Gender inequality remains a primary social theme in many of the countries in the world today, despite the many protests, columns, and media attention and women days celebrated. The failure to include women in the policy making process regarding themselves is a main cause of inability to succeed. Global violence against women, with no rights regarding sexual health, reproduction and education are some of the basic themes that deny women their equal right in the society. Income gaps are another central theme found regarding women, and domestic violence and sexual assault are now among the common findings in many societies of the world.
The question is more disturbing when considering violation of women’s rights in liberal democratic governments, which are supportive of rights of every human being. Whether they be European, Asian or African countries, women are experiencing different levels of hindrance regarding their gender roles and equality in the distribution of various tasks and wages. (Crompton, Brockmann and Lyonnette, 2005, pp 213) although the modernization of the attitudes in this regard has led to less traditional models of society found in these regions, there is still a significant gap that must be over come. (Crompton, Brockmann and Lyonnette, 2005, pp 214)
Globalization and post colonization have although led to rapid development of the world and the modern society, but it was not able to provide equal opportunity to all during this time. the women and children were significantly affected, and this disbalance created still remains to this day. The present complications in the governing and the social systems are so great that ideas such as universal theories have limited application. There are significant questions about how such inequality will be resolved, and how outcomes will be achieved. Liberal democratic values were a very interesting slogan and platform for feminists when this concept was introduced, but with time, this ideal too has fallen prey to the cultural and social norms of the various societies where it presides in. (Smith, 2001, n.p.)
It is important to realize that now the situation favoring women’s rights is better than it was before. Although many of the problems and plights the women face globally have not changed at all, still the effect to which women have been able to raise their voice and gain the attention of those in power is an important achievement. China for example, is one of the significant countries, which gave recognition to the women’s cause via Beijing Platform of Action of PFA. (Aleman and Susskind, 2000, n.p.) This is a very significant accomplishment for women’s activist to achieve in a traditionally set country of china, which itself is suffering from neglect of women’s rights. So far this platform has provided the most significant voice to the women’s cause, and has made the impact to enroll other countries’ cooperation. The importance of realizing a role of a woman in the economic perspective of the society along with the other social roles is an important part of improving global economy. (Aleman and Susskind, 2000, n.p.)
Yet these victories are not significant compared to the problems that women still face on the advent of the twenty first century. Although liberals claim that their countries are now providing the best rights protection to the women, the facts are completely reverse of the statement. Liberal theory is not being applied in the practical sense. Religious and cultural norms remain the biggest challenge to be surmounted in the today’s world society. And the countries which claim liberalism to all, fail miserably in their claims regarding rights for women. (Stopler, 2003, n.p.) Some of the countries which claim to hold the highest values of liberal democracies are at a loss when they come to explain their rights for women. India, Israel and the USA, although catering from different regional, social and religious perspectives, still remain on of the most ignorant of their women’s rights. Feminists agree on the patriarchal role of liberal theories and practice in today’s world, which is denying women their rights. This thinking is not only affecting the liberal democracies in recognizing the women’s roles, but is also affecting capitalism with the same tendency. These democracies do not take into account the gender specific roles that women carry out apart from various economic roles. (Stopler, 2003, np) The religious and cultural practices are so deeply interconnected with the system that now even the violations of rights cannot be asserted accurately. Learning from the examples of the US, the Israel and the India, we see one of the most significant breaches of women’s rights. Religious doctrines prohibit women to be in the head positions of religious sects. And women are not allowed to participate in many of the social decision making roles without their male relative’s consent. Marriage and divorce issues in Israel are subjected to greatest inequality regarding gender. India discriminated women on the basis of their sex, morality, religious inclinations, and the caste system in Hinduism, and in various socioeconomic parts of life. (Stopler, 2003, np)
Another challenge being thrown in front of the feminists of today is the equally strong debate about how western civilization is denying women’s rights and liberties. This is in light of the universality concept and how it is useless to try to apply to different cultures with completely different views regarding life and women to be applicable at all, if in any way successful. (Smith, 2001, nd) While many of the ideas of the feminists may be very strong, arguers claim that creating a universal model that will fit problems of women all around the world will bring more complications to the situation than any relief or even support. By creating a aura of competition between the sexes, the arguers claim that there is a developing mutual hatred between both sexes for each other, which will deteriorate communication and complicate relationships on all levels. Rather, the idea should be to create an environment where there is mutual understanding and appreciation of the roles played by both genders, and then dividing them according to the need of the times. In the eastern cultures for example, many of the Middle Eastern countries are now creating their own media propagation about understanding the various differences of both sexes and how both can compliment each other’s existence. Instead of the blame game, these liberalists believe that only understanding and respect will be able to gain ground. (Smith, 2001, n.p)
Similarly, while religion is claimed to be one of the most affecting areas that is oppressing women, many liberalists do not understand that religion is a personal issue and a matter of choice for many of the people. In that way, it holds a significant part of their lives and their mode of thinking. While religion may be claimed to be an oppressive part of the woman’s strife to liberation, it may be a very important part of her life, without which many women may not survive. In many of the eastern and Asian cultures for example, the religion and culture are very important parts of a person’s identity, and many of these attributes may not even affect women’s liberal themes at all. Therefore, feminists who are trying to completely eliminate religion and culture from the equation may not do so, because without them a woman may be actually left with nothing to have a definition of.
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
In short even the liberal societies of the world are facing gender inequality issues due to the complicated web of religious and cultural ties that binds each woman in this regard. The feminist workers realize this fact and therefore are working on reducing the impact of such cultural and religious inequalities. Many of the scholars support the fact that in the past, the religion has been tempered to suit the needs of men and ensure the suppression of women. The original sin concept of Christianity is among the most significant discriminators of gender, where women are considered below average and sinful, wicked persons. In order to remove this bias, the essential requirement is to eliminate the flaws that have been created by men in the society and to put forward the religious equalities as stated by many religions. Islam for example, gives very strong support to the equal rights of women, but cultural practices have made it impossible for any woman to raise her voice against it. Therefore in order for women to empower themselves with equal right opportunities, it is important to clarify the importance of gender equality and role distribution in normal lives and how they can help improve the outcomes of the nations on the whole. (Nazir, np, nd)
However, even with these concepts in the mind, it is essential to understand that there are many aspects of many societies that are not in any way inhibitory for women to carry out different facets of life. religion and culture form a major part of many civilizations even today. And while many may claim that religion is a binding part of a culture, without it, most of the cultures cannot survive at all. Most of the western cultures of today are now suffering from lack of identity, lack of culture or religious inclinations. The resulting psychological complications that are arising from the dissolution of the social fabric is a fact of the failure of such a system. introducing a culture where religion and social cultural themes are obliterated in the name of women’s liberation may not leave any thing to celebrate freedom of.
In conclusion, while liberal democracies remain useless in implementing various social equalities for women in many societies of the world, there are many social, cultural and religious factors that are influencing it. For a current feminist who intends to make a significant change in the women’s rights conditions around the world, he or she must understand the various facets that contribute to it, and not blindly place one size fits all theory of universality for women around the world.