Great new challenge for the world’s women
THIS year’s International Women’s Day finds women enjoying
more prosperity and privileges than at any other time in human history. Yet this is also the first time in history that there have been so few women in the world relative to men.
In all Western nations, women are now more educated, earn higher incomes, and have more rights than their female ancestors
did. To be sure, perfect equity has still not been attained, with women on average earning 76 per cent of men’s incomes for the same work. But it is an ongoing debate as to whether this is due to the tattered remnants of sexism or whether it is an economic consequence of biology in terms of time and resources spent on child-rearing.
Nonetheless, it is because of these immense leaps in women’s rights that certain attitudes and actions, which might have aroused no media attention even a half-century ago, now serve to outrage the world. One such recent event was the shooting of 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani activist who had aroused the murderous
ire of Islamic fundamentalists because of her public campaign
to ensure all girls are given an education. The second event was the rape and fatal beating of 23-year-old university student Jyoti Singh by six men on a bus in India—a case which instantly transformed that country’s image as a burgeoning economic super-power to that of a land still in thrall to savagely backward values with respect to women.
India, along with China, are also the societies mainly responsible
for the global sex ratio imbalance. Both nations account for one-third of the world’s population and both have a biologically
impossible sex ratio of over 120 males to 100 females. Some of this is due to female infanticide, which means that girl children are either killed deliberately or through neglect. But, thanks to cheap technology, much of the skewing occurs through sex-selective abortions.
Additionally, this phenomenon is occurring in a context where the world population is in decline. Even in traditional societies, women are having fewer babies than their mothers did, and nearly every country in the West, including Trinidad and Tobago, now has a birth-rate that is below replacement level. This trend, which has helped elevate the material and political status of women, has also ironically contributed to the skewed sex ratio—if parents are only going to have one or two children, they often prefer to have boys.
In the 19th and 20th centuries, feminism’s great challenges were equal pay and equal rights. In the 21st century, women face an even more complex challenge, in which the ultimate goal may well be the preservation of the human race