What comes to your mind when you hear gender equality? It's funny how people say gender equality can't be achieved because we all aren't the same or equal. Is anyone objecting the palpable fact that we are biologically different? I mean isn't it conspicuous that a male is different from a female? Excuse me, what is the basis of this argument? Maybe, we really don't get the concept of Gender Equality. Let's bring it home while we start from the scratch.
Sex is different from gender. Sex according to World Health Organisation, WHO, refers to biological and physiological characteristics that define men and women. It is the state of being male, female or an intersex. It refers to the biological features that distinguish you from other sexes. And this is not what gender equality is all about. A man is obviously different from a woman, biologically.
However, according to WHO, gender is the result of socially constructed ideas about the behaviours, actions and roles a particular sex performs. It is stemmed out of roles, norms and relationships of a group of sexes. It's taught not inherent as sex. A female is born female but taught how to behave and interact with people; what to do and what not to do and the norms of that society. The same thing is applicable to the male. They are taught their gender by the social conditioning or culture of a particular place directly or indirectly.
It further illustrates the attributes a society or culture classifies as masculine or feminine. It's the proposed social and cultural constructions of masculinities and femininities according to Gender Studies. Gender is the social and cultural differences of the sexes. It is not biological. Sex is believed to be a determinant of gender as it proposes different roles in respect to their biological features, however, it is not true because sex, really hasn't been the determinant but certain beliefs, functions, tasks and roles which vary with people. For example, a man in the Yoruba culture is not expected to cry! It's an abomination and it depicts weakness. Doleful! Perhaps, imagine a culture where girls are taught directly and indirectly never to cry because it shows weakness. Won't it be a norm?
Cultures not people's sexes as it were have made up gender roles over time. Sex cannot be changed but gender can be according to social structure. Gender identity can be male, female or transgender which tells on your sexuality. However, gender and gender roles are results of culture and social structures which brings us to gender equality.
Here is another popular objection whenever gender equality is being preached. People say they don't believe in gender equality but gender equity. Hey. Can I have your attention? Please, to what end is gender equity being demonstrated if not to achieve gender equality? I mean gender equality is the end, the goal while gender equity is one of the means to achieving the goal. Either you believe in equality or not, believing in gender equity already means you believe in the goal.
According to pipelineequity.com, gender equity is the fairness of treatment for both women and men, according to their respective needs. It's not the same as gender equality which means boys, girls, men and women should be given the same opportunities, rights and responsibilities irrespective of their sexes. That is, although man is not the same as woman in terms of biological characteristics which shouldn't be a criterion for choosing a particular sex over another when it comes to rights, opportunities and responsibilities, it's providing the same opportunities for both sexes while equity is providing opportunities for both sexes to enjoy. For example, gender equity says there are 50 slots for both sexes to attend the Gender-Based-Violence program in Lagos while Gender equality says there are 50 slots available and there are 25 slots for the males and 25 for the females.
Gender equality, the UN Sustainable Development Goal 5 is a goal and a right. According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the following rights are stated;
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.
Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and its dissolution.
i. Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.
ii. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of their property.
Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
ii. Everyone without discrimination has the right to equal pay for equal work.
Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security.
Everyone has the right to education.
The listed rights meet the targets of the SDG 5, Gender Equality, hence, it is a box of rights. However, most people, especially, women and girls are denied these rights. Their rights are being violated daily due to gender roles and stereotypes which bring about discrimination. Or are girls not humans? If they are not human beings or everyone, then, we can say the human rights have no effect on them. However, if they are, it's high time we started fighting for the rights of girls and women and also the boys who due to gender roles of a cultural background have been deprived of opportunities while their rights remain violated.
In conclusion, gender equality is not finding its feet in the world now. Yeah, it is a goal and a right. It doesn't look like a fad but a trend that has come to stay. The first target of the goal is to End all Forms of Discrimination against all Women and Girls Everywhere. Stay tuned as we learn gender discrimination in my subsequent blog posts this week.
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