Global Concerns - 7 - Patriarchy & The Subordination of Women

This is a strand which runs through all the other big global concerns here. Patriarchy, misogyny and sexism are pervasive in almost all societies on earth - even the most 'developed' societies -
and are built into social structures, political systems, laws, economies, education systems and cultures. This disadvantages half the world's population and is ethically and morally unjust. It also creates an enduring set of avoidable problems. It affects every nation, and gives rise to many kinds of inequalities, for example in : human rights, democratic and voting rights, and health rights. So, it has many facets and is restricting the progress of global society. The video here is one example of an artistic response (by Shirin Neshat) to this massive set of injustices.

FIRST EXAMPLE : Sexual and reproductive rights are fundamental to being female. These are among the most basic human rights principles guaranteed by international law. But many women and girls all over the world still do not have rights over their own bodies or their sexual and reproductive life. They need quick and easy access to maternal health services, condoms and HIV prevention measures, family planning and abortion. So, women should be in control of planning and ensuring that these services meet their needs. The fact that they are often not is a clear abuse of their human rights. Consequently there are far too many vulnerable women and girls and preventable deaths and injuries. These are just some of the consequences of the continuing subordination of women.

SECOND EXAMPLE : In wars and conflicts women and children are more likely to be the first victims
of attacks on civilian populations, to be among the first so-called ‘collateral damage’. Also, women and girls are more likely to be targets of sexual violence, especially rape which has been used as a weapon of war, conflict or gang warfare against women and children. In recent years there has been deliberate use of rape in political conflicts (e.g. in the first and second world wars, Vietnam, the war in the Balkans - the former Yugoslavia - Sierra Leone, Guinea-Conakry, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, among many others). This has terrible consequences in terms of unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections, and psychological trauma. This is often made worse by social stigma and rejection by families, communities or authorities.

THIRD EXAMPLE : Women and girls are also more likely to be disproportionately affected when civil services collapse. When peace arrives women are often excluded (by patriarchal decision-making) from peace-building decisions and processes.

FOURTH EXAMPLE : Even away from conflict situations, ‘cultural normality’ for some women and girls may include : Sexual abuse, gender violence, domestic violence, forced or early marriage, female genital mutilation (this is both child abuse and a human rights abuse), forced or coerced sterilisation, forced prostitution, forced virginity tests (e.g. tests forced on women demonstrators in Egypt during the ‘Arab Spring’ created public outrage), and may even include forced marriage to their rapists (e.g. Article 475 of the Moroccan penal code allows rapists to escape punishment if they marry their victim). Sadly, the list of abuses around the world is a very long list.

FIFTH EXAMPLE : Rights to education are also very important. For example, sixteen-year-old Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai was shot by the Taliban in October 2012 but has recovered. In July 2013 she spoke at the U.N. to call for worldwide access to education. She was one of two people to jointly be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in October 2014 for their "struggle against the suppression of children and young people". Malala is the youngest ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. The other recipient was Mr Kailash Satyarthi, an Indian man, who has headed peaceful forms of protest "focusing on the grave exploitation of children for financial gain". Malala has also won numerous other international awards and recognition.

SIXTH EXAMPLE : In almost every part of the world there is also enduring under-representation of women at every level of local and national government – as well as in other non-government spheres (e.g. in the management of private firms and corporations, etc). The consequences of this are bad for society as a whole.

SEVENTH EXAMPLE : Even in the world’s (supposedly) more ‘developed’ societies a wide variety of gender-based discrimination works against women and girls throughout their lives.
Gender stereotyping, the sexualisation of girls and the objectification of women are common, for example in the media and online. Women work more than men but are paid less. Invisible ‘glass ceilings’ restrict women’s career progression. Poverty restricts women’s lives and their ability to make progress, even more than men. Writers and campaigners around the world are often targets for horrific online threats and abuse. These are just some of the problems in what are often called the ‘developed’ countries !

Lastly : Imagine for a moment that (instead of women) it was men suffering abuses and inequality on this massive scale. In that case the injustices would have been tackled by now. So, it can be done and it should be.