Gender equality means that people of all genders are free to pursue whatever job, lifestyle choice, or abilities they wish without fear of being discriminated against. This means that their gender does not have a bearing on their identity. It is just something that makes them unique, and not something which can be used as a tool to facilitate discrimination. In other words, it boils down to the fact that gender equality would ensure that gender has no bearing on rights, prospects, or hamper access to the facets of society.
Having said that, however, gender equality does not imply that everyone receives the same treatment. What it means is that they are treated equally based on gender, but that does not automatically mean that there can be no other mechanism of segregation of people. Everyone’s wants and desires are equally valued. For this reason, gender equity is frequently discussed alongside gender equality. Gender equity can be understood as a mechanism for treating people equally at each level; that is to say, treating people of different genders in such a manner as would be fair. This could mean treating them equally sometimes, and not equally some other times. The impact of gender inequality is tremendous.
Everyone is characterized by multiple parameters, and gender is just one of them. These segregation methods such as color, caste, religion, etc. when combined with gender cause more harm than good. This is to say that a black Muslim woman has it much worse than a white Christian woman, who has it much worse than a white Christian man. Gender inequality, apart from depriving women access to most of their rights, such as the right to health, education, employment, sanitation, etc., is also problematic for men. This is because gender inequality perpetrates the stereotypical notion for men as well. It has an impact on everyone, including women, men, trans, and gender diverse persons, children – everyone. It affects people of all ages and from all walks of life. Gender equality is not just a basic human right, but also a prerequisite for a society that is peaceful, affluent, and sustainable.
Understanding Sustainable Development
Sustainable development has been defined in a multitude of ways, but the most commonly mentioned definition comes from the Brundtland Report also titled – Our Common Future, and reads – Sustainable development is the development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
There is no doubt that humanity as a whole is facing many problems, apart from COVID-19. All these problems are because of actions, inactions, indifference, or negligence of humanity. These problems such as climate change, water shortages, inequality across all forms, hunger, etc. have to be tackled on a global scale. The feasible way to tackle these problems is through sustainable development, where there is no unfair compromise between the present and future generations.
Having said that, it must also be remembered that the actions of the present generations are not viable, particularly when the present generation is living from the resources of the borrowed future generations. The promotion of sustainable development includes a dedication to social advancement, environmental balance, and economic prosperity, all of which are idealistic goals that can transform the world into a utopia once it is achieved. The basis for sustainable development arises with an ideology to protect the environment, but there is no doubt that it can be linked to that of gender equality as well.
Linking Gender Equality and Sustainable Development
In the current global setup, the men seem to be shining prominently. Not to discredit the women with power, but it must be understood that they are quite a few compared to the number of men. Having said that, sustainable development cannot happen without participation from everyone in the world. Having people who do not generally have a role in decision-making voice their opinions would make the decisions more represented and hence the application of the said decision would be extended to cover everyone.
According to this goal, nine targets have to be achieved. The targets are –
End discrimination against girls and women.
End all violence against and exploitation of women and girls
Eliminate forced marriage and gender mutilation
Value unpaid care and promote shared responsibilities
Ensure full participation in leadership and decision making
Universal access to reproductive health and rights
Equal right to economic resources, property ownership, and financial services
Promote empowerment of women through technology
Adopt and strengthen policies and enforceable legislation for gender equality
One of the points to be observed herein is that although the term used to name the SDG is gender equality, there is hardly any mention of the other genders. Now there are two approaches to why this may be so. One, after the male gender, the female gender is the most populous, so the countries together might have decided to first provide them with equality, particularly so when women have been put down for so long. Two, many of these countries might not have provided legal recognition as a basic right to the other genders. So, that battle is a much longer one and cannot be fought at the international level, for it has to be addressed domestically first.
The studies proving the explicit link between gender equality and sustainable development are on the rise. According to these studies, the ability of humanity to tackle climate change is inextricably linked to gender equality as well. One of the major ways is through land rights. These land rights are generally tied to men in general through generations of patriarchy and sexism. But women and people belonging to other genders need to be able to legally possess and own land to allow their control over the said land. This will help in them engaging in sustainable processes should they wish to.
Another way through which these concepts are linked is through violence against women. Women and people belonging to other genders owning land automatically put them in control of the land. But it can also be the cause of them experiencing violence in their houses, for the men would force them to convert the ownership of the land into his name so that he could exercise his control over the said property. The violence does not have to be caused using land rights as an excuse; it can also happen when it comes to women and people belonging to other genders being in control of scarce resources as well. Sometimes violence even takes place when women and people belonging to other genders express their disapproval over unsustainable environmental matters.
The most important link between sustainable development and gender equality is that of women and people belonging to other genders not being represented enough. Only less than 25% of the parliamentarians across all countries are women. The people belonging to other genders are represented even less. So, unless the representation sphere is broadened, there will not be inclusivity, which could not only harm the environment but also not allow them to say their piece with respect to their environment.
We do not have the luxury of time. Climate change is happening, and it is happening fast. The doomsday clock provides us with 100 seconds to midnight, and upon midnight, the world as we know it will cease to exist. Climate change has to be combated. For that, women and people belonging to other genders being recognized and given their due is long due. It is now a matter of survival or mass obliteration. We have already witnessed and are still witnessing mass obliteration by COVID-19. But climate change is much bigger in its scale, for it’s extremely global in nature. A small action or inaction in the south pole can have an effect on the north pole. And it is not something that can be studied, prevented, or prepared for because we no longer have the luxury of time.
If we do not act quickly, the various systems that have been established on earth, some even pre-dating humanity will be irreversibly harmed and even destroyed. The fact that women and people belonging to other genders are not independent, or rather, made to be dependant because of the law or societal pressure makes matters even harder for them. In many nations, women are responsible for providing their families with water and food. Women are compelled to go far and labor longer for less pay when the typical sources of these resources are interrupted. Due to scarcity, they must make difficult decisions such as withdrawing children from school or determining which family member can afford to forgo a meal. These problems can be solved if the world’s biggest and most pressing danger of climate change is looked at through a gendered perspective.
Editor’s Note The article solely focuses on the link between gender equality and sustainable development. It elaborates on what these concepts are and how important it is to achieve gender equality as well as sustainable development. The link between the two is also explained by the help of various examples. The article is concluded with the help of certain recommendations that should be considered to achieve our goal.