Gender equality is typically defined as the equalization of male and female sexes, but as time has changed, so have the definitions of gender and gender equality. And as the standards for gender equality morph and change with time, we must look to the past to define this term while we push ahead to the future. With a quarter of this century almost gone, what steps have we made toward gender equality in the twenty-first century?
Please note that quantifying the progression of gender equality is complex as the globe does not move in singularity. This is not to say particular strides were not made on the individual level, such as the ever-important Title IX. But this is America-centric and not indicative of the world. So, this article will review a few of the most pertinent pieces of legislation that intend to move us forward on a global scale rather than the progression of a single country.
The UN Millennium Declaration
From September 6th through the 8th in the year 2000, the Millennium Summit of The UN was held to devise a strategy to promote the changes needed in the twenty-first century. Following this meeting, the UN Millennium Declaration was formed with eight goals intended to reduce poverty, increase education, and provide food security. Of these goals, Goal Three and Goal Five called for gender equality and improving maternal health at an international level. These goals brought countries together, allowing them to collaborate and set sights on a focused, tangible, and singular purpose.
The Passage of UNSCR
On October 31st, also in the year 2000, the UN Security Council passed the UNSCR 1325, acknowledging that women are critical players in the promotion of peace and are an integral part of problem-solving. This was passed as a global promise to include the integration of women in the peacekeeping process due to the unique impact war has on women. This adopted resolution acknowledged the intersectional impacts of war and shed truthful light on the false ideology that women could not be leaders of peace. It also recognizes sexual violence against women as a war tactic and demands that prevention measures get implemented against this.
The Creation of UN Women
On July 2nd, 2010, the UN General Assembly merged multiple divisions (the DAW, INSTRAW, UNIFEM, and OSAGI) to form UN Women. Its goal was and is to face challenges and promote gender quality on a global level and, thus, accelerate the progression of the organization’s goals of promoting gender equality. At the foundational level, this organization recognizes that women’s needs are intersectional and diverse but also understands that there is work to be done as a whole. And at the very least, this acknowledgment helps validate the struggles and experiences of women on an international scale.
While this short list of the steps we’ve made toward gender equality in the twenty-first century is by no means exhaustive, it is a reference point. Now, voting rights, maternal health, and safeguards against sexual violence and femicide are not just seen as options—they are mandatory.