OPINION: Addressing gender inequality will achieve human rights system for all

By Doris Kathia

Sexual equality addresses state of equal ease of access to resources, opportunities, to enjoy the same rights and protections regardless of gender.

Discrimination, stigma, violence, fear, ignorance, and some cultural and traditional beliefs threaten women and young people’s sexual rights around the world.

Young women and girls experience severe forms of inequalities, including sexual violence, early and forced marriage, female genital mutilation and other harmful practices.

They also lack access to vital sexual and reproductive health information and education.

Violence, privilege, injustice and impunity are interlinked. Violence has been culturally masculinised. Gender inequality perpetuates a culture of violence and relates to systems and feelings of power.

In many communities in Kenya, women are viewed as the lesser gender – as persons subjected to male authority – and men often feel little hesitation when using this to their advantage or degrading women for their own satisfaction.

Despite many international agreements affirming women’s human rights, archaic stereotypes (such as labeling of women as child-bearers and home makers rather than breadwinners) remain a challenge which in turn poses the risk of domestic violence.

Masculine cultural norms that encourage men to use violence limit not women and girls but also men’s choices, safety and behavior.

There is need to challenge cultures of male dominance that lead to subordination and even exclusion of women.

It is also important to note that not all men conform to hegemonic forms of masculinity and they too face exclusion for not perpetuating this culture.

For us to achieve gender equality, we need to eliminate harmful practices against women and girls, including sex trafficking, femicide, gender wage gap, the disproportionate burden of poverty, lack of access to education and health services as well as lack of productive opportunities.

Gender inequality represents a huge loss of human potential, with costs for both men and women.

Therefore, we need gender equality as it is integral to democracy, development and a human rights system to which everyone are entitled to.

Ms. Kathia is a youth advocate at the Network for Adolescents and Youth of Africa (NAYA) Kenya

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