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UNCSW: paving the road to gender equality

By Chong Xin Ru, Gillian, Agence-France Presse

Published: 18 Mar 2019 - 07:23 AM

The UNCSW aims to achieve gender equality.

The UNCSW aims to achieve gender equality.

The UNCSW will be discussing two issues. Firstly, the issue of “Women’s Political Leadership and Representation”, or the lack thereof. This is a pressing issue to address, as the lack of women involved in politics, exacerbates gender inequality. It also deprives society of benefits that gender balanced governments bring.

The fight for gender equality has been long and arduous. From the First Wave of Feminism in the mid-1800s to present day, women around the world have been fighting for equal rights. Their efforts have certainly paid off: women are now allowed to vote in every country except the Vatican City, and legislation in most countries allow women to participate in politics.

Yet, the percentage of women in politics is a measly figure compared to the percentage of men in politics. Women made up 49.6% of the population in 2017. However, the percentage of women in national parliaments globally in 2017 was only 23.4%. These figures can be attributed to societal bias against women, a lack of educational opportunities for women, the demeaning portrayal of women in mainstream media, and the restriction of freedom of women by backward laws and customs. These factors either discourage or do not allow women to participate in politics.

Therefore, women have fewer representatives in power than men to push for policies that benefit women. Their needs are not equally met, nor their views equally expressed. This is detrimental to the progress of both gender equality and society. Studies by the World Bank have shown that achieving gender equality would reduce poverty rates and encourage economic growth. In Sweden, a country with gender parity in their government, female employment rates are among the highest and child poverty rates among the lowest in the European Union.

Everyone benefits from gender equality. The policies that the UNCSW will implement are thus especially crucial, as the right policies will bring the world one step closer to gender equality and greater economic prosperity.

Secondly, the UNCSW will discuss the issue of “Women’s Reproductive Autonomy”. This issue discusses the lack of control many women have over their own reproductive autonomy.

Reproductive autonomy is a human right, however, up to less than a century ago, women lacked said reproductive autonomy. Men, instead of women, held the final say in matters such as family planning, pregnancy, and birth control. Furthermore, practices that gave women more power over their bodies like abortion and contraceptives were either inaccessible to many women, or outlawed.

Society has progressed since then, and steps have been taken to grant women greater reproductive autonomy. Many conferences and acts have been passed, granting women more control over their reproductive autonomy. In 1960, Enovid, the first birth control pill, was introduced in Europe and America. In 1973, abortion was legalised in a country for the first time.

However, this does not mean that all women now have full reproductive autonomy. Firstly, abortion is still outlawed, or restricted in some manner, in many countries. The Pro-life camp believes abortion is unethical. Due to this, many countries do not fully legalise abortion. Many women are forced to either risk their lives in illegal abortions or carry the child to full term at the expense of their own well-being. Secondly, societal perception towards birth control measures prevents them from being fully effective. Religious beliefs and deeply rooted traditions keep contraceptives inaccessible to many women. Lastly, the lack of family planning education in developing countries restricts the amount of information available to women. They are therefore limited in their ability to make sound decisions for themselves and their families.

The fight to grant women full reproductive autonomy has not yet been won. The UNCSW will thus implement policies after the conference to this end; for the rights of women all around the world.