Globally, violence against women and girls is a major issue and is caused and perpetuated by gender inequality. Affecting not only women and girls, gender inequality negatively impacts the wellbeing, life quality, and opportunities of children, their families, and the wider community.
What is gender inequality?
Gender inequality is based on discrimination. The Oxford Dictionary defines Gender inequality as the “[The} Social process by which people are treated differently and disadvantageously, under similar circumstances, on the basis of gender”.
While gender discrimination can impact anyone, women and girls are the most affected. In this case, gender inequality typically results in men having higher status than females. As such, women and girls are not treated equally and have reduced control over their lives.
Forms of gender inequality
Common forms of gender inequality include:
- Rigid gender roles.
- Unequal power relations between women and men.
- Norms and hierarchies.
- Ascribing one sex a lower status in society.
Gender inequality is prevalent in most countries around the world. This means that globally, many women and girls are at a disadvantage.
Education is one of the most important factors in human development. Yet access is particularly difficult for young women and girls. According to the World Bank, 16 million girls aged six to 11 will never start school, compared with 8 million boys.
Figures from the United Nations capture the prevailing inequalities. Women own just 13 percent of agricultural land. While only 24 percent of women are members of parliament, a marginal increase from 11.3 percent in 1995. In the workplace, women still earn less than men for the same type of work.
Gender Inequality in Thailand
In Thailand, gender inequality sits within traditional cultural norms. In some areas, women and girls still face strict gender roles and inferior status.
Women are working longer hours and getting paid less than men. Statistics show the pay gap between men and women has increased to 10.94 percent, up from 2.5 percent in 2015. While the number of women in the labor force is 59 percent, compared to 76 percent of men.
Moreover, women have less access to economic and financial resources. Making it harder to gain the necessary skills to compete in the job market. This impacts the long-term prospects and quality of life for women and their families.
Gender inequality can occur more in rural Thailand where discriminatory practices are still in place. Here, women, girls, and migrants are especially vulnerable to poverty, discrimination, and exploitation. Forms of exploitation include labor and human trafficking.
Thailand has made significant progress in the advancement of women’s rights. Seen in the 1980’s ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). While more recently, The Gender Equality Act 2015, and the establishment of the Committee to Promote Gender Equality were enacted to legally advance gender parity.
According to UN Women, there are more women in public office than ever, as well as a growing number of women scientists, doctors, lawyers, and so forth. Women are also increasingly holding leadership positions in the workplace.
While there have been dramatic improvements to gender equality, work is still needed.
Gender inequality has serious and far-reaching consequences. Exposure to violence and discrimination, and restricted access to resources can lead to poverty, powerlessness, and marginalization.
The disastrous effects go beyond the individual. When women and girls’ potential is not realized, research has shown this can impact families, communities, and the economic growth of entire nations.
Violence Against Women And Girls
In the 1993 Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, the UN General Assembly recognized a direct link between violence against women and unequal power relations between men and women.
At its core, gender-based violence is an abuse of power. It is a means to exert control and reinforces women’s unequal status in society.
Violence against women is a global problem. According to UNICEF, up to 70 percent of women experience physical or sexual violence from men in their lifetime.
Across Thailand, violence against women and girls (VAWG) remains a prominent issue. In communities such as the Chiang Khong, this issue is compounded by low income, extreme poverty and a high number of stateless people.
The commitment to ending violence against women has never been more urgent.
What can we do?
Key actions include:
- Recognize gender inequality as a core element when addressing violence against women.
- Ensure that programs and policies encourage women’s economic participation and independence.
- Promote, protect and fulfill the human rights of women and girls. Including the universal standard right to health, control over their sexual health and reproductive rights, and freedom from discrimination and violence.
- Develop policies and programs that educate and empower women to achieve gender equality in their communities.
- Continually amend and update policies to be in line with international recommendations.
- Include boys and men in programs about gender inequality and gender-based violence.
Center for Girls in Action
At the Center for Girls, we believe education is the first step toward a more equitable society. Our new project, the Social Empowerment for Gender Equality strives to educate the community on women’s rights, build confidence and encourage the importance of women in their community. With this project, we aim to strengthen gender equality and reduce violence against women in the Chiang Khong district.
– Kristen Rive-Thomson