Gender equity refers to fairness among all persons, regardless of gender or gender identity. It is self-evident that significant and insignificant differences exist between genders, yet human dignity should be considered as universal. Gender equity is made manifest in the values, actions, attitudes, and assumptions that shape aspirations, motivate development, support inclusion, generate opportunities and recognize accomplishments about individuals. Gender is part of the fabric of human diversity in much the same way as are ethnicity, age, race, language, identity, expression, sexual orientation, disability, income, or other attributes that define each of us as human beings.
With women and girls constituting just over half of the world’s population, it would seem self-evident from reliable empirical data over decades that details pervasive discrimination, marginalization, subjugation, and violence directed against women, girls, and gender non-conforming persons that the time is long overdue when societies everywhere ought to place highest priority attention on fostering a deep mutual and reciprocal respect among the genders. Such an ethos of respect would be characterized by a consistent uniformity of fairness and even-handedness in all preferences, distribution of benefits and opportunities, policies, laws, social customs, and traditions, no matter the person’s gender. Unfortunately, we are hardly surprised at the widespread evidence of the unequal plight of most women and girls (and even more so the plight of lesbians, bisexuals, gender non-conforming persons, and transgender persons) compared to most men and boys.
The lack of fairness, justice, and respect for the human dignity of women and girls and of gender non-conforming persons is hardly “news”. Most societies have become complacent about the unfair status quo, while other societies attempt some form of justification of this inequality and entrenched gender discrimination on the basis of “traditional values”. Many persons who have been marginalized or disadvantaged due to their gender have internalized these values to their own disadvantage, yet the long cultural history of gendered roles that provide specific meaning and identity is difficult to reinvent in a way that doesn’t place one gender over others in terms of access to power, resources, cultural status, and perceived importance. In nearly all the world, decisions on what constitutes national priorities and how limited resources are to be allocated are made almost exclusively by men without consultation or input by women or gender non-conforming persons, to the clear detriment of those issues and concerns that women and girls or gender non-conforming persons consider to be most important.
All who are committed to respecting the universality of human dignity will consistently affirm the universal, indivisible and inalienable validity of the human rights of all persons, regardless of sex, gender identity, or gender expression. Where such commitment is sincere and grounded, people are active in working towards the elimination of all gender-based discrimination, violence, marginalization, or exclusion.
The global environment or status quo – social, political, legal, administrative, economic and cultural – is characterized by deeply entrenched inequality between men and women, exclusion of marginalized groups, and very different lived experiences between gender conforming persons and gender non-conforming persons. The previous global consensus on the priority of fundamental human rights over relativistic cultural and religious values (and what are perversely now called “traditional values”) is being more intensively challenged by repressive regimes and extremist religious groups, and hence effective gender equity and social inclusion champions are needed now more than ever.
There has been significant progress in many countries in women’s empowerment, and such progress is beginning with respect to the empowerment of gender and sexual minorities. Accelerating this progress depends on realizing a sweeping popular change in attitudes, such that gender equity (as conceptualized in line with universal human rights and robust democratic principles) and social inclusion become the priority of all persons. People of all genders are called to collaborate constructively and collaboratively in this effort.
Human rights activists are therefore called to pursue a transnational gender equity vision.
Elements of this vision ought to include the following:
- Support: While continuing to work to protect, strengthen, assist and stand in solidarity with local human rights activists around the world in their on-going activities, gender equity activists will consistently promote greater awareness, inclusion, and sensibilities in the context of gender equity promotion and protection based on universal values.
- Advocate: Continuously identify, develop and apply effective skills and methods to promote and advocate for gender equity and social inclusion, and measure the impact of these efforts.
- Empower: Support and facilitate the empowerment of all persons of all genders jointly to become more aware of their intersecting relationships on the basis of a shared commitment to gender equity, and where needed help them as they work to redefine such relationships so that they are characterized by mutual respect and the recognition of universal human dignity.
- Research: Improve and expand our shared empirical base of data regarding the human rights experience of women, girls, and gender and sexual minority persons around the world, and the relevant differentials experienced by men and other genders in their democratic participation. Identify effective ways in which all persons are currently working and can continue to work together on shared gender equity goals. Through gender equity sensitivity in research, and through research initiatives targeted at gender equity issues in specific contexts, activists will increasingly become recognized as authoritative and persuasive voices on the human rights of persons of all genders, and of measurable progress in achieving gender equity in the context of human rights.