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"What Men Live By" a Short Story Written by Russian Author Leo Tolstoy

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“Remember then; there is only one time that is important- Now! It is the most important time because it is the only time when we have any power”, Leo Tolstoy admonishes in one of his classics, ‘What Men Live By’. In a world where it takes only a few seconds for minor problems to turn into global conflicts, this quote points out incredibly more than what is understood at the first glance; demonstrating the cruciality of interfering with a certain dispute in the quickest way possible. In the hopes of taking immediate action towards solving the world’s most critical disputes, the United Nations has played a substantial role and became an irreplaceable part of the world’s politics. In the path towards achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals set by the UN, the world has made remarkable progress in various areas: from poverty to global warming, social injustices and many more. 

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However, there is one particular question -indicated by the SDG 5- that the world constantly fails to make progress in: Gender Equality. Despite that Feminism is now a concern debated upon all around the world, there is still current news like the recent rule made by the Pakistan court which legally allows men to marry underage girls after the menstruation has occurred, which reduces the age down to 11, even 8 in several cases. Likewise, in the country that I live in, the Republic of Turkey, child marriage and spousal abuse have become never-ending nightmares women are coerced into bearing. 

In order to redress gender-based discrimination and preserve women’s rights, the most important step to be taken is the examination of the reasons causing the issue. Dedicated to attaining constructive solutions, it is crucial to acknowledge that the perception of women’s rights can never deviate from basic human rights. According to its definition and practical application, human rights sustain “the possibility of an individual’s potentiality as a normal human being” by procuring the necessary conditions for human development and more importantly, to carry out “the work of man” as stated by Aristotle. As proven by numerous researches; matters like child marriage, domestic violence, rape, abuse of women’s rights, are seen more often in developing and underdeveloped countries where it is harder to protect the basic human rights of the civilians. 

To base this argument on a brief yet solid background, it should be clarified that internal disturbances such as inflation, decreasing amount of Gross Domestic Product per capita, rapidly increasing population carve the way towards a broadened gap between the rich and the poor, increased number of the poor, followed by a significantly deepened social injustice in developing and underdeveloped countries. “Cultural development” is a crucial phrase at this point. 

A Turkish 21st-century philosopher and one of the holders of UNESCO Chair of Philosophy of Human Rights, Ionna Kucuradi, defines “cultural development” as the ‘representation of the present state in the development of the idea of development’. Accordingly, if and only if it can be managed to form a better, newer, much more constructive idea of development generated by educated government officials, only then will it be possible to tackle the issue. 

 

Furthermore, it should be recognized that gender equality is not a dispute concerning women only. In fact, basing superficial settlements on this bias leads to the separation of women from men and legislation of new laws and regulations that grant the female population of the state more rights and liabilities than men. Consequently, trying to fix the issue of gender inequality, there rises a different controversy called ‘affirmative discrimination’. The consequences of affirmative discrimination can easily be observed today with the unemployment of countless men as a result of the constantly increasing tendency of large companies to employ female workers. Even though it is vital to provide the female workers with a secure and lasting place in the economy and business world, unevenly expanding the rights of the female population of the group is neither a permanent settlement nor a sufficient solution. Bestowing women such vantage almost always leads to the predetermined idea of women’s alleged incapability of acquiring their own rights, procuring their own jobs, managing their own financial well-being. This issue is seen more frequently in developing countries. Intended to equalize the legal status of women before men, women are provided with a juridical advantage in certain cases. For instance, the government reassures the recruitment of women as civil servants, enables women to benefit from their husband’s/father’s insurances, anticipates divorced wives to demand financial assistance – alimony- from their husbands… etc. 

Regardless of what the intention of this approach may be, the primary solution can only be found in the education of young girls and the success achieved by these educated young girls with their hard work and intelligence, not their gender. In Turkey, there have been amendments made to the constitution to endure the gender equality and have been applied even better than expected in well-developed metropoles like İstanbul, Ankara, and İzmir, yet it is not the same for under-educated, rural areas of the country, where it is almost impossible to exercise the power of law due to the failed attempts of unqualified government officials towards bringing this crisis to an end. “Unity of opposites, conflict within cooperation, conflict in harmony and similar other paired concepts bring out the dynamic character of social development. Freedom of man is the root of this social dynamic”, a 20th-century philosopher Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya implies about the concept of development. Indeed, in an atmosphere impoverished, destitute and devoid of the right of freedom of will, it is not possible to observe any kind of improvement, neither sociologically nor judicially. 

Taking everything into consideration, it can not be denied that sexism and gender-based discrimination are still alarming affairs women continuously suffer from and now is the time to conceive of persistent and perdurable solutions, starting from the root: bigotry and ignorance; education being the only efficient weapon in a battle against these most primitive infirmities of man. Hence, especially in the field of law, the significance of raising conscious, deliberative, well-educated professionals who will determine the future of both the victims and the offenders of such crimes, can never be underestimated. Keeping this in mind, I firmly believe that in order to become a lawyer the world is in desperate need of, receiving the college education in a prestigious and rooted establishment as the Hague University of Applied Sciences is a life-changing opportunity which I will definitely seize upon in the most productive way. 

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