2013: a year for action on gender equality?

1 Jan

Oscar Wilde once said that ‘the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about’. On that basis, 2012 was something of a triumph for women’s issues – violence against women, rape and the need to achieve greater gender equality the corridors of power,  all remained high on the public agenda.  However, in terms of rape and violence against women, the talk often reminded us how jawdroppingly sexist many powerful men remain (I blogged on this in August); and in terms of gender equality in business and politics, the talk has been accompanied by little concrete action –  in this country at least. We now have a smaller proportion of women in the Cabinet than before the re-shuffle, and attempts to introduce quotas for women in boardrooms throughout the EU have been thwarted for the meantime.

Against this backdrop, it was something of a tonic to read the UN’s gender equality timeline   for the year, which shows that there has been some progress in women’s position in society and in power in many parts of the world.  Among the highlights, Algeria and Senegal have significantly increased the proportion of women in their parliaments to just over 30% and 43% respectively (the UK falls in at 60th in the world, equal with Malawi, with just over 22% of parliamentarians being women). The Council of Europe adopted a Convention of Preventing and Combating Violence against women and Domestic Violence which has been signed by 25 member States, but still requires countries to ratify it in order that it may come into force.  In October, the first International Day of the Girl Child highlighted the costs of child marriage and measures being taken to prevent it.  And just before Christmas, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution banning Female Genital Mutilation – a practice discussed here in July.

So, sometimes slowly and iteratively, sometimes more rapidly, progress in gender equality can be made.  As India confronts its poor record on sexual violence and Pakistan donates to a fund for girls’ education named after Malala, we should all resolve to make 2013 a year of action in gender equality.

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