“But you’re a girl” is one simple but destructive phrase heard by thousands of girls around the world for centuries to this day. We have been led by society to believe that we don’t deserve to participate in the world in comparison to our male counterparts. We have been led by society to believe that we aren’t good enough. But this issue goes even beyond societal status - it has even been seen to interfere in areas of nutrition, with around 60 percent of chronically hungry people around the world being women, and goes as far as interfering with our own bodies, with matters such as abortion.
While it is clear that men are considered higher than women in nearly all societies, developing countries, when taking into account factors such as GPA, life expectancy, life quality, have been commonly associated with a higher rate of gender inequality within society. This is usually due to tradition and culture acting as obstacles to women’s greater participation in society. A relevant case study being India, where countless female children are often considered as a burden to their families even before they are born. These children are raised only to be a wife to another man, essentially sold through the system of dowry in arranged marriages, and are treated awfully in their own homes. In addition, cases of sexual assault consistently increasing with less than 30% of the accused actually being convicted. One must also keep in mind that those statistics just include the reported in comparison to the countless cases where women are often forced to keep quiet while fearing the loss of their societal status. Similarly, women in Yemen suffer from deep rooted oppression in their deeply patriarchal society as they face open bias in their legal system, even when they gather enough courage to seek help and support. In fact, the Personal Status Act No.20 legally emphasizes the importance of a wife’s obedience to her husband while a man holds the right to marry up to four wives. This openly shows the discrimination present in society and how men are seen as kings whereas women are not even seen as human beings worthy of respect. In the international community, such laws are hardly talked about, if they are at all, and the lives of thousands suffering go unnoticed.
However, this does not mean that women in developed countries are spared. Surely, by the time many are reading this article, they have been notified of the new abortion ban in Texas, a state in the United States of America, which has caused a lot of uprising and for good reason. This law essentially allows for legal punishment to anyone that assists a women in obtaining an abortion and does not provide for any exceptions in the cases of rape or incest. Even though the Biden administration is trying to take action on this law, the fact that such a law had been passed in the first place after the approval of various governmental figures in one of the world’s “most democratic countries” is absolutely disgusting and shows how the rights of women over their own bodies are still being dominated by men in government. If the roles were reversed and men had to suffer from long-term consequences of their sexual encounters, it is no doubt that they would be favoured and even granted benefits of some sort. Similarly, remnants of high-scale gender inequality in the American legal system present in the past can still be seen today. As seen with women not being able to wear sleeveless tops or dresses to congress and women not being able to withdraw consent and call subsequent actions rape in North Carolina. Not to mention, the countless schools across the U.S. but also other parts of the world that enforce dress codes with a clear bias aiming to censor unreasonable clothing women wear with the claim that their bodies might distract men. In this day and age, should we not be teaching our sons to respect women rather than allow our daughters to accept being treated as sexual objects?
Despite all, there is some hope left in the world with countries such as Switzerland making tremendous efforts towards closing the gender gap in society and encouraging equal participation, as well as representation from all genders in parliament. They have done this through actions such as approving a proposal for better representation of women at the top level of public traded countries, achieving records high in women education and providing appropriate paternity leave, which illustrates the equal responsibility present in raising children. Similarly, in Finland, the currently sitting president is the youngest democratically elected leader in the world, and is also a woman. She is also leading a coalition of five parties also led by women around the age of 35. Such female participation in government is so shocking because of the fact that it has become so rare that we fail to realise how it has become natural for us to think of the government as being patriarchally dominated. From these countries, we can also learn by noticing that the government’s openness for improvement and adapting laws in the favour of gender equality has enabled their country, in general, to be advanced in terms of quality of life and global economic status as well!
With all of this information in hand, the first step society must take is to recognise that all of this bias and oppression towards women stem from underlying stereotypes and misconceptions about our ability. In a social setting as simple as a young friend group playing around, we often see little girls are categorised as sitting down and playing with dolls whereas little boys are encouraged to go play outside and exercise. If this is how women are raised in comparison to men, how do we expect society to value these genders equally? We have to start encouraging children to all be strong, healthy and treat each other equally; this is the fundamental step we have to take so that the women of our following generations can stray away from the struggles of not being viewed and valued equally. We must also stop society from viewing women as mere accessories to men and as people men are allowed to have a disgusting amount of control over. We need to raise our children as individuals, regardless of their gender. Only then can we see true change and progress in society.
Shree is from India and an upcoming senior who studies at an American high school in France. Her multicultural background has allowed her to see the world from different perspectives but also, witness severe inequality on various levels around the world (gender, race, financial status) and has thus, sparked her passion for politics. She aims to soon become a law student as well as further her involvement in international affairs to help those in need.