04.08.2017 Feature Article

Gender Inequality Is Incompatible With Democratic Values

Gender Inequality Is Incompatible With Democratic Values
04.08.2017 LISTEN

One of the most enduring societal injustices is the relegation of women to what amounts to a second-class status. Throughout history, the female human species have never been accepted as equal partners of their male counterparts; they have played second fiddle to men in almost everything. From politics to religion to public service to even family life, men have the dominant role while women always either stay in the background or occupy themselves with less weighty matters.

We are now in the twenty-first century, considered the high-water mark of the age of enlightenment, and should women as a social group continue to occupy the lower ranks of the hierarchical structures in society? Isn't it past time for women to be recognized for what they are - the co-equal partners of men - and be given the same opportunities granted to men?

Admittedly, the last few decades have seen some improvements in the status of women world-wide. Women have smashed the proverbial glass ceiling in many areas, rising to become presidents and prime ministers, legislators, chief justices, high-ranking military and police officers, heads of big corporations, and prominent members of the clergy. More remarkably, the women reached these glorious heights on merit, often overcoming formidable male competition and sometimes even hostility.

Yes, our mothers and sisters have come a long way, as a Virginia Slims cigarette commercial once cheerfully observed, but it is not nearly enough. These achievements, however important and impressive, are no more than window dressing; they are merely cosmetic.

Globally, women outnumber men by a 51-49 margin, yet about ninety percent of the top positions in both the public and private sectors around the world are held by men. Memberships of legislatures are dominated by men; the composition of governments is universally asymmetrical in favor of men; heads of governments are predominantly men; United Nations delegations are mostly made up of men; most universities and colleges as well as their constituent faculties and departments are headed by men. The list goes on and on across the board, leaving not a shred of doubt that it is a man's world.

Yet this is supposed to be the age of equality, the age of liberalization. In the United States, former slaves now enjoy the civil rights that were once denied them. Elsewhere in the world, the citizens of erstwhile totalitarian states now have the right to decide how they are governed. On the social front, homosexuals are now gradually gaining acceptance into the mainstream of society in North America and Europe. Societies everywhere are transforming in various ways, but gender equality, unfortunately, is not part of the process.

The under-representation of women, in other words, the gender gap, is especially pronounced where political power resides. It is an astounding phenomenon. After nearly three centuries as a nation, the United States, which prides itself as a beacon of democracy, has never had a single woman as president. In the United Kingdom, the birthplace of parliamentary democracy, only two females have had the opportunity to serve as prime minister in more than 500 years, while in France, where the art of popular revolutions was invented, not even a single woman has had the honor of serving as president since the republic was founded nearly 400 ago.

And, despite her claim to cultural superiority, Germany has managed to elevate only one female as head of government in her long history. Only the Scandinavian countries stand out in Europe as liberal enough to have frequently chosen women as heads of government ( all the Scandinavian countries have kings and queens as heads of state), but even their laudable efforts were a long time coming.

A few other nations have had women as leaders at one time or another, but those events were all aberrations, mere accidents of history; the elections didn't start a trend in these countries.The countries include India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Australia, and Malawi. Liberia is now led by a woman, but it took nearly 200 years to get to this point.

Ironically, many of the countries mentioned above loudly promote themselves as bastions of democracy, but it is hard to imagine a more undemocratic society than one where more than half of the citizens are marginalized on account of their gender. Indeed, when it comes to misogyny, many nations in the West are only slightly better than the Sharia law-governed Islamic theocracies in the East.