Fight for Women’s Rights Everywhere
I was involved in a discussion started by a friend of mine a couple of days ago. In his opinion, “women’s rights are hardly an issue in most developed western countries in comparison to 100 years ago.” So he thinks that “what liberated woman and supportive men of these western countries need to do is go to a country that really does have woman impediments, and make a difference for them.”
I sensed the arrogance in his opinion and immediately did not like it. But it was not only that. Is it true that women’s rights are hardly an issue anymore in most developed western countries? And which women’s rights are we talking about here? Maybe women’s rights are enshrined in the constitution of many countries, or at least that men and women have the same rights, but how does it look in everyday life?
Looking at everyday life
Issues most commonly included in the notions of women’s rights are the right to bodily integrity and autonomy, to vote, to hold public office, to work, to fair wages or equal pay, to own property, to get an education, and to have marital or parental rights.
Are men and women in developed western countries actually paid equally? Last year a labor market study found that German women are paid 22% less on average than their male counterparts. In the US it was around 23%, and in the UK around 20%.
Has the glass-ceiling in developed countries disappeared? Last year business leaders in Germany entered a commitment to increase the number of female board members. But companies are often still reluctant to give higher positions to women. Conservative thinking men who believe that women are not as good as men and should stay at home and work in the kitchen are still numerous in developed countries.
What about other women’s rights? Of course violence against women is a violation of the law in developed countries but that does not mean that it does not happen anymore. Ten years ago Amnesty International released its first research report on the murder and disappearance of indigenous women and girls in Canada, called the Stolen Sisters report. In the decade that followed the Stolen Sisters report, dozens more indigenous women and girls were murdered every year, with more than 105 remaining missing under suspicious circumstances or for undetermined reasons.
And is cat-calling not a violation of women’s rights? What about sexual harassment? It still happens on the streets of developed countries.
The place to make a difference
It is true that in some developing countries women’s rights are almost nonexistence. Especially in countries where wars or conflicts are going on, women and children become victims very easily. But even in countries where there is no war, women and girls are oftentimes seen as property that can be sold or given like a present.
In such countries women’s rights – if at all – only exist on paper. The only law that people are following is oftentimes the tradition and beliefs that no one ever questions because people are sometimes so poor that they cannot afford education which could broaden their minds. And even if they are educated and know better, they are sometimes not willing to challenge any custom or tradition because that could also bring harm on themselves. In such countries there is still much to be done.
But someone who comes from a developed country should not see this like a chance for a mission because he thinks he knows better and that he is helping people. This is not the place to indulge some kind of a dream to become the hero who saves others, and feels good about him- or herself. For many women violence and sexual harassment are not just theory, it’s a brutal, everyday reality. And this is true not only in developing countries but also in developed countries. So if you really want to make a difference, fight for women’s rights, always and wherever you are!
Author: Marjory Linardy
Editor: Grahame Lucas
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Date19.01.2015 | 22:17