Saturday, November 03, 2007

the value of women

Why are women, generally, globally, believed to be of less value than men?

This question arose in my house after watching "India's Missing Girls" on BBC TV a couple of weeks ago. This was a moving programme. UN figures state that 750,000 girls are aborted every year in India and others are killed when very young. There are now only 840 girls for every 1,000 boys according to Indian government information.

The main rationale for this is the high cost of dowries that families have to find in order to pay a man's family for him to marry their daughter. But this is not just an economic issue, as abortion of female foetus's is common in wealthier families.

So, this led me and my partner, T to wonder and discuss how this ridiculous and terrifying position came to be. It is not the case in every culture, but it's almost globally the case that women are not seen as valuable compared to men. The UK situation regarding unequal pay is a good local example of the same issue.

Could it be that it's because it is almost impossible to tell who the father of a child is, but it's certain who the mother is, when she gives birth, and so men have to control women if they are going to be certain of their heir? It cannot be that men are more necessary in order to pro-create, as the opposite is true, one man can father children with many women.

Could it be that on average men are physically stronger than women, despite women tending to do much of the physical domestic work worldwide. This means that in a capitalist world, where labour is needed to generate profit for those in power, brawn is prized? Women ensure the next generation of labourers grow up strong, but one woman can bring up many boys to be labourers, but it helps if she has the support of others to do so.

Do we need to understand why, in order for there to be a new world order? India is the world's biggest democracy yet it is still a highly unequal society. The power to make changes through political decision making is not an answer in itself. Changing the culture is much more complex. The whole of global society is predicated upon the lesser value of women.

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