This week we had International Women’s Day. The date, proposed by the German socialist Clara Zetkin, has its roots in the claims of the feminist movement and the struggles of working women during the 19th and 20th centuries. March 8 was recognized by the United Nations in 1975, on the occasion of the International Year of Women and the 1st World Conference on Women, held in Mexico City.
A look at the global panorama of women’s rights reminds us that the date is an opportunity to reflect on their achievements, demand changes and analyze the long way to go to achieve truly equal societies and democracies.
At the international level, women and girls constitute half of the population and fully guaranteeing their rights benefits society as a whole. Indeed, in addition to being a fundamental human right, gender equality is an imperative for democracy and positively affects the economies and progress of countries in all spheres.
With this process in mind, the UN General Assembly declared the United Nations Decade for Women (1976-1985) and in 1979 approved the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). In 1995, the 4th International Conference on Women, held in Beijing, claimed women’s rights as human rights and, through the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, a roadmap was established for the advancement of women and the achievement of equal opportunities. gender in spheres such as education, health and politics.
More recently, in 2010, the General Assembly also voted to create UN Women, a body whose aim is to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment. Furthermore, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development establishes gender equality as the fifth objective, conceived as an essential foundation for building a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world.
Despite the reduction of some gaps and important advances in recent decades, such as the increase in laws and institutions in favor of equality, the greater presence of women in politics and the improvement of their educational and salary levels, the problems and difficulties that women and girls face globally are huge. According to UN Women, one in three women in the world has experienced physical or sexual violence at some time.
Due to the widespread existence of discriminatory laws, women also experience various difficulties that prevent their full human and professional development. Women and girls are the main victims of sexual violence during conflicts, they are especially affected by phenomena such as human trafficking and smuggling and, despite the existence of quotas and parity laws, they continue to be underrepresented at the political level.
According to a report by the Jean-Jaurès Foundation and the feminist organization Equipop, women’s rights are receding around the world. This process is not just a result of the pandemic that exacerbated inequalities, tripled care for women and exponentially increased violence, lack of jobs and precariousness to which they are exposed. What some call a “backlash” against women’s rights is rather the fruit of the alliance of heterogeneous groups, which include conservative parties and movements, fundamentalist and anti-rights sectors.
After the return of the Taliban, recent bans on women and girls in Afghanistan from working or going to school are just one example. According to Amnesty International, women who opposed the imposition of these measures were threatened, imprisoned and tortured. But the regressions are widespread: the repeal of the right to abortion in the United States, its increasing restriction in countries like Poland, or Turkey’s withdrawal from the historic Istanbul Convention against gender violence, are examples of the loss of acquired rights for women. and girls globally.
António Guterres, Secretary-General of the UN, stressed that achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls are pending tasks of our time and constitute the greatest challenge in terms of human rights at the global level.
In Latin America, the situation is also contradictory. According to Ceapal’s Gender Equality Observatory, the region has some of the highest rates of inequality, violence and gender discrimination in the world. In Latin America, being a woman is a risk factor and multiplies the possibilities of suffering various forms of violence, which has its most extreme version in femicide.
The feminist movement is a pulsating actor in the region and mobilizations to fight discrimination and violence and guarantee rights are widespread, but require structural changes, redefining gender roles and gradually transforming the beliefs and social norms that sustain inequalities.
A significant contribution is the construction of parity democracies, understood as systems that position parity and substantive equality as central axes of participation and political representation in all spheres. Although this objective contemplates the creation of laws on quotas and gender parity, parity is not restricted to advancing the numerical representation of women, but assumes the full recognition of their rights. It is an integral concept that transcends the political and starts from the fact that women are full citizens, must participate in decision-making and can contribute to solutions to common problems.
In our region, initiatives such as Ateneaesparidad or the #NoSinMujeres Network of Politologists support this proposal and make visible the fact that women matter and that without them there is no democracy or integral socioeconomic development. However, today and always, gender equality and building parity democracies must be everyone’s task.
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