Gender equality and the dismantling of the patriarchal system are essential components of social progress. While democracy is often viewed as a system that upholds fundamental rights and freedoms, it raises the question: can democracy truly support gender equality and eliminate patriarchy within communities? In this blog post, we will explore this question by examining the challenges and opportunities that democracy presents in achieving gender equality, supported by relevant references.
The Intersection of Democracy and Gender Equality
Democracy is a system that promotes equality, freedom, and inclusion, making it an ideal platform for challenging and dismantling patriarchal norms. It emphasizes the importance of individual rights, liberty, and equal representation, which are all crucial for advancing gender equality. According to a study by Norris and Inglehart (2019), societies that are democratic tend to have better gender-equal attitudes and policies compared to non-democratic societies. Therefore, the political culture and governmental system significantly influence societal norms and culture, impacting freedom of expression, individual rights, and group rights within the community. Historical evidence supports this observation when comparing the 19th century to the present day. In communities that embrace democratic norms and practices, there is a clear correlation: the more a society values democracy, the greater the rights of individuals to express themselves and participate in advocating for equality and justice, including gender equality.
Gender Equality as an Ongoing Struggle
Although democracy provides a framework for ensuring gender equality, it does not guarantee its realization. Patriarchal systems are deeply ingrained in societies across the world, and democracy alone cannot eliminate them. Achieving gender equality requires continuous efforts from activists, policymakers, and citizens alike. A comprehensive study by Hussain (2006) highlights the importance of sustained activism and policy interventions in challenging patriarchal power structures.
Global Gender Gap Report 2020, n.d.)
Challenges within Democratic Systems
Although democracy promotes equal representation, women are still underrepresented in political offices around the world. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020, only 25% of parliamentary seats globally are occupied by women. This disparity indicates that democratic systems often struggle to provide women with equitable opportunities to participate in decision-making processes. Figure 1: The stage of a gender gap.
Gender inequality remains a major challenge in many societies today. Inherent beliefs in patriarchal norms and gender stereotypes impede the progress of gender equality. Even in democratic contexts, these beliefs often present significant obstacles to achieving genuine gender equality. In a study conducted by Inglehart and Norris (2003), it was revealed that addressing cultural barriers to gender equality is equally important as implementing political and legal reforms. Moreover, Figure 1: Gender Social Norms Index.
2020 Gender Social Norms Index (GSNI), 2020)
Furthermore, entrenched within society are robust cultural norms, traditions, and stereotypes that find their roots in the structural underpinnings of patriarchy. The patriarchal system not only upholds these norms but also acts as an invisible barrier, akin to a glass ceiling. Consequently, individuals strive to shield themselves from unintentional gender-based discrimination which also leads to gender-based violence. Although they may not purposefully discriminate based on gender, their everyday behaviors and practices are molded by familial and societal influences shaped by the patriarchy’s structure.
Opportunities within Democratic Systems
In a democratic society, legal reforms play a crucial role in promoting gender equality and safeguarding women’s rights. Examples of such legal frameworks include the United States’ Equal Pay Act and Sweden’s Gender Equality Act, which aim to mitigate gender disparities. These reforms are necessary steps toward dismantling the patriarchal system that still exists within democratic societies.
Grassroots movements can thrive in democratic societies, providing opportunities for those focused on gender equality. Civil society organizations, women’s rights movements, and feminist activism are crucial in shaping public opinion, increasing awareness, and putting pressure on governments to prioritize gender equality. These movements play a vital role in challenging patriarchal power structures from the bottom up. Figure 3: The March for Women’s Lives
The March for Women’s Lives Took Place on April 25, 2004. (by Feminist Majority Foundation), n.d.)
Although democracy serves as a basis for equality before the law and safeguarding civil liberties; however, gender equality or the elimination of the patriarchal structures which stay remains strong in society. The persistent challenges of political underrepresentation and cultural barriers as a glass ceiling for ongoing activism and targeted policy interventions. To truly advance gender equality within democratic societies, a comprehensive approach is imperative. This involves not only legal reforms but also the active engagement of grassroots movements and profound cultural transformation. By combining legal reforms, the democratic system can evolve into a formidable tool to support gender equality but still struggle to overcome the communities’ norms, culture, and traditions that have been inherence from the patriarchies structure.
Becker, J. (2019, September 1). Cultural backlash: Trump, Brexit, and authoritarian populism. International Affairs, 95(5), 1168–1169. https://doi.org/10.1093/ia/iiz097
Clark, T. (2005, November). Rising Tide: Gender Equality and Cultural Change around the World. By Ronald Inglehart and Pippa Norris. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003. Pp. 226. American Journal of Sociology, 111(3), 952–954. https://doi.org/10.1086/500778
Global Gender Gap Rep Index to Volume 49, 2006. (2006, December). Acta Sociologica, 49(4), 471–472. https://doi.org/10.1177/0001699306071692
Global Gender Gap Report 2020. (n.d.). Weforum. Retrieved September 27, 2023, from https://www.weforum.org/reports/gender-gap-2020-report-100-years-pay-equality
Hussain, M. (2006, September). Book Review: The Politics of Inclusion and Empowerment: Gender, Class and Citizenship. Acta Sociologica, 49(3), 346–348. https://doi.org/10.1177/0001699306067723
Pringle, K. (2006, December). Book Review: The Politics of Inclusion and Empowerment: Gender, Class and Citizenship. Acta Sociologica, 49(4), 459–461. https://doi.org/10.1177/0001699306071687
5 and the never-ending struggle: unmasking the patriarchy, inequality, and environmental devastation. (2023, September 19). illuminem.com. https://illuminem.com/illuminemvoices/sdg-5-and-the-neverending-struggle-unmasking-the-patriarchy-inequality-and-environmental-devastation
The March for Women’s Lives took place on April 25, 2004. (by Feminist Majority Foundation). (n.d.). Obama Whitehouse. https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/blog/2015/06/30/day-history-national-organization-women-was-founded
2020 Gender Social Norms Index (GSNI). (2020, March 5). Human Development Reports. https://hdr.undp.org/content/2020-gender-social-norms-index-gsni