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The Status of Women in Patriarchal Societies

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In the discourse of gender equality, patriarchy is a major theme. In a paper produced by Littrell R. and Bertsch A. (2013) studying the status of women in the patriarchal belt, highlighted the prevalence and universality of patriarchy in underdeveloped and agrarian societies and civilizations – most theocratic and Southeast Asian countries today; and most if not all civilizations in pre-modern times. According to the paper, the term “patriarchy” denotes that any given individual belongs to the their father’s genealogical descent group where gender roles construct dictates that wives are to live with the husband’s family in their residence.

Additionally, the status of women in patriarchal societies are characterized as powerless especially in political, professional, labor, and religious domains; are on average less literate, have less access to education, and more. Highly restrictive gender roles are imposed upon both males and females in patriarchal societies, however these patriarchal codes for gender roles are significantly more detrimental to the individual rights, freedom and volition of female members – they are to be submissive, dutiful wives or mothers (Littrell R. & Bertsch A., 2013).

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On that front, in Sharon Brown’s paper Religion, Gender, and Patriarchy: Awakening to My Self Conscious Realization (2004), emphasized on the term “feminine mystique”, originally created by Betty Friedan. According to Sharon, motherhood based aspirations are presumped in many females as their ultimate calling in life; that marriage and motherhood are immutably satisfying to all females. On the origins of patriarchy, research suggests that gender or individual rights are largely equal in the paleolithic era where humans societies are in its primitive, hunter-gatherer form organized in clans of 30-50 members (Littrell R. & Bertsch A., 2013).

Coming into the neolithic era characterized by the agrarian paradigm harbingered patriarchy where women becomes commoditized by men; not unlike the domestication of bulls for farming; women are treated, traded and utilized as a resource for sexual, reproductive, and even labor purposes often without consent, under the absolute authorities of their familial patriarch (Littrell R. & Bertsch A., 2013). Measures of Gender equality (this is where we talk about the variables that reflect gender equality). The social sciences are riddled with difficulties upon the empirical and objective measures or quantification of any given social phenomena for terms such as equality, fairness, good, bad, and etc. due to the contextuality and prospective subjectivity of such terms may imply.

In the literature on the study gender equality, the most common measures of gender equality are such as income, education, economic security; female-to-male population and education ratios, female share of professional and technical jobs, skilled health personnel attending births, and gender-related violence (Seguino S., 2010). Employment In the paper published by Littrell R. & Bertsch A. (2013), one of the main measures the authors used for their study of gender equality is the non-agricultural employment in patriahcial belt countries versus the non-belt countries. Based on the reviews done on the relevant literature the authors believe that employment measures are sound proxies that reflects gender egalitarianism of any given society.

Using data from the UN Statistics Division tracking the “share of women in wage employment in the non-agricultural sector”, they concluded that the women belonging in the South Asia (in the patriahcial belt) suffers greater gender equality compared to other countries; conforming to the assumption that employment opportunities fares worse for females in societies with weaker gender equality. Education In the paper published by Littrell R. & Bertsch A. (2013), one of the measures that the author used for the analysis of gender equality is with the ratio of women to men enrolled in tertiary education. Despite limited samples, using the data retrieved from the UN Statistics Division on “ratio of female to male tertiary enrollment”, they concluded that women are likely to face more barriers in accessing tertiary education, most notably reflected by the country Afghanistan.

In her study, Seguino S. (2010) found that individuals with higher education and wages holds more gender equitable views. According to a study done by Reilly (2010) even at times of huge economic growth, 77 million children are not going to school, and girls make up 57 per cent of it. When it comes to adults, 781 million are illiterate, of whom 64 per cent are women (Reilly 2010). In his study Reilly (2010) also mentions that one-sixth or almost one billion people have had less than five years of education or no education at all, two-thirds of whom are women and girls. A 2003 UNESCO data estimated that of all children who start primary school, only 57 per cent complete it (Reilly 2010).

In Africa 67 per cent of boys and 65 per cent of girls complete the last grade in primary school, while in countries like Mozambique and Rwanda, less than one-third of girls do so (Reilly 2010). Only 26 per cent of secondary-school-age boys and 21 per cent of secondary-school-age girls in Africa attend secondary school, while in South Asia – 49 per cent of secondary-school-age boys and 41 per cent of secondary-school-age girls attend secondary school (Reilly 2010). According to Reilly 2010 in South Asia, one in every three girls who completes primary school, can’t read, write od do arithmetic. In South Asia and Africa the quality of education is a main concern, due to large class sizes, language barriers and misunderstanding with instructors (Reilly 2010).

According to Seguino S. (2010), the literature on the wage gap between working males and females concluded that 20-30% of wage gaps cannot be justified by gender-related productivity disparities; presumably due to workplace discrimination. However, empirically speaking, there are no significant substaintions to support that workplace discrimination is a cause – the true cause of the wage gap remains elusive Sex Ratio. According to Bhattacharya P. (2012), the human sex ratio is defined as the number of males per 100 females in any given population sample. In most industrialized country, the sex ratio at birth are 1.05 – 105 boys are born for every 100 girls (Scientific American, n.d.).

In spite of the sex ratio at birth of 1.05 in most countries in the world (not just industrialized nations), biologically speaking male infants suffers greater frailty as they are genetically predisposed to more congenital defects whereas female infants has a greater survival rate (Bhattacharya P., 2012). To corroborate, the sex ratio of population in the west, which are gender progressive, favors the female sex. The sex ratio in the United Kingdom is 98; the United States, 97; and the average of countries in the European Union, 92. Even in countries with less salubrious environments does the pattern holds; the ratio sub-Saharan Africa is 99; and 86 for both Russia and Ukraine (Bhattacharya P., 2012).

Interestingly, accordingly to Bhattacharya P. (2012), in China and India, countries where society is deeply patriarchal (hence are more gender inequal against the females), the sex ratio if population stands at 106. Furthermore, socioeconomically speaking, both China and India fares better than sub-Saharan Africa, which even then has a population sex ratio of 99. The author claims these figures are indicative of gender inequality and neglect against members of the female sex, which leads to higher mortality rates of women. To corroborate that gender inequality directly distorts population sex ratio in favor of men – Caused by high female mortality rates during infant and childhood years – the author offered a many evidences.

In India, a number of studies found that health dysfunction in girls are more tolerated and hence they receive less medical care than boys; daughters are twice as likely to die before their fifth birthday as their brothers even among educated mothers – Evidence for selective discrimination against girls (Bhattacharya P., 2012). Additionally, studying the rates of abortion in the time period from 1981-2006, approximately 11 million sex-selective abortions were performed in India – Accounting for 3.6 percent of female births or 1.7 percent of live births. Sex-selective abortions are more prevalent in urbanized area and amongst educated women (Bhattacharya. P, 2012).

In the past, many chinese families in China practice female infanticide as a means to control the size and gender ratio of their families (Bhattacharya. P, 2012). As of today, China suffers from a shortage of females (sex ratio of 1.06 as mentioned earlier); but the country has been suffering from a shortage of females for at least 6 centuries as female shortages were a pervasive feature of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912) (Bhattacharya P., 2012). According to the modern national censuses and surveys of China, high rates of female infanticide exists in the 1930s to early 1940s and was ultimately reduced in the 1960s (Bhattacharya. P, 2012). The magnitude of female infanticide relative to the live birth population in the peak years of female infanticide of 1930s to 1940s was estimated to be at 10-15 percent (Bhattacharya. P, 2012).

These staggering figures are testament to the effects of gender inequality values engendered on a national scale and in a deeply cultural level. Both India and China are patriarchal societies where patrilineal kinship system is widely practiced. Females in these countries are categorically of inferior value and hence are subjected to neglect and even violent subjugation in the form of sexually selective infanticide and abortion. In a nutshell, based on the paper that was reviewed , population sex ratio is highly predictive of gender equality in any given society. Economic Development Typically when you think of economic benefits, you do not necessarily think of human rights as something that would benefit it, however, gender equality is suggested to have economic development, specifically when the female is educated.

There are several theories indicating a relationship between economic development and girls who were educated at the same level of a male, that the average level of human capital and female-specific effects contribute to economic growth. (Kesti & Hansson, 2018) Kesti and Hanson (2018) conducted their research by gathering a panel data for 18 different countries that was used for nonlinear and linear regression analysis. In order to obtain an accurate representation of the data, data was gathered from 1970-2015 and divided into 5-year time periods in the hopes to find a relationship between gender equality in education and economic growth rate (Kesti & Hansson, 2015).

After reviewing the results of the data from the regression analysis, the data implies that if there is a gender equality when it comes to education or the growth rate of gender equality becomes higher, than the GDP per capita growth benefits (Kesti & Hansson 2015). Religiosity Generally, given that religious institutions are no monolithic, studying the role of religion in their capacity to perpetuate norms that espouses gender inequity is complex (Seguino S., 2010). In effect to gender equality, religion can be categorized into two main levels namely the individual level specifically personal religiosity and the institutional level wherein the influence of religion on politics, workplace and communities are exerting.

A reductionistic delineation of religiosity and gender inequality concluded based on the study done by Seguino S. (2010). The relative professional and social standing of a women in the society is based on the interpretation of religious scriptures, which are considered to be the principals to their beliefs and the institutional structures of the communities (Klingorová, K., & Havlíček, T, 2015). But the research conducted by Klingorová, K. and Havlíček, T. (2015) depicts that scope and the belief of religiosity on gender equality varies across time and space. Their study was focused on bringing up a multidisciplinary debate on how the 4 major religions in the world treat gender inequality based on the 50 selected states (Klingorová, K., & Havlíček, T, 2015). The states have been selected based on the share of people with religions, preserving male dominant societal structures (Klingorová, K., & Havlíček, T, 2015). But women have more preference to engage in a religious life.

The norms, institutions, historical foundations and the cultures that the religions are built on may vary slightly, but the influence they have towards gender equality may not differentiated (Klingorová, K., & Havlíček, T, 2015). As per the authors, the existence of a male dominant society might have caused through the influence of religious leaders (Klingorová, K., & Havlíček, T, 2015). The gods, leaders or the creators of the respective religion is always a male (Klingorová, K., & Havlíček, T, 2015). The women’s role in the society is limited and has always been restricted to the household (Klingorová, K., & Havlíček, T, 2015). But in religion women receives a more significant and a complex place, other than being valued as a mother (Klingorová, K., & Havlíček, T, 2015).

All the 4 religions had admired the role of a women in the family life. However, some religions Due to the patriarchal temperaments in the society women were never allowed to raise their voices. According to the analysis done by Klingorová, K., & Havlíček, T. (2015) on women’s status in groups of states, compared with the chosen variables. Most of the Buddhist countries in Asia such as Myanmar, Japan, Cambodia, Singapore and Sri Lanka showed less disparity among men and women (Klingorová, K., & Havlíček, T, 2015). Women in Buddhist countries are economically active and possess a high literacy rate. The simplest explanation to this is that Buddhist cultures and traditions afford gender equality. Buddhism and Christianity shared the same mean value of 2.67 (Klingorová, K., & Havlíček, T, 2015).

Women in the Christian states have a higher tendency to be engaged in political activities but less likely to be a part of the labor force, compared to their Buddhist counterparts. Generally, the Bibles gives varying interpretation to women’s role in the society, but they never tend to discriminate the view of women in the in the society. Meanwhile, the study concludes that Islamic and Hindi cultures have different opinion on gender equality based on the average of their mean values, 3.83 and 4.83 respectively (Klingorová, K., & Havlíček, T, 2015). The public presence of women in Islamic states are significantly low compared to other religion states. Islamic women are restricted from going to the mosque or touching the Quran during pregnancy, menstruation and periods. This is an instance which proves the aforementioned factor.

Majority of Hindu population exists in India, which has restricted the data collection to the regions of India. The authors have mentioned that the Hindu cultures restricts women’s economic freedom, which had caused a major disparity in gender equity. That being said, the authors have stated that the analyzed data are affected by the policies of one federal government and similar cultures. Furthermore, the study has pointed out that the states without any religious affiliations, which includes most of the major European countries, showed the lowest level of gender inequalities across the considered variables. (Needs to be edited and proofread, which I will do once the other parts are completed).

According to Seguino. S (2010), cultural norms, social rules, and behaviors; and subsequently the rigidity of gender roles and attitudes are significantly influenced by the formal religious institutions. According to the author, as elucidated in the “wages” section in this literature review, the true causes for the gender based wage-gap (20-30%) remains elusive. On that front, Seguino S. (2010) proposed that of the unexplained wage-gap, one-third of gender wage gaps and other forms of measured inequality are attributable to institutions – In relevance to this topic, religious institutions including. In relation to gender inequality Seguino S. (2010) elaborated on why the gender norms which religion engenders are gender inequitable – presumably the author is under the assumption that religion being the one of the most significant foundations of morality is paradoxed by gender inequality espoused by its very own institutions and practices.

To explain the paradox, based on the speculation that there exists a third variable problem in the relationship between gender inequality and religion, the author offered two main explanations namely: Religiosity being a response to economic insecurity and the role of hierarchy in formal institutions. The author proposed that if the link between religion and economic security is valid, it is expected that the need for clear and rigid rules and behavioral norms will be aroused upon economically insecure individuals and societies, which more often than not disfavors the interests of women (Patriarchy being the default structure for most societies). On the role of hierarchy, the author pointed out that most major religions are significantly tethered to material resources; political influence and power. The socioeconomic elite classes which are largely patriahcial, uses religion and its institutions as means to perpetuate their power, causing the conventional misattribution of religion to gender inequity.

In Brown S. paper (2004), religion are often specifically oriented in people during their childhood. Brown asserts that given the influence of parents on the highly impressionable years of their children’s childhood years, religious doctrines are more easily internalized into their lives and hold them as norms for the rest of their lives. Naturally, if any given religious doctrines or practices in effect espouses or supports gender inequality ideals, religious individuals are likely to accept them as norms and rightful conduct.

The study published by Seguino S. (2010) concluded that the intensity of religious beliefs and the frequency of religious participation correlates negatively with gender attitudes and outcomes. Interestingly, despite being significantly disfavored by religion in terms of gender equity attitudes and beliefs, females on average are shown to be more religious than men (Seguino, 2010). In the literature related measures of religiosity by nation in the global scale, many researchers uses data from the Gallup International Surveys – (Noack, 2015) and (Oliver, 2018); data from Pew Research Center Reports – (Trimble, 2018) and (Jackson 2018); and World Value Survey – (Stoet & Geary, 2017) and (Seguino, 2010). All these sources are based on surveys about individuals’ attitude on religion and their personal religiosity.


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