Fundamental human rights are rights that every human is entitled to. Regardless of sex, race, language, ethnicity, religion, and any other status, these rights cannot be taken away. But, as we look at the world around us, it is still incredibly apparent that gender inequality is a significant issue. Discrimination against women can be seen through child brides and marriages, gender biases in the workplace, gender norms, and organization of power in society. Around the world many girls and boys are forced to be victims of forced marriages and sexual slavery. Statistically speaking, a quarter of those in slavery globally, are victims of child brides. Because children are the most vulnerable to being sold and trafficked, an increasing number of children have been forced into these marriages.
Girls are more likely to be trafficked to suit the needs of their captors and these often lead to non-consensual sexual relations and forced pregnancy. For young women, the main cause of death is pregnancy-related complications. While solutions have been offered, internationally and locally, there are still key flaws that remain in trying to stop forced marriages and sexual slavery. While child slavery is recognized as a crime against humanity, the specificity in the statutes for sexual crimes against children are not fully acknowledged. Many cases have been tried in International Criminal Court (ICC), but are often dropped due to lack of evidence and pursuance in the investigation. Because many of these crimes that are committed are not directly related to child sexual crimes, the lack of connection to child slavery has been ignored.
Countries that have the most relevant cases in early forced marriages and child sexual crimes are often inherently linked to cultures and societies that have deeply engrained religious and cultural traditions where forced early marriages with girls is the norm. An increasing number of international and local governments have regarded child marriage as illegal, but because of these cultural norms and normalized exceptions, these laws are often ineffective. Girls are often given less opportunities, such as the fundamental right to an education, than boys in certain countries. Research shows that there is a positive correlation between girls becoming educated and preventing early forced marriages. When women and girls are educated, they are more likely to participate in the labor force, earn higher incomes, become healthier, and have fewer children than those who receive little to no education.
The evidence provides a strong link between child marriage and educational deficits. There has been increasing progress with girls becoming more educated in certain countries thanks to educational initiatives. More schools in Asia have been hiring female teachers in hopes of attracting girls to go to school. Schools also started investing in materials and holding accountability with teachers and in turn it produced a higher attendance and retention rate from girls. Promoting education for girls in these countries can help prevent child marriage but preventing child marriage can help promote completing their education. For decades, trying to give girls equal access to opportunities, such as an education, has been a challenge globally and while progress has been made, without the shifting of social and traditional norms, the world is not going to see an end to child marriages. These barriers are a reflection of the consistent gender stereotypes in schools and cultures.
Many movements around the world were started due to the unequal access of opportunities to young girls and women. Issues such as the sexual harassment of women in the workplace started the #MeToo movement and gender related wage gaps started the #EqualPay movement. These movements have many supporters, but also have their fair share of critics, specifically from conservatives who try and argue that discrimination against women do not exist in developed countries. Because these movements are seen as a more liberal, progressive agenda, it is difficult to have the proper support and funding. The biggest advocates for gender equality in the world are usually women’s organizations, yet they only receive a small amount of funding to help aid the cause. In a survey done with 1000 women’s organizations in more than 140 countries, only half reported to receiving core or frequent funding. Not only would this give the impression that women’s organizations are not as important, but it also promotes the idea that gender inequality is something that does not exist.
Even before a woman accepts a position in the workplace, many still experience gender-based biases during the job application process. Many studies have been done where stereotypically male-dominated jobs have been given to males simply based on their gender, even though their female counterparts seemed much more competent to have the job. In society, women are thought of as sensitive, motherly, and caring, while males are seen as powerful, smart, and an ideal candidate for leadership. These kinds of stereotypes can affect the way a woman is treated in leadership positions, where in many occasions when a woman is simply doing her job, she is called bossy and unfit. Workplaces are offered solutions on how they can create a positive agenda for action, where companies and workplaces need to start instructing change on the effects of biases.
Top leadership positions in politics is a male-dominated field. When talking about shifting policies to help advocate for gender equality, it is often done with men as the majority decision makers. The issue with policies in the world is that it not only undermines women when making decisions regarding gender equality, it leaves them out. In recent years, we have seen more women come into power within politics and try to change the stigma and biases women face, but because there are still many places around the world where a woman is seen as a property of her husband, it is difficult to huge progress. Policymakers must recognize that not holding people accountable for gender equality, just adds to the problem.
Women are the key to helping make the world a better place when they are given the right access to opportunities, education, and simple human rights that men have. For decades, women have been pushing to be treated equal to their counterparts, but without helping change traditional, societal, and cultural norms, there will be no end to it. Gender inequality is rooted in the ideals and exceptions within each country and without more women in power to help change it, there will be no progress made. The path of promoting equality between the sexes is not an easy one, but it is a multiplier effect. Preventing child marriages can lead to completion of education, to increasing the odds in finding a job in the labor force and finding a job in the labor force opens up more opportunities to become promoted and be less likely to suffer deprivations based on gender.
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