Let’s make women’s rights personal

Yesterday was International Women’s Day. After all these decades, we still have a special day to celebrate womanhood. Men don’t have a special day for themselves, so, why do women have a day designated for them?

It may be a sign that women are still not equals as a person. I don’t want to say we should be equal as men, then, I would be measuring our equality to the standard men have set for themselves. No, women should be equals as all human beings, whatever their race, religion, culture, social, economic or educational status, income category, particular background or lifestyle choices, are equals and should be treated as such.

We should all be equally treated as people deserving recognition of our human or citizenship rights. No one should be discriminated against for whatever reason.

This does not mean that we can justify immoral choices in the guise of human rights. For example, if a person chooses to enjoy sex with as many partners as he or she can get without having to settle down with any, it is still immoral to us. But, that doesn’t mean we should treat him or her any less.

We may not agree with his or her lifestyle choices but we should support every effort to ensure that that person is not deprived of his or her human rights. That person should be allowed to vote, to receive all the benefits due to him or her as a citizen, to be protected by law and allowed to live as he or she wants to. If it’s a moral issue, family members, relatives and friends can advise him on the best course of action to take. But, that’s a personal matter.

As a matter public interest that person has the right to choose the way to live as long as it is legal. If illegal, the law will take its course.

It is encouraging to note that governments, including Malaysia, are taking steps to ensure gender equality. They are introducing laws to prevent discrimination against women.

The recent revelations of sexual harassment by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein highlight the price women have to pay to get a break in filmdom. I believe such news have more impact in raising awareness of the obstacles women face in pursuing their interests than laws and women rights groups.

More such news will keep men alert on good behaviour and encourage women not to submit to the generally accepted practice of playing ball with men to get ahead.

Essentially, a woman’s liberation is in her hands — not in some non-government organisation fighting for women’s causes even if it’s legitimate, and, certainly, not with the government. The latter two can help in creating an environment for women to progress, but women ourselves must assume responsibilities for our actions and make the fight personal to realise our potential and break the barriers limiting us.

We need to find it within us to defy the odds. That would require some sacrifices and thick-skinned behaviour! It involves digging in our heels and facing the music! If we fail to get what we want, we have the dignity of losing with our head held high. There are other opportunities we can follow, another time.

We need to weigh our options and choose the course of action where we can best live with ourselves with self-respect.

So, women, wherever you are, whatever you are doing, hurrah for taking control of your lives, and making choices that will be an example for more women to follow!

Let’s all be comfortable in our skin!

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