Thursday, 11 March 2010

Women in the world

Taken from the Bible and the Torah:
“God created man in his own image... male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27

Taken from the Qur’an:
[sura 33:35] The submitting men, the submitting women, the believing men, the believing women, the obedient men, the obedient women, the truthful men, the truthful women, the steadfast men, the steadfast women, the reverent men, the reverent women, the charitable men, the charitable women, the fasting men, the fasting women, the chaste men, the chaste women, and the men who commemorate GOD frequently, and the commemorating women; GOD has prepared for them forgiveness and a great recompense.

Figures from the year 2000 show that, between them, followers of the Christian, Muslim and Jewish religions accounted for 52.8% of the world’s population. The quotes above are taken from the sacred texts of those three religions. They suggest that God, Allah or Yahweh considers men and women to be equal in His eyes. If that is so, then His followers, striving daily to be more like Him, should also see the two genders as equal.

And yet, around the world the inequality of the sexes is as strong as it ever was. In many countries, including ones that loudly proclaim their belief in the equality of the sexes, women are often paid far less than men for doing the same job.

Women make up 40% of the workforce in the UK and yet are under represented in the higher echelons: only 12.2% of the FTSE 100 board members are women, even though more than half of all university graduates are women.

In UK politics, in order to ensure fair representation for the “fairer sex”, the main parties force local constituencies to choose candidates from all-women shortlists.

It is only recently that women have been able to take part in politics at any level at all. The first country to allow women to vote was New Zealand, in 1893. In the UK, women have only been able to vote on equal terms with men since 1928.

Switzerland did not allow women the vote until 1971, and Liechtenstein held them at bay until 1984.

Today, there are five countries where women are either denied the right to vote or where there are restrictions on that right. These are:

Saudi Arabia and Vatican City, which do not allow women the right to vote at all,

Brunei, governed by an absolute monarchy and where neither men nor women have a vote,

Lebanon, women are required to have an elemental education before being allowed to vote, a condition not applied to men,

Bhutan, where women ARE allowed to vote, but since the country allows just one vote per household, most women cannot vote.

Some women, however, endure far worse than being paid less than male colleagues or being unable to vote. Over the coming weeks, we will be looking at the problems women face around the world today.

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