According to the United Nations as in1980, Women worked two-thirds of the world’s working hours, produced half of the world’s food, and yet earned only 10 percent of the world’s income and owned less than 1 percent of the world’s property. The situation today is not likely to be quite different.
A cultural preference for boys in a country like China has led to neglect of female babies and abortion of female fetuses. In fact some female babies were thrown out of the window during the one child era in China.
All things being equal, the normal gender ratio is about 105 females to every 100 males. However, after ultrasound devices to determine the sex of the fetus became available in the 1970s, the percentage of baby boys at birth jumped dramatically in countries such as China, India and Korea where female fetuses were apparently aborted. Consequently it is said that in 1997 in China, for example, 117 male births were recorded for every 100 female births. Today in China, there are not enough young women for young men to marry.
On October 7, 2006, the prestigious British medical journal, The Lancet, published the results of a massive World Health Organization study of physical and sexual abuse of women by intimate partners.
Interviewing 24,097 women in 11 countries, they found that huge numbers of women in most countries reported experiencing physical violence at least once in their life. The following statistics are representative: 40 percent in Bangladesh; 30 percent in Brazil; 49 percent in Ethiopia; 49 percent in Peru’s cities and 61 percent in its rural areas.
The U.S. Department of State estimated (June 5, 2006) that of the 600,000 to 800,000 people trafficked across international borders every year, 80 percent are women and girls. Most of them end up in prostitution. These figures do not include the millions of girls and women that the State Department believes are trafficked within their own national borders every year.
Discrimination against women is world-wide and cuts across religious and cultural divides. There are very few women in management positions in the corporate world, women are poorly represented in both the executive and legislative arms of government. As developed as the United States of America, a woman has never being elected president or vice-president, women do not always earn equal pay with men for doing the same job.
The situation is not as bad in Nigeria of today although the western world would like to paint a different picture; there are more women in political positions, they occupy several management positions and women earn equal pay with men for doing the same job.
However on the whole in Nigeria women do not enjoy equal social status with men, this is very pronounced in the rural areas. Some areas of discrimination are discussed below:
1. Discrimination in inheritance
In certain parts of Nigeria women do not inherit any properties from their parents especially land. Consequently women clearly have legal title to vastly less property than do men especially in the rural areas. This is quite common in the South-east and South-south geopolitical zones. The situation appears different in the South-west; women inherit.
In Brazil in 2000, women owned 11 percent of the land, and men owned 89 percent. In Mexico in 2003, women owned 22 percent and men 78 percent. And it is generally thought that land ownership is more equal in Latin America than in some other developing countries like Nigeria.
2. Women are treated as unequal economic partners in the family
Although women may not bring direct cash to the family kitty, they do a lot of domestic chores that if monetized amount to a lot of cash.
In agrarian society, they do the planting and harvesting but the money goes to the husband; the income is not shared.
3. Lack of interest in women’s education
In most of the developing world, women have less access to education and are more likely to be illiterate than men. In low-income countries in 2001, 46 percent of women could not read, compared to 28 percent of men.
For low-income countries in 2001, 31 percent of female youth were illiterate, compared to 19 percent of male youth.
In Nigeria, several parents especially in the rural areas still prefer to educate their sons instead both boys and girls. In some parts of the country school-age girls are given out in marriage or made to hawk items in the streets instead of being in school. To those parents, it is a waste of money sending a girl to school; her place is the kitchen and bedroom.
In our global information society, where education and knowledge equal power and wealth, inequality in education means injustice.
4. Payment of dowry on women
In Nigeria dowries are paid for women during marriages, it is like being sold. While it is an age-old tradition, it does not serve any useful purpose and can be done without. It is a form of injustice.
5. Discriminatory cultural practices against women at home
Michael Todaro, author of one of the most influential texts on economic development, says that women and children are more likely to be malnourished than men. In Latin America, 31 percent of girls are underweight while only 17 percent of boys are. In India, he notes, girls are four times as likely to suffer acute malnutrition as boys; boys are 40 times more likely than girls to be taken to the hospital when ill.
Men are given more food than women and children whereas children need food more for both physical and mental development.
Women are not allowed to speak in certain gatherings in some parts of Nigeria; are not supposed to eat certain parts of animals considered the preserve of men.
In many families in Nigeria, the male child is the decision-maker even if he is the youngest of the siblings; whatever he says, goes.
6. High morbidity and mortality of women during pregnancy
According to the World Health Organization, about 550,000 women die from pregnancy related problems yearly; about 40 percent of this occurs in Africa though Africa accounts for only about 20 percent of total births annually.
Women though bear the brunt of pregnancy must seek the permission of their husband even to register for ante-natal and to deliver in a medical facility.
Women though bear the brunt of pregnancy must seek the permission of their husband to have family planning.
Women though bear the brunt of pregnancy have little control over the timing and frequency of childbirth.
Society therefore subjects the woman to hard work at home, is the last to eat, and has to have more children, in many cases, than she and her body can cope with. This is social injustice.
7. Over-work at home.
The United Nations Human Development Report for 2005 reported that in a large majority of cases, women work more than men. On average, in urban areas, women worked 481 minutes a day and men only 453 in 2005. In rural areas, women worked 617 minutes to men’s 515. The vast majority of developed countries reported the same pattern: 423 minutes for women and 403 for men.
In Nigeria like in several parts of the world, women are over-burdened by domestic work, sometimes combined with office work, school runs, hospital runs and also bear the burden of pregnancy.
In situations where both the man and wife work, the woman still has to cook when she comes from work while the husband watches television.
God save her if the food is not ready on time.