, domestic violence remains relatively high during that period. However, as Singapore progress through the years, women’s population starts to increase, literacy rate and domestic violence rate turned positive as well. (Please refer to Appendix 9 & 10). This shows that Singapore took great strides to improve the situation of prejudice against women. Even though Singapore has not fully eliminated discrimination against women, the extent and intensity of discrimination in our country is still considered lesser than these developing countries. One exmaple would be our lower crime rates.
Firstly, developing countries can set up an organization that helps to look after the welfare of the women. For instance, in Singapore, we have the ‘Singapore Women Association’ that helps to provide opportunities to women such as Education; Health care services and employment. In addition, it enhances the social status of women in the society. Similarly, developing countries like Yemen; Africa; Afghanistan; Israel and India could set up a similar organization that looks after the welfare and rights of the women. Even though Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) was adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly which is often described as an international bill of rights for women as it aims to promote equality between men and women as women are discriminated because of their gender. CEDAW has helped many countries such as Nigeria. For example: They have affirmed the access of health care and allowed women’s rights in marriage such as choice of their spouse. Even though CEDAW is indeed a respectable organization, it would still be better to have a local organization that look after the local women because CEDAW is located in U.S. As CEDAW would need to ascertain the issue occurred before providing the help required and this will definitely take up some time. Thus, by the time the help is rendered, it might be too late for the troubled country. Apart from having a women organization, the support from the government is crucial. For instance, in Year 2002, a battle for women’s rights occurred in India. Majority of the women organization such as All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA); All India Progressive Women's Association (AIPWA) and etc demanded the government to approve the bill of domestic violence and stop all humiliation to human’s rights. This incident clearly explains that if the government does not support an organization, regardless of its affiliations, it is just an empty shell and problems will still remain unsolved.
Next, government in developing countries could introduce laws to protect the women in the country. For example, Singapore’s women are well protected as majority of our laws. Similarly, in Yemen for example, the government could implement harsh rules and punishment for those who discriminate Akhdam women. In addition, public officers who are biased and partial to any community will be sacked off. As for Africa and India, the government could implement law to protect the widow, such as to allow widow to inherit property from late husband and punish the family members if they were to mistreat their mother.
With reference to CTV news n Year 2009, it stated that Afghanistan’s law has caused international outrage as some were unfair to the women. Some criticized that these laws were made to gain favorable votes from Afghanistan's minority Shiite population for the presidential election. Thus, Afghan Lawmaker Safia Sidiqi requested the government to debate on the law in Parliament. The following video reveals on Afghanistan government reviewing women’s law. http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20090402/afghan_women_090402/20090402?hub=TopStories
Even though Singapore is known as a ‘police state’, without these laws that govern us, we wouldn’t be able to live in peace and harmony. This will be an important learning point for these countries.
Thirdly, in order for a country to progress, they should treat all citizens equally and granting them the rights to make decisions. Also, the government should empower the women. According to Kashmir Women Conference, in 8th March 2008, it stated that empowerment of women is a two folds process. First, it is to increase public awareness of women’s capabilities, potential and rights. Secondly, it is to open up more opportunities for women to participate actively in all areas such as politically and socially. With reference to Singapore, Singapore celebrates International Women’s day which falls on 8th March. Thus, I believe that these countries could introduce campaigns and be involved in such occasion to allow the society to accept the women. These steps would involve social interactions and promote harmony as well.
As mentioned above, many women were discriminated because of the country’s deep-rooted culture’s system. It is implausible to revamp their culture but we can use Education to inculcate new values and principles in them. In Singapore, we’re well-known for our Education system as we provide the best teaching facilities to our students. Learning will develop one’s mind and allow one to grow intellectually as well. When we provide quality education and the citizens understand the rationale behind it, it encourages effective communication. For instance, during the Talk of the Nation, Ms. YACOOBI who founded the Afghan Institute of Learning helped to provide education and training to women expressed that Afghanistan men do respect educated women educated as she saw a man presenting a bouquet of roses to a female doctor who saved his son. She also stated that as long as education is not against their tradition; religion neither is it a threat to them, they would be willing to accept it as it changes lives for the better. Indeed, her belief and her intellectual have improved many women’s lives.
Hence, in order to change the situations in these developing countries, the government should consider increasing the literacy rate in the country so that the citizens could not only gain more knowledge and skills but also learn the importance of living with one another. This will not only bring peace and harmony but the country will progress economically as the worker’s productivity increases.
In my opinion, It is impossible to revamp or change their culture and traidtion since the roots of discrmination is mainly from these areas. Hence, I believe that education would be the most effective method. As proven in Singapore, education can groom the future leaders by inculcating them the correct mindset. As long as the citizens are willing to accept the ‘right education’, this could brain-wash their mind. As compared to the other solutions which required affirmative action such as implementation of laws, citizens might be compelled to accept it. This would not bring any good to the country in the long run and the impact will be lesser as well. Once these citizens are educated with the right morals and values in them, there will be improvements in all aspects of a country and this will lead to opening up of more jobs opportunities. This can lead to the third solution mentioned above. Thus, education should be the most ideal method to be the starting point.
In conclusion, in order to reduce discrimination against gender, government intervention is vital because they are the leaders who will set the standard. Most importantly, the citizen themselves must learn how to accept and respect one another.
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