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After the United States and its allies ousted the Taliban regime in 2001, the percentage of girls enrolled in school has risen from 0% to 80%, and forced marriages have become illegal. Even though many families have ignored the new laws, no one can deny that Afghan women and girls have gained a lot in rights over the past 20 years. The huge problem is that all progress is about to crumble.
The United States is doing everything in its power to “promote gender equality through diplomatic measures,” according to a State Department statement. It’s hard to believe you’re doing this when you’re leaving behind billions of dollars worth of weapons and an entire population at the hands of a violent group of misogynists. Obviously, foreign policy also involves difficult compromises. And here’s how Hillary Clinton’s words ten years ago became even more relevant today – subjugating women is a threat to the security of the whole world. Societies that oppress women are much more violent and unstable.
And there are some possible explanations, details an analysis of the British magazine The Economist. In many parts of the world, female fetuses end up being selectively aborted. Or, if the girls are born, then they are fatally neglected. The practice has led to a distortion of the gender quota, in other words, millions of boys are destined to be left alone. And frustrated young people have a good chance of committing crimes or joining rebel groups. Those who recruit for Boko Haram and the Islamic State know this and promise them wives and spoils of war. Similarly, polygamy generates a surplus of single young people, especially among the disadvantaged.
All conflicts have complex causes. It is no coincidence, however, that India has the largest gender imbalance in the Kashmir region, and it is no coincidence that in the top 20 countries in the top of the most turbulent states in an index compiled by the Fund for Peace in Washington polygamy.
In Guinea, where a coup took place on September 5, 42% of married women between the ages of 15 and 49 are in a polygamous family. Likewise, the Chinese authorities are trying to keep the real figures on the surplus of men under control.
Apart from rich democracies, the group of related men is still the core cell of many societies. Initially, they were formed for a good reason – self-defense. Men of the same race unite in the face of enemies when needed. Today, however, it is the groups that are causing the problems. Clan-led clans are shedding blood throughout the Middle East. Many tribes are fighting each other for control of a state. And those states end up being corrupt and dysfunctional, alienating their citizens and becoming attractive to jihadists, who promise to govern more properly. Societies based on these groups of men tend to subjugate women. Dads decide who their daughters will marry. Often, the boy’s family has to pay large sums to the bride’s family. That’s why fathers decide to marry at a very young age for girls.
It is not at all isolated – the dowry and the amount paid to the bride’s family are a common practice in half of the world’s countries. One-fifth of young women in the world get married before the age of 18, and 0.05% marry before the age of 15. Obviously, most drop out of school, are less able to cope with abusive spouses, and are less likely to be able to raise healthy, educated children.
Researchers at Texas A&M and Brigham Young have compiled a global index of premodern attitudes toward women, including sexist family laws, unequal property rights, premature marriages for girls, patrilocal marriages, polygamy, dowry, and the preference for childbirth. violence against women or forgiveness of abuse (for example, a rapist can marry the victim and thus escape punishment). The data obtained clearly show that all these aspects are directly related to the violent instability in a country.
Lessons can be learned from all this research. In addition to the usual analytical tools, policymakers should also study geopolitics in terms of gender. If it had existed 20 years ago, that index of sexist habits would have warned them of the difficulty of building a nation in countries like Afghanistan and Iraq. Today he suggests that stability cannot be taken for granted in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan or even India.
Any peace negotiation should include women. Between 1992 and 2019, only 13% of negotiators and 6% of peace signatories were women. Interestingly, peace tends to last longer when there are women at the table. Maybe it’s because women are more willing to compromise. Or because in a room where only the camps of men with weapons are located, there is no input from the non-combatant camp. Liberia has managed to end a terrible civil war involving women in peace negotiations.
Governments should do what they say when they promise to release half the world’s population – to educate girls, to ban the marriage of minors and the genital mutilation of girls, to declare polygamy illegal, to equalize inheritance rights, to educate boys to stop hitting women, etc. Most of these measures belong to national governments, but the community outside a certain country can also play a role. Since Western donors began supporting girls’ education, more and more have come to school – the rate of those enrolled in primary school has risen from 64% in 1970 to almost 90% today. NGO campaigns against premarital marriages have also raised the minimum age in 50 countries since 2000.
Boys need to be educated in the spirit of nonviolence by local mentors, but charities and various think tanks can play a role in how such programs can be designed. USAID or the World Bank has done a good job of promoting women’s property rights, even though their efforts in Afghanistan may be thwarted.
Diplomacy should not be naive – countries have vital interests and need to keep their enemies at bay. Geopolitics should not be seen only through a feminist lens, just as it should not be seen only in terms of economics or nuclear proliferation. It’s just that when decision-makers fail to take into account the interests of half the world’s population, they can’t claim to have an understanding of the world they lead.
Globally, 90% of people, whether women or men, discriminate against women in one way or another.
Victims. An estimated 736 million women have been victims of partner violence or non-partner sexual violence. Poverty. Violence disproportionately affects poor countries or regions of the world. 37% of women between the ages of 15 and 49 who have been abused all their lives by their partner come from the least developed countries.
PHOTO: AFP / Getty