Shruthi Subramanian writes on the two prescribed agendas that are up for debate over the course of the forthcoming sessions of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW).
“For most of history, Anonymous was a woman.”
– Virginia Woolf
Mary Ann Evans wanted her work to be taken seriously—an ordinary expectation, or so it seemed. In the world of literature, her art is now branded with a pseudonym on the cover: “George Elliot”. The aforementioned quote, therefore, shall remain eternally relevant.
In 1946, the UNCSW was established as a body under the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). The mandate of the Commission includes the need to promote values of equality and to address the issue of gender discrimination.
The formation of this body can be attributed to years of challenges faced by the world. Gender equality, which is the primary objective of the body, is one of the many Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The progress of a state is reflected by its people. With over seven billion people around the world, one would consider the possibility that each one has had a unique experience. This does not seem to be the case, as there have been multiple instances where individuals were blamed, shamed or neglected for “being such a girl”. Therefore, discussing the need for affirmative action in order to further the cause of women empowerment holds great significance. People are starting to acknowledge the gap instead of dismissing every raised hand.
The term “affirmative action” is in fact referred to as “positive discrimination” in the United Kingdom (UK) of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. This has been met with mixed responses. Should discrimination work in reverse and, if so, where does one draw the line?
Many believe that regardless of the history of oppression faced by a certain group, the values of equality are lost when the group reaps an exclusive benefit. On the contrary, several sections of the society seem to understand that a few simple measures do not hurt the cause for equality.
The next step to bring forth empowerment is to deliberate over the groups and movements involved. The second agenda calls for the discussion of religious independence and liberal feminism. Religion has provided people with a vast set of beliefs to keep them grounded. Some are fanatics, while others are more understanding.
How does one empower an individual without afflicting damage to their beliefs? Muslim women in many parts of the world have been condemned for adorning a “symbol of oppression”, but many have willingly chosen to wear a scarf—they would, perhaps, appreciate any form of empowerment that does not belittle them for their beliefs. This is where liberal feminism strikes, as it shuts down even the slightest shade of a conservative ideology.
The involvement of several intangible entities has resulted in roadblocks, as one does not seem to agree with the other. There can be no true winner – certainly not in the race for equality. The unwavering darkness of prejudice has been hindering progress but the reporter believes that sensitising, discussing, and deliberating can shine the way.
“…if only one remembers to turn on the light”.
– Albus Dumbledore