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Female protesters flash the No. 1 sign as part of the “One Billion Rising” global movement. Female protesters flash the No. 1 sign as part of the “One Billion Rising” global movement to end violence against women and children, Manila, Philippines, Feb. 15, 2016 (AP photo by Bullit Marquez).

Is This the Beginning of the End for Gender Inequality Around the World?

Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019

There is evidence that gender inequality around the world is in decline, yet significant obstacles remain to overcoming patriarchal systems in many parts of the world. Find out more about gender inequality and related issues when you subscribe to World Politics Review.

Despite progress in reducing gender inequality around the world, great challenges remain, perhaps none more alarming than the persistence of violence against women. When then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asserted that “the subjugation of women is a threat to the common security of our world and to the national security of our country,” she was not just spouting some sort of politically correct mantra. The evidence is plain and overwhelming that societies supporting gender equality are better off on nearly every outcome imaginable—from health, wealth and governance to national security and stability.

With the recognized link between insecurity and gender inequality, policymakers around the world have begun to address issues of women’s empowerment, both domestically and as a matter of foreign policy. In some cases, these issues have even reached the top of the policy agenda.

These advancements don’t go unimpeded, however. And perhaps no failure is as bitter as the seemingly impotent governmental response to staggering levels of violence against women. In many countries, violence against women is rising and may dwarf violence associated with war and armed conflict. Restructuring our world so that women may flourish will be a tough slog. But the fight against gender inequality around the world must be won—for the sake of men and women alike. No one comes out ahead when the two halves of humanity do not live in peace and equality with each other.

To learn more about gender inequality around the world, read Leveling the Field: A Global Inventory of Gender Equality for Women for FREE with your subscription to World Politics Review.

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Why Eradicating Violence Against Women Remains an Uphill Climb in Latin America

Latin America remains the world's most dangerous region for women, though not for lack of effort or attention over the years. All of the region’s countries have ratified the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. Latin American countries have also committed to treaties which affirm that gender-based violence constitutes a violation of women’s human rights and fundamental freedom. Yet laws to convict perpetrators of violence against women are still extremely weak in Latin America. A patriarchal system of inequality and social exclusion remains high in areas plagued by poverty, crime, and conflict. It’s a pointed reminder that drug trafficking and insecurity affect the most vulnerable first. Addressing the broader, more familiar issues means focusing on those who are most at risk, starting with women.

To learn more about the obstacles to eradicating violence against women in Latin America, read Why Is Latin America the Most Dangerous Region in the World for Women? for FREE with your subscription to World Politics Review.

The Impact and Durability of Gender-Based Violence in Asia

Latin America isn’t the only hot spot for gender-based violence; it is also persistent in Asia, where some experts are beginning to view violence against women, whether at home or at work or in the public space, as a form of internal conflict that suggests gender inequality causes an increase in overall violence and instability. Though it’s troubling to see how widespread the problem is, it’s heartening to see some fairly steady efforts to improve gender equality through legislation, police training, education, and other measures.

To learn more about the connections between gender-based violence and political instability, read Troubling Insights From Asia About the Durability of Gender-Based Violence for FREE with your subscription to World Politics Review.

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A More Hostile Environment for Women in Tanzania

In Tanzania, the problem is not violence against women, but the country’s president. In the three years since he took office, President John Magufuli has single-handedly created a more regressive environment for the country’s women and girls. Magufuli first grabbed headlines in June 2017, when he declared that pregnant girls would not be allowed to attend school. “After getting pregnant, you are done,” he said. The statement drew a harsh response, but the policy has been enforced. Some girls have been arrested, while some teachers have taken to pulling girls out of class for pregnancy tests. Magufuli has also spoken out in favor of polygamy, which is legal in Tanzania, saying in a speech in February 2018 that the practice could help curb prostitution. These interventions have all been roundly denounced by women’s rights activists, but are often overlooked by international observers amid mounting concerns over Tanzania’s broader political climate, which has been characterized by a drastic shrinking of democratic space and open abuse of Magufuli’s political opponents.

To learn more about the deteriorating conditions for women in Tanzania, read How Magufuli Is Running Roughshod Over Women’s Rights in Tanzania for FREE with your subscription to World Politics Review.

Treating Gender-Based Violence as an Act of War

In any other context, the violence targeting women in every corner of the world would be considered an act of war, making a peace treaty between men and women an urgent priority on any list of pressing global challenges. But rather than being seen as a war against a segment of the population, gender inequality around the world has too often been ignored. In every region, more than a quarter of women are subject to violence by men they know. Two-thirds of the most malnourished children are girls; two-thirds of illiterate adults are women. When the two halves of the population do not live in peace with one another, how is it possible to deal with other forms of instability?

To learn more, read The World Needs a Peace Treaty Between Men and Women for FREE with your subscription to World Politics Review.

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Editor's Note: This article was first published in July 2018 and is regularly updated.