Women’s Rights in Great Britain and Afghanistan
Table of Contents
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- Why and How Is This Social Problem Important to These Countries?
- How Pervasive Is This Problem in Each Country? What Structural Factors Account for This Problem in Each Country?
- Efforts to Eliminate the Social Problem
- Related Free Compare and Contrast Essays
The issue of women’s rights continues to be relevant. It is included in the list of the most important social challenges of today. The women situation around the world is very different: for instance, in Afghanistan it is more complex compared to Great Britain.
Specifically, these two countries should be compared regarding women’s rights, as they represent two opposite sides of possible developments of the issue. Britain as a democratic country provides to its citizens-women a full range of civil rights. Afghanistan is a country that has been working on civil rights for only about 13 years. Because of its religious beliefs and military actions, it cannot ensure the rights of women fully. The chosen states are in different parts of the world, they have completely different cultures, religions and forms of organization of social services. Thus, comparison of the situations of women in the two countries is indicative on the contrast level. However, Britain is similar to Afghanistan; it was in the same position with disenfranchised women two centuries ago, so Afghanistan can avoid many challenges by taking some important lessons from Britain. To prove this idea, the reasons of importance of the issue should be investigated.
Why and How Is This Social Problem Important to These Countries?
Britain is among the Western nations that lead the propaganda around human rights, particularly women’s rights. They criticize other countries for non-compliance to these rights, even threatening them to introduce sanctions against them. However, numerous reports also discuss the imperfection of the situation regarding the most basic rights of women and women’s dignity in the United States and European countries. United Kingdom, where women’s rights are often infringed as well, is among them.
The British government claims to have allocated considerable resources to address the problems of women. In the same context, it acceded to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in in 1992 (Pizzey, Shackleton, & Urwin, 2000). However, women in the country continue to be victims of social anomalies, such as domestic violence, trafficking of women and young girls, drugs, sexism, and many other social problems. Yet, in spite of the government’s support of democracy and the rights of women, in 2008 the UN recognized the fact of distribution of family-related physical violence and sexual abuse against women and girls in the UK (Pizzey et al., 2000). Therefore, the issue of women’s rights is still relevant for Britain. Government is convinced that such facts negatively affect the economy, as part of the involved women in the economy of the country is very high. However, the base for the social rights of women have already been formed, and this main factor distinguishes Britain from Afghanistan.
In Afghanistan, coming to power of the Taliban found the medieval regime based on blind adherence to a literal interpretation of Sharia. Women were forbidden to leave the house unaccompanied by a close male relative, burqa was strictly necessary, all girls’ schools were closed, hiring women to work caused employers to be severely penalized, and legally leaving abroad became impossible (Nasimi, 2014). Getting timely qualified medical aid has become a huge challenge, since, according to the Taliban, a woman can be treated only by the doctor-woman, but a woman cannot work. As a result, maternal mortality, especially at childbirth, has achieved a devastating scale. As a result, Afghan women under the Taliban lost all rights in the social and political spheres.
After the fall in late 2001, the international coalition forces have been directed to Afghanistan, beginning the period of democratization of Afghan society based on the Western model, which has increased hope for positive developments in the status of women. Afghanistan is in the period of transformation, as the government is trying to create a system that will ensure the rights for women. This change will give the state a new social structure, where the woman will have the rights as a person and will be able to become a fully-fledged working resource for the country.
While the levels of women’s rights in various countries are very different, in both cases they affect the economy. Both countries have a lot of open questions, but it can already be noted that the Afghan questions looks like the British questions a lot, but only in its earlier stage. Therefore, the main lesson for Afghanistan is forming the basis for ensuring social rights for women.
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How Pervasive Is This Problem in Each Country? What Structural Factors Account for This Problem in Each Country?
Interest in women’s rights, or, in other words, gender issues, first appeared in Afghanistan about 120 years ago. In the 80ies of the 19th century, Amir Abdur Rahman Khan made his first attempts to declare restrictions on forced and early marriage, legalize the inheritance rights of women and their right to initiate a divorce, of course, within strict Shariah requirements. Later, in the early 20th century, his grandson Amir Amanullah Khan continued this policy by allowing women to remove the veil. He organized the first school for girls supporting the establishment of women’s organizations in the country and gave women the right for an independent choice of spouse (Nasimi, 2014).
In the second half of the 20th century, the situation of women’s rights has improved considerably. An important achievement of 50-60s can be considered binding in the constitution of the equal rights of men and women, women’s rights to vote and to be elected to parliament as well as to become members of the government. Afghan women were allowed to receive higher education in local colleges and universities and work in state institutions.
An important period in the development of the policy of improving the status of women was in the 80s, during the so-called communist rule and the presence of Soviet troops in Afghanistan. Implementation of programs to combat illiteracy among women, to provide them with special education and professional courses and the opportunity to receive higher and specialized secondary education abroad was significant. Additionally, it was followed by employment in the state structures for equal pay to men which helped to raise the level of consciousness of Afghan women and their involvement in social life as well as their ability to assert their rights in the family and outside of it.
However, the outbreak of civil war, the first victims of which are always women and children, stopped, and then, after the change of regime, turned back the process of social and political modernization of Afghanistan. Hundreds of thousands of Afghan women were forced to leave their homeland, many were killed or wounded during the fighting, and thousands became widows. Poverty, social and legal insecurity experienced due to the psychological shock nullified all efforts of previous decades.
The main structural factors in Afghanistan are state policies. The final crushing blow to gender equality has become the Taliban’s rise. After its fall in late 2001, the Taliban regime in Afghanistan began to develop again based on the Western model. Taking into account the catastrophic situation of women’s rights in Afghanistan, the international community spurred legislative strengthening of gender equality and the involvement of Afghan women in public and political life of the country. At the moment migration and woman trafficking also account for this problem. Afghanistan remains one of the main centers of trafficking, especially concerning women and children. In 57% of cases of weddings the bride is under 16 years of age, and 80% of marriages are either forced or violent and arranged to eliminate debt or as a means of settling disputes or termination of blood feuds (Sarkar, 2015). The rural population considers normal age for marriage for girls to be 8-10 years. Every day, in thousands of Afghan families, women are subjected to violence with no real protection from the state. Even daring to go to court, they lose processes, as Afghan courts tend to make decisions not in favor of victims of violence in family conflicts, but rather comply with the requirements of Shariah.
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Thus, Afghan women are completely deprived of their rights. They are, in fact, the property of men. Obviously, a major factors of influence on women’s rights in Afghanistan are religion and common culture of the region.
This problem is also somewhat pervasive in Great Britain. The history of the movement for women’s rights have been active for 200 years. Discriminatory treatment of women in families and society in the United Kingdom primarily provokes a crisis, first in the family circle, and subsequently in the society. The level of marriage in England and Wales fell to its lowest level in half a century. As a result, British women are severely psychologically stressed as a result of ignorance towards their real needs (Women’s Resource Centre, 2013). In this European country, depression, mental illness and suicide among female immigrant and ethnic minorities have become widespread because of sex discrimination. Female emigrants in Britain suffer from multilateral discrimination in connection with the failure to receive the access to education, work and health services. Drug abuse also causes serious injury to women in the British society. Existing data indicates an increase in cocaine use among women (Women’s Resource Centre, 2013). British psychologists believe that the high level of drug consumption causes depression and other psychological diseases among women. Alcoholism also has become a common phenomenon among British women, to the point that the death rate from diseases caused by excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages has doubled (Women’s Resource Centre, 2013).
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The main structural factor of this issue is the economic context. In 1960, a law on “equal pay for equal work” was adopted within the framework of the elimination of discrimination against female workers. However, today, half a century later, many women have not gained their legitimate and natural rights. The situation on the labor exchange is still not remedied, so that women have to work 10 days to receive the same salary as men get for 6 days of work. Currently, one of the main manifestations of discrimination against British women and the difference between the salaries of men and women is observed in the labor exchange of the country. The average earnings of women working full-time constitute 83% of the income of men under similar circumstances. In addition, they are paid less for the kind of work that can be regarded as a manifestation of gender inequality in the country.
Another structural factor is the commercial treatment of women in the UK, including trafficking of women and girls, with UK being third in the world of such business. According to the UN, every year one million women and young girls are smuggled, properly imported into the developed countries, including the UK, here they are subjected to sexual exploitation.
Britain is at a considerably higher level of women’s rights development compared with Afghanistan, because there are no longer questions about such basic human rights as access to medicine, elections participation, and freedom of speech or movement. On the other hand, Britain has more complex challenges, such as the difference in conditions and wages, which are not easy to address.
Thus, the main difference between the problems of Afghanistan and the UK is that the first is characterized by the problem of women’s rights at the basic level, and the second – at a more particular level. Moreover, the main reason for the first issue is the government’s actions and the influence of religion. For the second one, on the contrary, the fact of psychological condition caused by family crisis is of major importance. It is worth noting that Britain has already overcome such basic problems. Thus, at this stage, Afghanistan should actually get acquainted with the mechanisms of creating the legal framework for women in Britain.
Efforts to Eliminate the Social Problem
Several steps taken in Afghanistan to tackle this social problem should be investigated. When it comes to governmental initiatives, Afghan Constitution was adopted in 2003, and article 22 affirms the equality of rights and duties before the law for all citizens, regardless of gender. Women’s rights to education, employment, and real participation in decision-making to determine the future structure of Afghan society were restored in the Constitution. The new legislation reserves 25% of seats in parliament and 17% of the seats in the Senate for women, so that each province has its own female representatives in the National Assembly, in addition to the 13 of them appointed by the President of the Senate, 50% of which are designed for women (Nasimi, 2014).
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Women accounted for 11% of people who took part in voting for the election of the president, and 44% – in the elections of deputies of the Parliament. At that moment, 582 people from 5,800 candidates for deputies of the latest Louis Jirga were women, and in the end, 64 of the 250 seats in Parliament belong to women (Sarkar, 2015). Additionally, a number of women occupy key posts in various ministries, for instance, one woman has become governor in Bamyan Province, two – Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassadors of the IRA, and the Ministry of Women’s Affairs is traditionally headed by a woman minister.
The Ministry of Women Affairs resumed its work in 2001 after the fall of the Taliban regime. It has reoriented its strategy of charitable actions towards the implementation of the political and social governmental programs for the purpose of protecting women and their empowerment. The Ministry of Women’s Affairs consists of 9 national and 34 provincial departments, the majority of employees of which are women who previously worked in various organizations. The Independent Commission for Human Rights under the President of Afghanistan established a special department whose main tasks are to promote the realization of the rights of women enshrined in law and to monitor the situation regarding the rights of women (Shadi, 2015). Active involvement of Afghan women in the process of rebuilding of the country as well as combating gender inequality in the society, including domestic violence, forced and early marriages, and growing crime in relation to women are also addressed by the organization (Shadi, 2015).
Non-governmental organizations and International Human Rights Commission represented it Afghanistan have forced new laws concerning the prevention of violence against women and the prohibition of early and forced marriages. This is the system of care for women who have to collect alms, amnesty and foresee the improvement of conditions in female prisons, establish a network of shelters for women-victims of domestic violence and homeless women, as well as the rules and conditions of women’s pensions. In addition, ministries and commissions have carried out continuous monitoring of women’s hospitals, detention centers and shelters. They publish and distribute printed materials on various topics related to the situation of women, monthly women’s magazines and newspapers, organize vocational training for women and exhibitions. The sale of the results of their work contribute to the employment of women, providing support for widows along with legal assistance in the courts for women-victims of violence and divorce. Small loans are provided to women to support small businesses, including planning of the opening of Women’s Bank and Women’s Labor Exchange.
In addition, more than 200 non-governmental organizations, both local and international, carry out various programs aimed at improving the situation of women in this country. These efforts have been successful in large extent, especially in the legislative consolidation of gender equality in order to ensure equal opportunities for women and men in all spheres of political, social and economic lives. The developed law on the prevention of domestic violence was also effective. It deals with issues involving women in the police force and the judiciary system, training of women lawyers and the establishment of family counseling, which can also help reduce gender-based violence, or at least give an adequate response to this type of crime against the person (Shadi, 2015).
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In order to predict what this social problem will look like in the next 10 years, it is worth noting that the trends of reform and strategic development plans until 2020 will enable Afghanistan to reduce the level of poverty among women by 20% and attract at least 20% of female workers to state and public structures. When it comes to the governmental initiatives that aim to tackle this social problem in Great Britain, the legal framework for the British women is based on gender policy programs of the European Union. It insists on all its members consolidating a consistent policy of equal rights and opportunities that allow the citizens of both sexes to utilize their potential fully. The Government of the United Kingdom enacted legislation to establish standards of gender equality and ensure compliance. Equality Act of 2006 took a duty to ensure gender equality, according to which all public authorities must actively promote equal opportunities for men and women. Directive on Gender Issues (2004/113) gives effect to the principle of equal treatment of men and women in the access to goods and services and their supply.
With the aim of simplifying and improving legislation on discrimination, in February 2005, a review mechanism was formed for the anti-discrimination legislation and exploring the possibilities of creating a clearer and more streamlined legislative framework on equality. It provided the ability to improve the adverse situation of vulnerable groups of the population. Specific areas concerning women’s rights require an initiative regarding fertility motivation. The British Government in April 2003 increased maternity allowance, which is paid for 26 weeks of compulsory leave due to pregnancy and childbirth. Mother got the right to an additional unpaid maternity leave of another 26 weeks (Pizzey et al., 2000). Since April 2007, the British government increased the paid maternity leave from 6 to 9 months. The aim was to provide the mothers, to create favorable conditions, and stimulate the birth rate.