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The Effects Of Colonialism On Gender Inequality Politics Essay

Info: 5022 words (20 pages) Essay
Published: 1st Jan 2015 in Politics

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The North/ South divide and gender inequality are intertwined and influence the lives of women in the northern hemisphere significantly different than that from women who are inhabitants of the southern hemisphere. This paper will discuss the role of globalization as a multidimensional process and how it affects the life of women in terms of economic, social, and cultural development. Globalization has led to violations of women’s civil rights because of the decline of the welfare state, the increased poverty among women, the role religion plays in fundamentalist societies and in armed conflict. However, it has also caused tremendous opportunities for women to better their lives and hereby setting standards to demand equal women rights. Considering the percentage of women in the world population it is important to study the role of gender equality. Women as laborers and their contribution to their communities and national economies have a significant impact on globalization. In addition, the emphasis on social justice and democracy as a preferred political ideology to stimulate globalization makes gender issues an important factor. Gender inequality is caused by our social institutions and organizations who suppress women’s social and economic rights, often unknowingly, by placing insufficient importance on gender as a factor in decision making. Some say that inequality and economic growth are coexisting phenomena but it is no argument to allow exploitation and marginalization of selected groups. Neo-liberalist thinking promotes globalization but it also creates opportunity for avoidance of social responsibility by governments and multinational corporations. Gender inequality can most effectively be influenced by changing the political agenda. A country’s national governance on legislative, judicial and executive policies will stimulate a dialogue that leads to change.

Globalization: North vs. South

The term globalization has no accepted definition and therefore the interpretation depending on who uses the term, can vary from a pure economic perspective to a more liberal definition in terms of civil development. Adam Smith described in his book the Wealth of Nations, how economical growth leads to change in social behavior and eventually change in public policy. Globalization by these means is a process whereby a society acquires economic growth and sustainable human development through processes of democratization. However, these processes traditionally do not include gender in negotiation and representation.

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After the collapse of the Soviet Union and communism as an ideology, institutions that promoted global economies and also the spread of capitalism appeared. The divide between East and West became a divide between North and South now based on economic perspectives instead of political doctrines. Globalization is than characterized by free trade and the virtual removal of borders in order to promote exchange of goods, services and capital between nations. The countries in the northern hemisphere have experienced at least one industrial revolution and therefore have the advantage of being able to produce higher quality goods and using more advanced technology in their production methods. Countries in the Southern hemisphere are predominantly agrarian, so for the most part feudal societies instead of industrialized ones. This observable fact, lack of industrialization, is directly linked to the disadvantages that many developing countries experience, to compete with the countries of the developed world. As a result their participation in the globalization process is limited to being suppliers of raw materials. The “Northerners”, or developed countries, use these materials to produce high-end products for the world market including to countries who are the very same raw material supplier. The obstacle for developing countries to compete equally is often caused by the backwardness of their economic development based on their history of colonialism.

Imperialism and colonialism theorized

Imperialism and colonialism are factors one should consider when analyzing a countries successful participation in the global economy. Not only did these phenomena affected the colonialized countries economies by stripping their resources. Its population experienced a so called identity crisis, because they were not used to their independent status nor had they the understanding of political functions and their relationships. The inequality between developed states and developing states is discussed in the politics of modernization by Max Weber. There are three theories that are influencing developing countries. The first one, the Dependency Theory is a marxist inspired theory that entails concepts such as Core or Metropolis, (developed states) Periphery or Satellite ( developing states) and semi periphery( industrialized states that are still considered developing countries). There is a dependency between the Core and Periphery because of their interaction with each other. The core provides technology and expertise and the periphery provides the raw materials. The raw materials are offered very cheap, but in return the high end products are sold for a high price, which results in poorer countries facing a constant deficit between their export and import income. The theory assumes that core and periphery need each other to exist, but based on this interdependence some scholars of Stanfords Universities’ Hoover Institution’s Office of Public Affairs, maintain that globalization is yet another type of imperialism.

Marxist ideology as an inspiration for the Dependency Theory, claims that isolation policy provides the solution for getting rid of the unequal interdependence between rich and poor countries. Siegel et al claims that using methods such as import substitution strategy result in decline of export industry which is necessary for investment in technology to achieve advanced phases of industrialization. The theory is challenged by the lack of categorizing NIC’s, or new industrialized countries. An example of an NIC are oil producing countries, but calling them semi peripheral takes them out of the equation in which core and periphery are compared.

To deal with crisis of nation building, state building, participation and distribution, (Almond and Powell 1966) comprehension of the Politics of Modernization is required. This pro-capitalist perspective assumes that modernization will develop similarly in the North and the South. The second theory as described by Burnell and Randall (p17), Gabriel Almond’s Political Development Theory, uses a structural model for comparative analysis in which he incorporates input functions (i.e. political socialization, political recruitment, interest articulation and political communication) and output functions (i.e. rulemaking, rule implementation and rule adjudication) as a guiding principle for political development. In addition, a stable government is required to change traditional habits and principles. However, to the contrary, Burnell and Randall ( intro4) claim that developing countries, in their post- colonial phase show: authoritarian rule, political instability, internal conflict, corruption and politics of religious or ethnic identity. The third theory of modernization, the Globalization Theory focuses on the development of communication, technology and infrastructure leading to global economic integration. According to Burnell and Randall, the Dependency- and Political Development Theory were more concerned with politics and the role of the state, which is completely opposite of the Globalization Theory which mainly focuses on development of global trade, foreign direct investment and global finance. One direct result of this focus is that the nation state loses its autonomy and eliminates one of the most primary functions, security. Protecting of one’s borders, economy and inhabitants is a function that is important for very poor countries as their existence is depending on it.

The controversy about the modernization theories is that they are based on ethnocentric political perspective. They are promoting an elite group of the “haves” and/or a capitalist class. The notion that globalization can bring everyone involved up to middle class system is ineligible. The free market system does not work for all developing countries because of the backwardness of their economy ( Burnell & Randall, p3). As it took developed countries centuries to get where they are, the developing countries have to go to many stages of development to be able to compete. However, developing countries can not all be categorized in one group and to assume that all countries develop by the same principle is narrow sighted. Although, they do have a history of colonialism in common, their post -colonial development is depending on different factors. The Anglo- Saxon settler countries, United States, Australia, New Zealand and Canada took over the traditions, rules of law and property and individual rights of the motherland, the United Kingdom. As they kept close ties with their “previous occupiers” by conducting trade and foreign investments, the transition to a developed nation was flawless. In other colonies, we see political fragmentation caused by religious and ethnic division in the countries. The economic effects of imperialism and colonialism are undeniable. The legacy is still noticeable in current world political dynamics and plays a significant role in developing countries ability to develop successful economies and achieve the same standards in civil development and human equality.


Globalization decreases inequality! This is a common assumption for most people, but few know how inequality and economic growth are linked. For the purpose of this paper, we have to look at several forms of inequality as gender inequality is coupled with economic, social, and political inequality. Looking at economic growth in most countries, one can conclude that globalization is good for everyone as most people, even the very poor achieve prosperity. Lall et al., discusses the correlation of this viewpoint with Kuznets’s hypothesis in which income inequality rises at the beginning of the industrialization process but once established it decreases again. They observed that increased technology, financial and trade globalization increased inequality, while liberalization of trade and financial markets lowered income inequality. The other outlook claims that prosperity is not shared by the whole population and that only a small group benefits from economic growth. As a matter of fact, the alleged income inequality does not advance globalization processes as the so called “losers” may become a burden on the welfare state. Concurrently, the machinery of globalization is obstructed and not all opportunities are exhausted. For example, proceeds are not invested in the industry but in distribution of income. Social inequality refers to differences in class and status. A good example is the cast system in India, based on religion but also on heritage. The ranking of elite groups based on descend is an inequality that is not a result of globalization. However, the status inherited came with special treatment such as education opportunity and predisposition to economic and other business dealings. In the United States, equality of men, particularly the black man has been legitimized just a few decades ago. Women, especially, the ones that live in fundamentalist religious societies are denied basic social rights and are clearly victims of social inequality. In many developing countries political inequality becomes evident in traditional expressions of tribal culture, the client-patron relationships, nepotism and the lack of established laws for civil and constitutional rights.


Gender inequality is a current world problem and is found in developed and developing countries. The Worldbank claims that in any region, any state and any social class inequality between men and women exists. A few exceptions to this rule are the Scandinavian countries. The strong democratic political structures of Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland and strong women organizations are believed to be the reason for this transformation in policy making. Gender Equality defined as the difference between men and women and equality in their rights perceived fair based on their biological differences. Traditionally, gender differences and roles between men and women is based on the fact that women are the bearers and caregivers of children. Men are physically stronger and therefore, the breadwinners. Each culture has their own interpretations of these gender specific roles, but with globalization socio-economic trends change as well. Inequality, weather economic, social or political have been researched and play a significant role in economic development, but also in human civil development. Gender inequality is linked to appropriate functioning of our social institutions and organizations. Suppression of women’s social and economic rights often happens unknowingly because there is insufficient importance placed on gender as a factor in decision making. However, I see patriarchy as the determining factor leading to inequality in women’s life.


The United Nations Human Development Report measures inequality between men and women in countries. This method, GEM or Gender Empowerment Measurement, considers political participation and decision making, economic participation and decision making, and the access to economical resources. Than a calculation of each genders percentile in three areas is studied. The first measurement looks at the percentage of each gender in parliament. The second measurement focuses on the level of the position held, whether it is executive or managerial or staff. The last measurement, researches the disparity in income. Both percentage data for female and male are paired for each measurement and combined in the EDEP, (Equally Distributed Equivalent Percentage). The GEM is than calculated by averaging the EDEP’s .

Gender equality by regiongender_equality_index.jpg


For the longest time women have not participated in the political process because of several reasons. First of all, women suffrage has not been an option in every country and was not established until the late 19th century. Most women in developing countries could not vote until the mid 50’s. Governing has always been a “man’s job” and until the networks to promote women’s voices and their right to be heard were build, participating in the political process was impossible. Another obstacle is illiteracy; about two thirds of the world’s illiterates are women. Rao and Kelleher studied institutions and organizations that are involved in supporting women. They conclude that organizational structure and culture is the problem to the stagnating trend to policy change. The women’s conference in Beijing in 1995 proved that women are mobilizing and that women’s political activism and NGO’s are increasing. The stigma that feminism creates has sometimes worked adversely for grass roots women movements and the resistance of a male driven government. Sikoska and Kardam infer in their study that engendering the political agenda is a slow process and requires gender advocacy on a government level. They believe that the focus on getting more women in parliamentarian seats does not warrant that women issues will be addressed. As strange as it might seem gender inequality also exists because of the lack of equality consciousness by both men and women.



Women earn less than men and this phenomenon arises in both developing and developed countries. This inequality has been accepted up to the 20th century as normal. Yet, the difference in pay of man and women is a form of exploitation as the employer can make additional profit based on the income inequality. Swasti Mitter’s claims regarding the working circumstances in the technology manufacturing industry in India , confirms my idea that in globalization the primary concern is profit. She says that in order to mobilize the employees to demand unions and healthy work environments their needs to be an opportunity for change, but as employees in this industry are so easily replaced it is hard to get support. In most developing countries women do not get paid for work on the land or any other domestic duties. They are required to take care of the children, the animals and very often they function as the head of the family. The patrimonial system, with men as the head of the families prevent women to own land and therefore, government support for women in the agrarian sector is not available.


Education is a first requirement for women to stimulate their personal and economic growth. Women who are educated are better in monitoring their families health (mothers make sure children get their vaccines) and providing proper nutrition. Burnell and Randall point out that the pronatalist view of developing states increases inequality as women do not have the ability to make choices over their bodies in terms of contraception and abortion. Many women die in labor and because of the restrictions on emergency contraception, local abortion practices lead to serious health issues and sometimes in death. One of the direct results of the government imposed restrictions is overpopulation, which leads to higher poverty and famine.

Case studies.

Engendering globalization in India

India , a member of the BRIC countries because of its tremendous economic growth in the past decades is considered an example of successful globalization. The country has the largest population of one billion inhabitants, in the world. It also has one of the highest poverty levels of approximately 350- million people that are living below the poverty line. The overpopulation and illiteracy is one of the main reasons this country is so poverty stricken, with women and children as the main victims. Although the country has experienced an tremendous economic growth, the selectiveness of the industries involved in this development are not providing revenues for all areas. The middle class has experienced exponential increases in growth and wealth, but this has lead to deeper inequality. With other words, some parts are developing rapidly because of the new economic development (the urban areas) and there is the rural part that does not experience any of the growth. Actually, people in the rural areas are getting poorer because of the commercialization of agriculture. The New Economic Policy of 1991 instigated by the IMF and the World Bank urged for human development but the policy has not been effective and at some cases it worsened inequality. Rekha Pande argues

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” structural adjustment in particular is not gender neutral” and that developmental policies affects both men and women. However, she points out that women “carry the double burden of poverty and discrimination”. She states that women are underpaid compared to men; they are not credit worthy to achieve loans and do not have the same access to resources as men and that these factors lead to further inequality. Women in general are not considered land owners even if statistics show that agriculture employs 85 % of all working women. The commercialization of agriculture caused many women to lose their source of income, as they could not compete with the bigger farms and landowners now hired cash workers instead of leasing their land to the landless women. CQ Researcher describes how the subsistence economy, where most of these women lived off to feed their families and make some income, providing they could sell their surplus, was now taken away and poverty deepened. Relocation to the urban areas is often the only option available for these female farmers. These displaced farmers become hired workers and are being exploited for very low wages, long working hours and no security or social benefits. Globalization does not provide the kind of richness people from the impoverished layer of the population expect. On the contrary, for many, globalization causes insecurity and inequality. Pande claims that women lose their identity and independence by giving up agriculture for a life of “marginalization and pauperization”.

Case study: Afghanistan

Afghanistan a country in South Central Asia, has a population of 28 million inhabitants consisting out of the Pashtuns, 44 % and Tajiks 25%. The remainder is divided over minorities groups. 60 % of the population is female, which is assumed happened because of the war casualties. The poverty rate is very high, in some areas over 90 %. The occupation by the Soviet Union and decades of civil war with the Mujahideen and the Taliban created an environment of economic and political chaos. They lack all essential resources, to stabilize their government but according to Huma Ahmed-Gosh this is the best period to establish a new economic polity because the country is in transf0rmation. The country had an economic growth of over 10% between 2003 and 2008 and the Afghans believe this growth can be achieved again in the very near future (World Bank 2008). USAID and the Afghan government are working together to establish economic programs that diminish poverty, provides security and stimulate the private sector to do investments and create job opportunities. The agrarian industry is the main source of income for most Afghans. In cooperation with the World Bank a $30 million grant was approved for the Afghanistan Rural Enterprise Development Program to assist farmers in the rural areas. An additional $23 million was pledged by the UK. This pilot program targets 20 different communities and is headed by one male and one female. Savings Groups were set up to be educated in finances and provide small loans to members of the communities. Enterprise Groups were established to create community based activities and projects. For the purpose of integration of women in the economical process, this pilot can already be considered successful as after 4 months over 300 groups were established from which half of them by women. Humah-Ahmed Gosh interviewed three Afghani women in Turin at an International Conference for women about the role of their respective women’s organizations and their criteria for establishing equal women rights. RAWA, which stands for Revolutionary Association of the Woman in Afghanistan focuses on social justice and human rights for women. HAWCA or Humanitarian Assistance for Women and Children in Afghanistan agenda is to better the lives of women and children through empowerment and support women’s involvement in rebuilding Afghanistan through education. The third organization, The All Afghan Women’s Union, is headed by Soraya Parlika. She claims that teaching women skills and creating jobs is the best way to change family law and give women autonomy to eventually work to estebling a democratie. Non Governmental Organisations (NGO’s) are the most productive and effective means to change the political climate in Afghanistan. Globalization can change the patrilineal family structure by eliminating women’s economic dependency.


Globalization and gender inequality are closely intertwined with each other. My studies of the subjects taught me that a thriving globalization process is dependent on many factors and there is significant variations in how each individual country ‘s development is affected by these factors. First of all, the divide between North and South or rich and poor if you will, has an intricate influence on the ability of nations to fully exhaust the opportunities of globalization. That the Northerners had an advantage in the globalization race because of their role in imperialism is a fact. These nations already had gone through various stages of industrialization and achieved a higher level of civilization, resulting in higher educated employees and advanced industrialization technologies. In addition, their wealth opened opportunities for fast capital investments with tremendous gain. Most of the world’s multinational corporations were founded in the North, and that is where the profits are disbursed. The settler colonies are an exception to the rule as they were able to develop thriving economies in their post- colonial phase. Burnell and Randall analyze this phenomenon as being part of the dichotomy of the colonial elite which makes me think that Orientalism plays a significant role in the interaction between countries of the North and the South.

. The role of patriarchy is rooted in society and is one of the main evils causing inequality for women. In the developed world women experience less gender inequality in the form of opportunity but more in the form of outcome.

Secondly, as I mentioned processes of democratization are a vital requirement for a country’s economic growth and sustainable development. Democracy as an ideology, develops in different forms and previous colonies did not always develop into a democracy, mainly because of their pluralistic nature. However, globalization did develop in some countries with an authoritarian regime. This happened because of their resources. Good examples are the oil producing countries. In view of that, one can infer that the theories of modernization are incomplete. Some reasons are that they are eurocentric, anachronistic, uni-linear and the belief that politics in developing countries are made by domestic forces. The politics in developing countries are driven by the relationship between the state and society and depends on aspects such as finance, economy and technology. I think that countries, better said political leaders and heads of multinational corporations, are rational actors and that choices made are based on opportunities for personal gain and economic benefits.

Women work hard in the development world and with globalization their numbers are increasing. Multinational corporations have transferred their manufacturing activities to developing countries because of their human capital. Globalization as a process should not have a negative effect on women in the developed world if it uses democratic processes and pursues rising the human standards of living. The controversy however, is that free trade and openness of the economic markets is not monitored by states. Transnational corporations have only one goal and that is making profits. In the developed countries regulations were in place to prevent exploitation of the factory workers through trade unions and labor laws. As most developing countries have not experienced an industrial revolution on their own, the process is expedited and some crucial steps of labor development are bypassed. Lack of education and poverty are the drivers for many women to sustain the treatment experienced in their work environments. Changing the politics and mentality is a slow process and NGO’s promoting the welfare of women gain only small victories. The nation state should take control by using their sovereignty and demand changes when it comes to abuse of their inhabitants. The dominance of the richer states undermines this right, but it is apparent that countries like India and China are being listened to. Once a standard is set it can easily be globalized as a standard for all countries. I used India as an example in a case study because of my hypothesis. My choice was lead by factors such as the level of successfulness of this countries globalization, but also the adverse effect of globalization on the female population, resulting in gender inequality. Afghanistan on the other hand is an example, from which I believe that globalization can effect gender inequality positively. As shown by the humanitarian aid projects, whereby women’s involvement is strong, interference by fundamentalist religion diminished. As discussed by Osborne and Gaebler, governments should steer not row. The conflict needs policies to resolve gender inequalities on a global scale as the diversity among people and the differences in cultures and tradition ask for different measures in each country. Therefore a global effort is needed by cooperation of the nation states.

I researched India as an example because it fits my hypothesis that globalization can cause more inequality for women.

With other dominance of the richer countries, their MNC’s, foreign investmSecondlyents and transfer of resources has undermined the role of India as a nation state.


*Empowerment thru collective action instead of culture

Women who are involved in subsistence economies and do not partake in the industrialization process.

Globalization in Developing countricesk

Globalization in fundamentalist societies

Inequality as a tool Traditionally, men monopolize politics and


The role of Democratie

Engendering local and national politics


Hoover Institution: globalization versus imperialism Hoover Report February 11, 2002 Hoover Daily Report, produced by the Hoover Institution Office of Public Affairs

Florence Jaumotte, Subir Lall,and Chris Papageorgiou : Rising Income Inequality Technology, or Trade and Financial Globalization?


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