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Women’s Rights: Are they still a global issue?

An insight into the subjugation of women across the globe

In the UK, and much of the developed world, women and men are generally regarded as equals. On the whole, they have the same rights and freedoms – something that is entrenched and unquestioned in modern society. Regardless, still in many parts of the world, huge violations of women’s rights especially take place. Human Rights Watch, a global humanitarian organisation, is one of many that recognise the widespread mistreatment of women and girls in various areas of the globe; in marriage, sex trafficking, pregnancy, education, employment and politics and many more, and works to eradicate these issues. However, many violations of the rights of women and girls internationally still take place even today, despite the work of these organisations, and the efforts of other nations to end the mistreatment.

Child marriage still takes place in many parts of the world, taking away a girl’s childhood, and freedom from potential sexual and physical abuse, as they are sold like slaves to much older men. In Africa, according to UNICEF, 70% of girls in 3 investigated nations were married below the age of 18. For example, in Nigeria, 76% of women aged 20-24 said that they were married before the age of 18, with 28% married off before reaching 15 years of age, with a few married as young as 7. The marriage of young girls especially is largely due to the giving of dowries by the groom to the bride’s family as a reward, which decreases as a girl ages. Therefore, in poverty-stricken countries, child marriage becomes common, as families sell off their daughters to gain money that they need to survive, ripping away a girls’ childhood and experiences.

In Nigeria, girls as young as 7 are forced into marriage

In Nigeria, girls as young as 7 are forced into marriage

Even worse than this, some families sell their children to the sex-trafficking industry to gain money, and experts have claimed that 20% of the sex trafficking industry is now made up of children, mostly young girls. Many girls are also kidnapped from the streets by traffickers, and are sexually and physically abused, through no choice of their own, and not even for their own profit.

A controversial area of women’s rights is the law in many countries regarding abortion. Abortion still remains a controversial subject in all parts of the world, with the “pro-choice” verses “pro-life” argument still remaining unsettled. Nevertheless, the laws surrounding abortion in some nations, regardless of whether you view abortion as morally correct, are clearly too harsh a punishment, especially for those who have no choice but to abort, to save either their own suffering or their unborn child’s. For example, in El Salvador, a woman can be imprisoned for having an abortion regardless of the circumstances, such as Teodora Vásquez, who was given a 30 year sentence for having an abortion, and still served 11 years before she was eventually released. Even more shockingly, also in El Salvador, miscarriage is illegal, with women being sentenced for up to 40 years for the ‘crime’ of miscarriage. Unfortunately, this situation is not a one-off, and is also the situation experienced by many women in other parts of the world also.

Teodora Vásquez served 11 years for having an abortion

Teodora Vásquez served 11 years for having an abortion

Lack of education is a further issue facing many girls across the globe. As many as 31 million girls still do not receive access to even primary education, with even more not graduating or passing onto secondary level education. In countries such as Afghanistan, girls are barred from going to school with boys, and as a result of few girls’ schools, they are unable to receive an education, resulting in illiteracy for 90% of women. Despite education being a right that everyone is entitled to under the 1948 UDHR, millions of women are deprived of this as, in many nations, it is believed that a woman’s place is in the home, and not at school.

Huge inequalities in employment also take place across the world. For example, in Malawi, only 4% of women have a higher-status job that their partners, showing the huge difference in status between men and women. In addition, in Nigeria, around 80% of the agricultural workforce is women, showing how they are reduced to the lowest-paying jobs, as they are not viewed as capable of performing the same roles as their male counterparts. Furthermore, women are often taken advantage of in the workplace within large companies, as the sheer number of workers makes the exploitation of women easier especially. For example, in Indonesia, workers (the majority women) at 9 Nike plants suffered from verbal and sexual abuse, as well as a lack of medical care, and compulsory overtime, whilst being paid very little in profit. This clearly shows the inequality and mistreatment of women in the workplace, which is sadly still a huge global issue, as in the majority of countries across the globe, including in developed ones, women are still verbally and sexually harrassed in the workplace, or are paid less than men working in the same roles.

The inequality of men and women is further seen in politics. Although the only state that bars women from any part of the political process is the Vatican City, the balance of men and women within politics remains unequal – out of 193 UN-recognised state leaders, only 15 are women. This huge lack of female representation in the political system may also be the key as to why much of the legislation regarding women’s rights has not been altered, as for many of the men who hold legislative power, women’s rights are not a priority.

World leaders at the G20 summit 2015, a clearly male-dominated event

World leaders at the G20 summit in 2015, a clearly male-dominated event

However, there are glimmers of hope that an equal world is not too far off. In recent years, many countries have made huge progress in an attempt to recognise women’s rights; for example, Saudi Arabia, a country famous for its inequalities between men and women, granted women suffrage in 2015, and this month, they have been given the freedom to start their own businesses without the permission of men. Regardless, it is important to realise that violations against women still take place in many areas of the globe, and that we still have a long way to go to create an equal and fair world.

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