From day one, women and other genders have laid claim to equality – nothing extra, nothing biased, nothing unfair. Then why is equality still off-limits? Probably because we could not understand the difference between equality and equity till now
Equality is a small word with an augmented notion, as well as a subject of a larger argument. Stereotypical ideology often makes the mistake of mixing up gender and sex. Sex is the biological identity whereas gender is a societal identity of the roles we play. But one thing both have in common is in both concepts, equality stands at a distance.
To understand what jeopardizes this harmony of gender by raising questions of superiority and inferiority, we first need to understand the concepts of equality and equity.
If we type equity vs equality in google, the first thing we see is an image explaining the difference. Three people – one adult, one young adult and a baby – is trying to watch a baseball match across the fence. If we want to ensure equity – the baby should get the highest tool to help her/him see the match as s/he lacks the necessary height, then the young adult gets a shorter tool and finally the adult man stands on his feet as he is tall enough.
On the other hand, if we wanted to ensure equality, then we would provide the same tool for everyone - no discrimination, no extra opportunity for anyone.
From day one, women and other genders have laid claim to equality – nothing extra, nothing biased, nothing unfair. Then why is equality still off-limits? Probably because we could not understand the difference between equality and equity till now.
The history behind women's day also began with the idea of equality. The UN Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW) had been proposing to hold an international women's conference since 1946, but they noticed that even in the UN there were merely a few women at high positions of the administration.
In 1974, the UN recruited a woman as UN Assistant Secretary General for the first time in history – the Finnish lawyer Ms. Helvi Linnea Aleksandra Sipilä. She was the one who initiated the international women's conference in 1975, at Mexico City, under the theme – Equality, Development, Peace.
At the conference, with the presence of 1,000 representatives from 133 countries - March 8 was officially declared as international women's day.
The second conference at Copenhegen in 1980, the third one at Nairobi in 1985 and fourth one at Beijing in 1995 brought significant advancement in the themes related to equality.
The Beijing Declaration is the most visionary agenda for the human rights of women where governments made a commitment to take up national policies on critical areas of concern regarding women. The year 2020 is the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, and is being observed under the theme "Generation Equality".
Whenever I see people speaking and acting against equality, I recall that 130 million girls are still missing out on their education. It is estimated that 60 percent of chronically hungry people are women and girls, less than 20 percent of the world's landholders are women.
In most countries, women receive lower wages for the same work. Still one girl is married as a child bride every 2 seconds, and 800 women die every day from avertible complications during pregnancy and childbirth.
According to Gender Statistics of Bangladesh 2018 - women are unequal in the basic rights of education, employment, decision-making, maternal health, environmental sustainability and in every other way.
Moreover, the history on violence against women and vulnerable groups contains millions of dark chapters. Only in February 2019, 74 children were raped. Last year, amongst 1,080 reported cases, 150 Bangladeshi women were victim of gang rapes, 42 women were killed after rape, seven women committed suicide after rape.
It is clear that no matter how developed our world is becoming, women are still pushed to the edge of vulnerability, either by societal norms, in the name of religion or through power distance. If women are facing this, then I wonder where the other gender stands in this scenario?
Mx is the gender-neutral honorific generally used by non-binary people as well as those who do not identify with the gender binary. Mr. for male, Ms. for female and Mx for gender neutral. Available research indicates that Hijra / MSM/WSW and TG people are the worst victims of sexual abuse and violence in Bangladesh, even often at the hands of police.
Hijras in particular face stigma and discrimination throughout all parts of their lives, including segregation by family members, challenges for enrollment in education institutions, struggle for decent employment, forced sex at early ages - usually by men they know, exclusion by local doctors due to lack of detailed knowledge.
A transgender (TG) woman Mx. Jonaki (pseudonym) says: "When we walk in the street, they throw stones at us. I had an accident and not a single person came to rescue me, as if I was untouchable. One day my friend was kidnapped and raped. Twelve to thirteen people raped him continuously. He suffered terrible bleeding and became sick for a long time. He faced a lot of problems getting treatment."
One lesson which can be drawn from this is - incidents of physical, sexual and verbal violence, social discrimination directed at women and also at hijras, transgender individuals - are alarmingly common.
Gender-based violence feeds on vulnerability. Women are more vulnerable than men, transgender and others are more vulnerable than women. Thus, the inequality and the degree of violence increases from Mr. to Ms. to Mx.
Generation equality believes in - equal future – denotating equal pay, equal opportunity to avail education, healthcare, security, an end to sexual harassment and violence, and equal participation in political life and in decision-making in all areas of life.
Generation equality promises to build a hatred-free world, where being MR., MS. and MX does not matter. Generation Equality is the progressive pool of global citizens who do not discriminate based on gender, caste, race but treats others as fellow humans – with equal rights. Generation equality is cool, it's the future, it's the trend and it's fair.
I am generation equality. Are you?
The author is a faculty member of a private university in Bangladesh; she also works in different socio-development projects with international NGO's and embassies.