“We can never close the gender divide.” Do you agree?
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GP Essay Question: Model Essay
As the COVID-19 pandemic pushes on and persists to affect lives and livelihoods around the world, we are witnessing a tide of economic fallout, which has a regressive effect on gender equality. According to Mckinsey Research, women’s jobs are 1.8 times more vulnerable in this crisis compared to men’s jobs and It is predicted that women make up 39 percent of global employment, will account for 54 percent of overall job losses. Some put forth the view that we can never close the gender divide due to such economic realities, legislative barriers and sexist mindsets that pervades in our society today, creating an irreconcilable chasm between males and females. This has led some to believe that the gender divide is insurmountable. However, it is my conviction that while closing the gender divide will be difficult, it is not out of the question, mainly attributed to changing attitudes in legislature and shifts in societal mindsets towards women. Ergo, it will be difficult, but closing the gender divide is indeed possible.
Some espouse the opinion that it is not possible to close the gender divide largely due to the existence of legislative barriers that institutionalise gender discrimination and perpetuate gender inequality. In Singapore, for instance, although the Government has taken steps in the recent years to educate and incentivise employers to be fair and to promote flexible work arrangements so that, yet there is still an absence of legislation that clearly lays out employer duties and responsibilities, this results in many companies being able to get away with little more than superficial commitments to be more inclusive. The situation is even more bleak in less developed countries like India. In the recent years, the numerous cases of rape across the country once again exposed the failures of the criminal justice system. Nearly six years after the government amended laws and put in place new guidelines aimed at justice for survivors of rape and sexual violence, yet girls and women continue to face barriers to reporting such crimes. Victim-blaming is also rampant, and the lack of witness and victim protection laws make girls and women from marginalized communities even more vulnerable to harassment and threats. Across the spectrum, from developing to more developed countries, what persists is a disturbing observation that legislation either explicitly hurts women and promotes sexism, or it condones behaviours that hurt women and promote sexism. It remains a deeply painful and saddening reality that the patriarchy continues to be entrenched in legislature, and ingrained in societal institutions, leading some to think that it is a futile quest and that we can never close the gender divide. In view of all these challenges, it does seem like an uphill task when it comes to closing the gender divide. But to say that it is an impossible dream would be too fatalistic. I strongly stand by the view that closing the gender divide is not completely impossible- there is definitely more than a glimmer of hope. First and foremost, there have been changing attitudes in legislature that have led to tremendous progress for women’s rights on paper. Right here in Singapore, the government has just announced that they will embark on a review of women’s issues showing a strong committed step towards greater gender equality. In the pipeline are a series of engagements termed as “Conversations on Women Development” scheduled to take place between the public and private sectors, as well as non-governmental organisations, with the objective of identifying and tackling issues concerning women in Singapore. These will culminate in a White Paper to be issued by the Government in the first half of 2021.
Across the globe, in terms of the right to political representation, the presence of women has been growing- in the upcoming US Presidential elections, Kamala Harris’s nomination as the Vice President for the democratic party is a milestone. She is the first woman and the first person of colour to serve as vice president. In Canada, Justin Trudeau made half the ministers in his cabinet women. Similarly, in Singapore, other than having a first female president, the recent election 29 per cent of the 93 seats for elected Members of Parliament (MPs), 27 – or elected seats – went to women, compared to 21 out of 89 seats after the 2015 polls. Even in countries without a female head of government, changes in legislature have indeed been growing to ameliorate gender inequality and boost the rights of women. Japan has adopted new legislation to promote women’s political participation by urging political parties to make the number of male and female candidates as equal as possible and set targets for gender parity. Notoriously patriarchal countries like Afghanistan had a record of 417 female candidates that participated in the October parliamentary elections in 2018. These are all concrete evidence that legislature has been changing to increase rights for women and enact gender parity, closing the gender divide. With more female representation in politics and in view of these steps towards women representation, it is still very much possible for us to close the gender divide in the near future.
In addition to this, it is definitely possible to close the gender divide because there has also been shifting societal attitudes towards women. At a societal level, the #MeToo movement directed unprecedented attention to the historic injustices and inequalities experienced by women, specifically those related to sexual harassment in the workplace. Led by grassroots activists, this movement gained traction across Asia, opening space for countless stories of harassment and new opportunities to hold perpetrators to account. Even countries that have been traditionally patriarchal in nature like South Korea is making headways in gender equality. Enterprising Korean women are increasingly visible in a traditionally male dominated country like South Korea. More young women are earning university degrees than men. More than 70% of women between 25 and 34 are active in the workforce. Young women are far more vocal than previous generations in challenging the conservative social mores that hold them back. For instance, two female Youtube Influencers Jung Se-young and Baeck Hana, are part of a wave of feminist activism that has swept South Korea. These ladies have cut their hair, thrown away their make-up and sworn off relationships with men. With the advent of social media, the influence of feminism is increasing spreading across social media platforms and society is waking up to the fact that young digital natives no longer want these conservative traditions, and women are free to reject them. Thus, it is highly possible that due to shifting societal attitudes that promote gender equality, the gender divide will be definitely be closed.
All in all, although the path towards gender equality may seem frustratingly slow. But the fact that inequality is now being openly discussed is progress in itself. In these recent years, societies and government worldwide have been placing gender equality issues on their agenda. With this growing trend towards more rights for women on paper, coupled with the shifting societal mindsets, it is completely possible that our generations will be able to close the gender in our lifetime. The journey towards gender equality may be winding. There is no silver bullet and admittedly there is a lot to do in the field of equality, but nothing is impossible. We must and can continue to fight and narrow the gender divide.
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