Gender and Equality

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Can we ever have true equality?
Humans intrinsically live by stereotypes. However, the possibility of equality for women could come to fruition in the far future. Society has come a long way from the days when women were regarded as being lower down the development scale to men. Only when men change their attitudes to be more feminine, and women change their attitudes to be more masculine, will we be near to being more equal. In my opinion, I don’t think that it will evolve to this. Over the years, it has been proved that women are very capable of doing things that would usually be solely associated as men’s' capabilities. For instance, in the labour market there are now more women in the police force, fire service, executive and directive positions; and not forgetting Margaret Thatcher. It all depends on what we conclude as being 'true' equality. I do believe that women will never be on a complete equivalence with men; after all, there are ultimate, biological differences. If we define true equality from a psychological stand, it would be an achievement for men and women to have a greater respect and tolerance for each other. Gender is defined as distinct from sex in that it refers to the social and cultural constructs which, while based on the biological sex of a person, defines his or her roles in society[1]; thus gender-based violence is taken to mean the violence which is inflicted on a person because of their biological sex. In a parallel sense, a society in which there was no discrimination against anyone based on his or her sex could be said to have achieved gender equality, and more generally, gender equality could be defined as full equality between the sexes. A more rights-based definition of gender equality can be developed with reference to two of the fundamental international instruments in this regard: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights[2] declares that all humans are born free and equal, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women[3] refers to this declaration in its second paragraph, while repeating the terms “equal rights of men and women” and “equality of rights of men and women” at least four times in the first five paragraphs, reaching the “full equality of men and women” in the final opening paragraphs before Article 1. CEDAW goes on to enumerate the “same rights” and the “same opportunities” which must be available to all men and women in various fields of human activity, including but not limited to education, marital legislation, and labour. Thus, the concept of gender equality may be taken to primarily refer to the full equality of men and women to enjoy the complete range of political, economic, civil, social and cultural rights, with no one being denied access to these rights, or deprived of them, because of their sex. However, to achieve such full equality in a meaningful and real sense, equality under the law is simply not sufficient, though vitally necessary. The historically inferior position of women, the all-too-often unfavourable cultural and traditional context and the social roles must be taken into account: “Formal or de jure equality, which involves simply “adding women” to the existing paradigms is an inadequate response to women’s inequality. Realizing women’s substantive or de facto equality involves addressing the institutionalized nature of women’s disadvantage and changing the cultural, traditional and religious beliefs that typecast women as inferior to men. It also means recognizing that notions of masculinity and femininity are interdependent…”[4] Although not explicitly using the term gender, the concept is clear in the phrase `notions of masculinity and femininity`, and the message seems to be that as development practitioners, we should recognise the “gendered” stereotypes which prevent achievement of full equality between the sexes, and attempt to redress them. Various development institutions have built on this concept to...
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