Yesterday was International Woman’s Day and it got me thinking about whether or not I am a feminist. After watching various videos that were shared online about feminism, along with speeches by the likes of Emma Watson and Ashton Kutcher about what we as women go through, I realised that I am in fact a feminist.
I may not march at women’s parades. I might not shout about women’s rights at rallies. I don’t plaster my Facebook with statuses about women’s right. Even so, I am a feminist and I believe in equality. I believe that women should have the same rights as men, regardless of where they live.
I never realised that there is so much gender inequality in the world, until yesterday when I saw post after post about it. These posts got me thinking about the things that I (and all other western women) do every day and take for granted but don’t realise that other women across the world aren’t allowed to do simply because they were born female.
- Women aren’t allowed to drive
In Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan, women aren’t allowed to drive. There may not be any legal rule in place permitting them from doing so but the strict religious laws in place mean that driving as a woman is not only frowned upon but can also end in punishment like lashes. Yes, you read that right – it’s not illegal but it’s frowned upon and often results in painful punishment.
As a woman who’s been brought up in the UK, this boggles my mind. Sure, there are jokes about female drivers being bad at parking but when it comes to opposition for female driving that’s about it. As soon as I turned 17 I was given a car by my parents and encouraged to drive, I even had a female driving instructor. I honestly can’t imagine my life without my driver’s licence or my car, or being unable to drive because my religion prohibits it. It’s absolutely insane that in 2017 women aren’t allowed to drive in part of the world as (and this is a direct quote) “it would be harmful for society as a whole if women were allowed to drive wherever they please”. There are no words.
- Girls don’t have the right to an education
If there’s one thing that really boils my blood when it comes to women’s rights it’s the fact that being born a girl in some countries makes you less important and less valued, which is why you’re not allowed to attend school. In countries like India and Pakistan, many girls are kept at home to be taught to be housewives and mothers, while their male siblings go off to school. In Pakistan 62% of girls of school age have never set food inside a classroom. In Turkey there are 500,000 girls whose parents don’t think it’s worth sending them to school. In Guatemala, only three percent of girls receive a primary school education. Often, the reason that girls aren’t sent to school is because of money, or a lack of it, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that boys are given the right to learn whereas girls are often not.
Just imagine if your parents told you that your little brother would be allowed to go to school but you would have to stay home and help around the house because as a girl you didn’t need to learn. Imagine that happening here in the UK, imagine the outrage there would be. The fact is it wouldn’t happen because the law states that all children must either attend school or be homeschooled, all children in the UK have the right to an education. But just imagine for a second how you would feel if it did, if your gender impacted your right to learn, how would you feel? I, for one, would be outraged.
- Girls are forced to marry as children
How this is still allowed to happen in the 21st century I don’t know but it does happen – girls as young as five-years-old are married off in the developing world. In Afghanistan, over half of new marriages are of girls under the age of 16. Half of all females between the ages of 15 and 19 are married in Sudan. In developing countries, girls are married off in exchange for money, land, or farm animals – yes, I’m being deadly serious. Marrying off your daughter is seen as being a business exchange – it’s disgusting.
When I told my parents that I was engaged at 21-years-old, they were happy for me but also worried about how young I was. Just let that sink in, my parents were concerned that I was too young to get married in my twenties when there are girls out there getting married before they turn ten-years-old. How any parent can allow their child to be married off, forced into a relationship that they don’t want and are too young to understand is beyond me. The fact is any one of us could have been born into a culture or country that allows child marriage, but we – the girls from the western world – were the lucky ones. We were born into a culture that values childhood and understands that girls are just as valuable as boys.
- Girls and women can’t leave the house alone
In many countries, especially muslim countries, women are not allowed to leave the house alone or without permission from a male relative. Let’s just let that sink in, shall we – grown women are not allowed to leave the house without a male chaperone or permission from a male relative. That’s totally and completely insane. If a woman is found to have left the house alone or without permission she can be prosecuted – that’s right, a woman can be sent to jail or worse for leaving the house alone or without permission from her husband, father, brother, or son.
I can’t imagine not being able to leave the house when I wanted to without getting permission. I like to spend my evenings going to pilates classes, meeting the girls for drinks, doing a bit of clothes shopping, attending blogger events, and it really does boggle my mind that if I had been born in another country, like Pakistan, Afghanistan, or India, I may not be able to do the things that I love just because I was born a girl.
How is it fair that because you’re born a female you aren’t allowed to do certain things? Who put men in charge? Who made them God? Who gave men the idea that they get to decide how girls and women live their lives?
It’s disgusting that in 2017 there are places where being a women stops you from being able to go to school, to learn to drive, to go out on your own, to vote, to marry who you want to, when you want to.