Women’s Rights in the Modern World
Feminism and Women’s Rights are much talked about topics nowadays – both in online and offline spaces. However, despite appearing like a Women First movement, what it essentially distills down to at the end of the day is basic ‘human rights’, ‘equal rights for all’, and abolition of all forms of gender-based discrimination. Women have long since fought against systemic oppression and struggled to enjoy the same rights as their male counterparts. During this time, real strides have been made around the world – from New Zealand being the first country to grant women the right to vote in 1893 to women in Saudi Arabia securing the right to drive alone as recently as 2018. However, as more and more activists raise their voices demanding equality, they face increasing amounts of pushback when it comes to changing long-established policies and practices.
First Wave Feminism vs Modern Feminism
Officially, feminism and an increased spotlight on women’s rights came into being with the fight for women’s right to vote in elections which are known as the “suffragette movement”. This first wave of feminism saw women gain political rights, the right to work outside the home, go to university and the ability to divorce their husbands, among others. The Second Wave of Feminism kicked off in Western Europe and the USA in the 1970s with the aim of “women’s liberation”. This focused on better equality laws, institutional reform, violence against women, and rape, and argued that patriarchal values had a lot to do with women’s oppression. This wave saw new women-focused areas of science come into being as well as actual legislation being drafted that supported the women’s rights movement. The modern feminism that exists today grew out of the Third Wave of Feminism in the USA which actively used media and pop culture to promote its ideas and run activities. Modern feminism today exists heavily on the internet and greatly focuses on theorising and critiquing in general. It was modern feminism that birthed the global #MeToo movement against sexual abuse, sexual harassment, and rape culture.
What are women’s rights activists trying to achieve today?
According to a 2022 World Bank Report, there are still 2.4 billion women of working age who are not afforded the same economic rights as men. 1 in 3 women around the world face gender-based violence in their lifetime. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates that around 5,000 women are murdered annually by their own family members in ‘honour killings’. Even in modern society, we can see many ways which women face issues that are specific to women e.g. worrying about spiked drinks at parties. While some parts of the world have made remarkable progress in uplifting women’s rights, there are still too many areas where the oppression of women is stronger than ever.
Key Issues Faced by Modern Women
Some key issues faced by modern women around the world are:
- Gender-based violence
- Access to education and employment
- Underrepresentation in leadership
- Reproductive health and rights
- Maternal health
- Child marriage
Different Forms of Sexism
Aside from systemic women’s rights issues, there is also the matter of everyday sexism faced by women. Casual sexism is rampant and found in everything from not assigning difficult tasks to women to objectifying women in different forms of media. Sexism can be classified into Traditional, Modern and Neosexism.
- Traditional: gender roles, poorer treatment compared to men, traditional gender stereotypes
- Modern: denying existence of discrimination, negative towards women’s rights, denying women’s claims
- Neosexism: justification of discrimination towards women e.g. “men are naturally better leaders”
While the quality of life for women and women’s rights have vastly improved throughout the years, there is still a long way to go, especially in developing regions and rural areas. If true equality for all genders is achieved, there is no telling what socio-economic advancements can be attained.