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The struggle for female rights has come a long way from the past century. It may be hard to believe now, but before 1919, it was considered a crime for women to wear trousers. Women had no voting rights, little to no property rights, and no protection from physical abuse in their own household. Through those struggles for equality and against abuse, modern women can now enjoy the rights they deserve. However, the struggle is not over yet. Gender inequality still exists in many different shapes and forms, ranging from blatant disregard for basic human rights in some areas of the world to traditionalist enforcement of gender roles and stereotyping and sexualization of females. While progress is being made, we are still a long way away from true equality that many women around the world are struggling for. This paper is dedicated to analyzing modern female disparities in different areas of the world.
Gender Inequality in Europe and the USA
Most countries of the First World, such as European states and the USA, are leading the world’s march towards equality between men and women. The laws of these countries generally do not discriminate between genders, meaning that, on the paper at least, men and women are equal (Fernandez 40). However, problems still exist. Traditionalist views on gender roles still exist and are reinforced by religious beliefs to some degree. The Catholic Church, which is prominent in the USA and has influence in many European countries, has largely formed modern western sexual morality and gender roles. The Church itself remains a domain largely dominated by males, with the head of the Catholic Church, the Pope, always being male (Fernandez 67). Other disparities that females have to face is the alleged wage gap, which remains a controversial subject for many researchers. Some researchers on gender studies affirm the existence of a wage gap between men and women standing at about 20%, while other researchers find that the discrepancy can have numerous economic explanations other than prejudice and gender inequality (Fernandez 43). In western societies, women tend to be underrepresented in such key areas as the police, military, and the government – these areas tend to be male-dominated, despite the fact that the laws technically allow for equal opportunity for both genders to apply for these roles (Fernandez 50).
Gender Inequality in Asia (China, Japan, India)
Many countries in Asia are currently in their economic development stages. They are quickly adopting many western practices, technologies, and laws, which include progressive laws that promote equality between men and women. However, there are many obstacles that stand in the way. Many leading Asian countries, such as China, India, and Japan, have deep-seated and ancient traditions rooted in their culture (Kaufman 586). These traditions reserve the females a role of a housekeeper and place severe restrictions on what a woman should do or aspire to. While these restrictions are not obligatory for every female to follow, the rest of society views independence and personal ambitions negatively. In Japan, for example, it is very hard for unmarried women to find work, and single working women have trouble marrying (Kaufman 590). In addition to that, some countries still promote inequality despite the laws clearly being against it. Proof of that can be found in India, where half of the judges think it is acceptable for a husband to beat up his wife, despite it clearly being against the law. On the other hand, violence against men is treated as assault and battery (Kaufman 601). Females are rarely present in any government structures and occupy the less-paid segments of the labor market.
Gender Inequality in Africa and the Middle East
In Africa and the Middle East, the situation with gender inequality is, perhaps, the worst, and showcases the worst traits of patriarchy that gender equality movements are fighting against. The laws and customs of the countries located in Africa and the Middle East are shaped by many factors. These factors are:
- Religion. The dominant religion of the region is Islam. It is a very strict religion with numerous rules and customs that diminish women and rob them of their rights. Women are forced to wear hijabs and can be condemned to being stoned to death for adultery (Tomescu and Trofin 76).
- Traditions. Many countries in the Middle East uphold ancient and outdated traditions that diminish women’s rights and spread inequality between women and men. Some of these traditions include marriage. In Saudi Arabia, for example, women are often married to men they do not even know, due to family traditions of choosing husbands for their daughters. Men, on the other hand, retain the right to choose their own spouses (Tomescu and Trofin 125).
- Laws. Some of the laws in the Middle East are clearly unfair towards women. Even in relatively secular countries of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, women are not allowed to drive a car, are forced into wearing hijabs, and require permission from their husbands in order to attend any invasive medical procedures such as surgeries. Women are not officially present in any government structure. While some of them, such as Princess Ameerah Al-Taweel, have a modicum of influence due to their position and are actively advocating for equality and women’s rights, the majority of women do not have such possibilities. Until 2015, women in Saudi Arabia were not allowed to vote (Tomescu and Trofin 149).
- War. During a war, the laws are silent. Numerous countries in Africa and the Middle East are currently in turmoil, as various dictatorships were toppled as the result of Arab Spring revolts. During a military conflict, inequality and injustices against women are always on the rise, as women are often unable to defend themselves from violence (Tomescu and Trofin 97).
In Africa, the situation is slightly different. The influence of Islam on local traditions and attitudes towards women is obvious, but at the same time, most African states do not have the same amount of resources as countries in the Middle East. Without economic prosperity, many of them degenerated into anarchy and lawlessness, as it could be seen in Somalia, Nigeria, and other African states. Without a stable government to enforce the laws and promote equality, society reverted to patriarchal clan-like structures, where women retain very little in terms of equality and freedom (Tomescu and Trofin 285). In rural parts of the continent, various indigenous people live in tribes, their level of societal development being very low. Talks of women’s rights and gender equality in these tribes are nonexistent.
While the presence and scope of inequality in First World countries are up for debate, the majority of the world still allows for discrepancy towards females to continue. The situation in Asia and the Middle East remains unjust and disadvantageous for more than 1 billion women, who are denied work, marriage, dignity, and even basic human rights. This situation demands greater action towards equality between men and women everywhere. While the first fighters for equality and women’s rights made a great difference in the past century, there is plenty of work cut out for modern equality movements around the world.
Fernandez, Raquel. “Women’s Rights and Development.” Journal of Economic
Growth, vol. 19, no. 1, 2014, pp. 37-80.
Kaufman, Joan. “The Global Women’s Movement and Chinese Women’s Rights.”
Journal of Contemporary China, vol. 21, no. 76, 2012, pp. 585-602.
Tomescu, Madalina and Liliana Trofin. Women’s Rights in the Middle East. Addleton
Academic Publishers, 2010.