Gender Equality in the Gambia
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The perception of the concept of gender equality is not properly understood in both sexes throughout The Gambia. OBJECTIVE
The objective of this research work is based on three things: * To bring to light the proper concept of gender equality. * To ascertain if there is any possibility of total gender equality in all works of life in The Gambia. * To find out the stand of both religions i.e. Islam and Christianity on the subject matter of gender equality.
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
The importance of this research on Gender equality cannot be over emphasize, for the simple reason that gender equality has become a litigious issue in religion, politics, economic and social platform, all four platforms have divergent views on the subject matter.
GENDER EQUALITY IN THE GAMBIA
Under the 1997 Constitution, women in the Gambia are accorded equal rights with men. Yet gender activists believed that there is still inequality between the sexes in The Gambia, largely because of the patriarchal nature of Gambian society reinforces traditional roles of women. In The Gambia, there is a dual legal system that combines civil law (inspired by the British system) and Islamic Sharia. Family Code: The laws recognise four forms of marriage: Christian, civil, customary and Mohommedan (which are governed by Sharia). The 1997 Constitution states that all marriages shall be based on the free and full consent of the intended parties, except under customary law which still supports the tradition of child betrothal. More than 90 per cent of Gambian women are governed by customary and Sharia law vis-à-vis their family relationships. The Gambia has no minimum legal age for marriage and. Polygamy is permissible in Gambian society and is practiced; Men may take up to four wives.
Wives whose husbands enter a second or subsequent marriage have the option to divorce. In the Gambia husbands are considered to be the natural head of the family; as such, they have sole responsibility for matters concerning the raising of children, albeit consent of women are seek occasionally. Women’s rights with regard to inheritance depend on the law applied. Sharia provides for detailed and complex calculations of inheritance shares, whereby women may inherit from their father, mother, husband or children and, under certain conditions, from other family members. However, their shares are generally only half of that to which men are entitled. Christian women and female children can receive properties under the wills of their husbands or fathers, men receive the bigger share. The share of inheritance for both sexes will be discuss in detail.
Physical Integrity: Gender activists believe that Protection for the physical integrity of Gambian women is weak. Violence against women, including domestic violence and abuse is rarely reported, but its occurrence is believed to be quite common. Even though wife-beating is a criminal offence (and constitutes grounds for divorce under civil law), the police typically consider such incidents to be domestic issues that lie beyond their jurisdiction. The Gambia does have laws prohibiting rape and assault, which are generally enforced. The population sex ratio in the Gambia has been stable for the past 50 years, suggesting it is not a country of concern in relation to missing women.
Ownership Rights: Women in the Gambia have ownership rights to land, but very few have land compared to men. Concerning access to land, only a small proportion of women have titles to land property. The problem is especially acute in rural areas: traditional and cultural practices allow women to have the right to usufruct over land but, they don’t own it personally. This trend is rapidly changing as women of the Gambia are increasing owning properties in The urban areas. The law does not discriminate against women in the area of access to bank loans or credit facilities. Civil Liberties: Women in the Gambia have civil liberty. There are no restrictions on women’s freedom of movement or freedom of dress.
OVERVIEW OF GENDER EQUALITY
What is gender equality? Gender equality is the equal representation of women and men. Gender equality does not imply that women and men are the same, but that they have equal value and should be accorded equal treatment. Gender equality describes the absence of obvious or hidden disparities among individuals based on gender. Disparities can include the discrimination in terms of opportunities, resources, services, benefits, decision-making power and influence. It is important to note that gender is a social construct which is based on social roles, not sexual differences per se. The dichotomous nature of gender lends to the creation of inequality that manifests itself in numerous dimensions of daily life. Gender roles are defined by Culture and Tradition.
It differs from place to place. Culture is not static, but dynamic. Sexual difference is biological, Gender inequality is socia1. The salient points are: Rules, norms, values and be1iefs The United Nations regards gender equality as a human right. They point out that: empowering women is also an indispensable tool for advancing development and reducing poverty. Gender equality refers to the equal valuing of the roles of women and men. It works to overcome the barriers of stereotypes and prejudices so that both sexes are able to equally contribute to and benefit from economic, social, cultural and political developments within society. When women and men have relative equality, economies grow faster and there is less corruption. When women are healthy and educated, their families, communities and nations benefit.
Gender is a social construct. It refers to the relationship between men and women, girls and boys. According to Carolyn Hannan (2000), gender relates ‘to the attributes and opportunities associated with being male and female, and the socio-cultural relationships between women and men, and girls and boys’. These attributes, opportunities and relationships are socially constructed and learned through socialization processes. They are passed from one generation to another. They are however, context specific and changeable. They are not static but dynamic. ‘In most societies there are differences and disparities (inequalities) between women and men in activities undertaken, access to and control over resources and decision-making (power) opportunities. Gender is an integral part of the broader socio-cultural context. The concept of gender needs to be understood clearly as a cross-cutting socio-cultural variable. It is an overarching variable in the sense that gender can also be applied to all other cross-cutting variables such as race, class, age, ethnic group, etc. Gender systems are established in different socio-cultural contexts which determine what is expected, allowed and valued in a woman/man and girl/boy in these specific contexts. Gender roles are learned through socialization processes; they are not fixed but are changeable.
Gender systems are institutionalized through education systems, political and economic systems, legislation, and culture and traditions. In utilizing a gender approach the focus is not on individual women and men but on the system which determines gender roles / responsibilities, access to and control over resources, and decision-making potentials. It is also important to emphasize that the concept of gender is not interchangeable with women. Gender refers to both women and men, and the relations between them. Promotion of gender equality should concern and engage men as well as women. In recent years there has been a much stronger direct focus on men in research on gender perspectives. There are three main approaches taken in the increased focus on men. Firstly, the need to identify men as allies for gender equality and involve them more actively in this work.
Secondly, the recognition that gender equality is not possible unless men change their attitudes and behaviour in many areas, for example in relation to reproductive rights and health. And thirdly, that gender systems in place in many contexts are negative for men as well as for women – creating unrealistic demands on men and requiring men to behave in narrowly defined ways. A considerable amount of interesting research is being undertaken, by both women and men, on male identities and masculinity. The increased focus on men will have significant impact on future strategies for working with gender perspectives in development. Gender equality
Gender equality is the preferred terminology within the United Nations, rather than gender equity. Gender equity denotes an element of interpretation of social justice, usually based on tradition, custom, religion or culture, which is most often to the detriment to women. Such use of equity in relation to the advancement of women is unacceptable. During the Beijing conference in 1995 it was agreed that the term equality would be utilized. Gender Equality means that the rights, responsibilities and opportunities of individuals will not depend on whether they are born male or female. Equality does not mean “ the same as” – promotion of gender equality does not mean than women and men will become the same. Equality between women and men has both a quantitative and a qualitative aspect. The quantitative aspect refers to the desire to achieve equitable representation of women – increasing balance and parity, while the quantitative aspect refers to achieving equitable influence on establishing development priorities and outcomes for women and men.
Equality involves ensuring that the perceptions, interests, needs and priorities of women and men (which can be very different because of the differing roles and responsibilities of women and men) will be given equal weight in planning and decision-making. There is a dual rationale for promoting gender equality. Firstly, that equality between women and men – equal rights, opportunities and responsibilities – is a matter of human rights and social justice. And secondly, that greater equality between women and men is also a precondition for (and effective indicator of) sustainable people-centred development. The perceptions, interests, needs and priorities of both women and men must be taken into consideration not only as a matter of social justice but because they are necessary to enrich development processes. Gender mainstreaming
Gender mainstreaming is a process undertaken to achieve gender equality, not a goal in itself. It requires gender specific measures for advancing equality throughout organizational mandates, within a coherent policy approach focused on the empowerment of women. Gender mainstreaming is not an end in itself, but a means to an end. The calls for increased gender mainstreaming are not for increased gender balance within the United Nations but for increased attention to gender perspectives and the goal of gender equality in the work of the United Nations. Gender mainstreaming does not entail developing separate women’s projects within work programmes, or even women’s components within existing activities in the work programmes. It requires that attention is given to gender perspectives as an integral part of all activities across all programmes.
This involves making gender perspectives – what women and men do and the resources and decision-making processes they have access to – more central to all policy development, research, advocacy, development, implementation and monitoring of norms and standards and planning, implementations and monitoring of projects. It is important to see the linkages between gender mainstreaming in the substantive work of the United Nations and the promotion of equal opportunities and gender balance within the United Nations itself. Organizational culture and organizational values are important in terms of creating work environments which are conducive to gender mainstreaming. Gender mainstreaming is easiest to implement in organizational environments which support approaches such as multi-disciplinary focuses, teamwork, creative thinking, flexibility and risk-taking.
Gender mainstreaming was established as an intergovernmental mandate in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action in 1995, and again in the ECOSOC Agreed Conclusions in 1997. The mandate for gender mainstreaming was considerably strengthened in the outcome of the General Assembly special session to follow-up the Beijing Conference (June 2000). Gender mainstreaming is not being imposed on governments by the United Nations. Member states have been involved in the intergovernmental discussions on gender mainstreaming since the mid 1990s and have, in consensus, adopted mainstreaming as an important global strategy for promoting gender equality. The first step in successful mainstreaming gender equity goals in any institution is high – level commitment to establishing a cohesive framework, including a rationale for why gender equity is important, a clear strategy, with specific goals and standards for achieving equity, sufficient gender expertise, and adequate resources, mechanisms, and regular reporting to hold staff accountable. The mainstreaming strategy does not mean that targeted activities to support women are no longer necessary.
Such activities specifically target women´s priorities and needs, through, for example, legislation, policy development, research and projects/programmes on the ground. Women-specific projects continue to play an important role in promoting gender equality. They are still needed because gender equality has not yet been attained and gender mainstreaming processes are not well developed. Targeted initiatives focusing specifically on women or the promotion of gender equality are important for reducing existing disparities, serving as a catalyst for promotion of gender equality and creating a constituency for changing the mainstream. Women-specific initiatives can create an empowering space for women and act as an important incubator for ideas and strategies than can be transferred to mainstream interventions. Initiatives focused on men support promotion of gender equality by developing male allies. It is crucial to understand that these two strategies – gender mainstreaming and women´s empowerment – are in no way in competition with each other. The endorsement of gender mainstreaming within an organization does not imply that targeted activities are no longer needed. The two strategies are complementary in a very real sense as gender mainstreaming must be carried out in a manner which is empowering for women. Gender sensitization
Gender sensitization refers to the modification of behavior by raising awareness of gender equality concerns. Gender sensitizing “is about changing behavior and instilling empathy into the views that we hold about our own and the other sex.” It helps people in “examining their personal attitudes and beliefs and questioning the ‘realities’ they thought they know.” Thus a gender sensitized person not only acquires new patterns of behavior towards persons of ‘other’ gender, rather sensitization also enables him/her to question his/her attitude, beliefs and values related to the gender concerns. Misconceptions of gender equality
Gender myths and misconceptions- provide a series of images of women and men that encourage us to understand what they do – or do not do – in particular ways. Gender or Sex? A commonly held myth is that gender and sex are exchangeable terms. These two terms are not the same and carry different meanings. Sex is the biological and is inherited from birth, we are born either with X or Y chromosome. Genetic differences are innate and remain untainted. Gender, on the other hand, is the socio-cultural roles assigned to men and women, and is determined by society through its socialization agents (such as our families, peers, schools etc). Thus, men and women learn to behave and work in certain socially prescribed ways. ‘While the fact that we are born male or female is unchangeable, the gender roles can and do change over time, and across cultures. Further, gender differences are based on ethnic, economic, social and cultural factors, so that the differences exist, not only between women and men.. The picture being painted here is that, differences that are perpetuated by socialization are not innately instilled on us and hence not static. They evolve with time, through changing conditions. Concept of Gender
Gender concerns women and men as well. Therefore, it concerns and affects every single individual in the society- girls, boys, men and women. ‘Talking about it opens up people’s minds to the issues and makes them more sensitive to each other’s requirements, i.e. men become sensitive to women’s needs and vice versa’. Gender initiatives are conceived to improve the plight of women since they are believed to be the most disadvantaged creatures in various societies. Women as well as men specific initiatives are needed. “Recognizing and acknowledging gender differences does not mean a negation of our feminity or masculinity, but it’s a better way and a good starting point to redress inequality and all sorts of ill fated discrimination” It is important that we acknowledge that gender differences exist in our societies, and acknowledging them is the first step to finding solutions for them. We need to accept that these differences are fabricated to disadvantage women and to suppress their full being. It goes Without saying that if we continue to deny this honest truth, inequality will continue to haunt us and will manifest itself in many different ways, either through exclusion, exploitation, aggression, or discrimination. Gender and culture
This paper will not do justice if it does not bring issues of culture into the fore. When we talk of gender roles, gender equality and the like, it is of paramount importance that we expand our discussion and look at issues of culture. It is no doubt that some of the gender stereotypes and misconceptions are culturally perpetuated. The question is: what is culture? “culture is a way of life”. The point to note is that culture is not solely about symbols, signs, material things, traditional practices but also about gender relations, norms and values of a society. It is culture that informs the behavior of men, women, boys and girls in a society. Culture is a very adaptive phenomena, it is not static and changes over time. Culture is an important instrument of development but can also be a strong obstacle to development especially with regards to issues such as gender equality and respect for gender rights. It is crucial to explore the relations between culture and gender equality as gender relations shape culture or maybe it is the other way round. Cultural meanings given to women and men vary from society to society. It is an undeniable fact that traditionally in most African societies (at least in my own Shona Culture) women have had a lesser influence in decision making and less autonomy. However the rising prominence of the promotion of women’s rights has challenged these traditional norms of culture.
GENDER ISSUES IN THE GAMBIA
A comprehensive vision of gender equality includes every aspect of personal and social development that arises from, and affects, the social norms, attitudes and behaviours that determine women’s and men’s distinct social roles and status. Equality between men and women exists when both sexes are able to share equally in the distribution of power and influence; have equal opportunities for financial independence through work or through setting up businesses; enjoy equal access to education and the opportunity to develop personal ambitions, interests and talents; share responsibility for the home and children and are completely free from coercion, intimidation and gender-based violence both at work and at home. “Within the context of population and development programmes, gender equality is critical because it will enable women and men to make decisions that impact more positively on A holistic definition of gender equality encompasses such issues as population, families & households, work & the economy, education, public life & decision making, health, media, crime & violence.
Within the context of population and development programs, gender equality is critical because it will enable women and men to make decisions that impact more positively on their life’s. The population of the Gambia is mainly young with more than half (about 63.55%) is below 25 years. Elderly persons of 65 years and above account for 2.8% of the population. The age structure: The 0-14 age bracket makes up 43.9% of the population (males 382,385 / females 378,853) and the 15-64 age bracket makes up 53.4% (males 459,315 / females 466,689). Finally, the 65 years and over group represents 2.8% (males 24,303 / females 23,919) – July 2008 est. Ageing: The proportion of the population aged 65 years and above declined from 3.9% in 1971 to 3.2 in 1993 just to climb up to 4.6% in 2000. This increase in the over 65 years group is attributed to increase in life expectancy.
Overall average life expectancy at birth had increased from 43 years in 1973 to about 55 years in 2000 Population increase: The population of Gambia was estimated at 1.038 million and 1.361 million at the 1993 and 2003 population censuses with population densities of 97 and 127 persons per square kilometer respectively. As at July 2008 the total population is estimated to be 1.73 million people while the annual population growth rate is estimated at 2.72%. Migration: Migration is an important factor in redistributing population and dramatic migration changes have occurred within The Gambia since the 1990s. Most of these migrations are rural urban migration, men tent to migrate more often than women in The Gambia. There are gender differences in the reasons for migration, types of migration, as well as conditions in which women and men migrants live. FAMILIES & HOUSEHOLDS
Over the past three decades significant changes have taken place in the size and composition of households and families throughout The Gambia. The size of households in The Gambia has increased since the 1970s. This is due to high fertility, migration, increased life expectancy. Some of the most basic decisions women and men make during their lives concern with whom (if anyone) they want to live, whether and at what age to marry, whether or not to stay married and what size of family they prefer, provided they chose to have children at all. Patterns of family formation and structure depend on individual choices, public policies, economic and social circumstances of the Gambia, and traditional values. Since the pattern and timing of living arrangements and their consequences differ between women and men there is scope for many gender issues to develop.
For instance, some issues that most affect families and households in The Gambia are: Diversification of life: The increased rate of childbearing outside wedlock, increased rate of divorce and separation, among other things, affect women and men differently. The increase in number of lone-mother households in The Gambia puts women in a vulnerable situation, in particular young mothers. Gender roles and responsibility sharing: The societal response to the changing needs of families, where both partners work outside the home, has been growing rapidly in The Gambia. This applies both to the adequate child-care and social services, as well as men generally sharing the household and family responsibilities equally with women. In The Gambia, women are still associated with the responsibility of taking care of the house hold. WORK & THE ECONOMY
Significant changes in the world economy, such as rapid globalization and fast-paced technological progress, have shaped the economic realities of women and men in different ways, in The Gambia. Women comprise an increasing share of the labor force in almost all regions of the world, and in The Gambia this has translated into relatively more equal status of women and men. However, women generally still suffer worse economic conditions than do men. Furthermore, the speed and scope of the economic transition in The Gambia has had profound effects on gender relations and the lives of men and women in the country. Women and men’s access to economic resources is reflected in their participation in the workforce, the types of jobs they have, their working hours, and the pay they receive and related social security. Women and men’s social position, gender roles, property rights and other statutory and customary rights also play a crucial role in defining the economic status of women and men.
The following key issues underline some of the main gender issues related to work and the economy. Labor force participation and type of work: The gap between women and men’s participation in the labor force is wide in The Gambia and many countries of the region. Women and men do not have equal access to paid work over their lifespan, with women experiencing more variations in connection with their reproductive years. Labor market segregation: Women and men are concentrated in different sectors and occupations, often due to sex-based stereotypes. In The Gambia, women constitute 45% of the economically active population, and men make up 55%.. Women comprise 16.40% of employees in the fisheries sector, whiles men comprises of 83.6%. Men make up 77.93% of the manufacturing sector whiles women make up 22.07% manufacturing sector. In The hotel and restaurant sector women constitute 41.33% whiles men constitute 58.67%. Men comprises of 97.34% in the Financial service, whiles women make up 2.66% in Financial service. Women constitute 6.95% in storage and communication whiles men make up 93.05%. Women constitute in the Wholesale and retail sector 43.49% whiles men constitute 56.51. This division and segregation of the labor market can affect the economic and social security of both male and female and their families.
Unemployment: Women are often the first to be affected when job opportunities are lacking and more women than men are unemployed in The Gambia. One of the underlying causes of (income) poverty in The Gambia is the relatively high unemployment and underemployment rates, particularly among women and youth. The Gambia’s formal employment sector is very small, employing just over 10 % of the labor force. Unemployment amongst the youths is estimated over 40 % and 70 % of women are engaged in low productivity rural subsistence agriculture. Entrepreneurship: In recent years, more women have become entrepreneurs in the micro, small and medium size enterprise sector, even though the number of women-entrepreneurs is still considerably lower compared to men entrepreneurs, in The Gambia women make up to 39.97%, Commercial, Social and Personal Services while men make up 60.03% In some of the transition economies, the number of women entrepreneurs has increased considerably in The Gambia.
Significant progress has been made in increasing enrolment and retention of girls in school. At the lower basic cycle, the Gross Enrollment Rate (GER) increased from 82% to 92% from 2001/2002 – 2007/2008 taking into account the “madrassa” enrollment. During the same period, the GER for girls increased appreciable from 80% – 92% and boys slightly increased from 85% to 87%. In the upper basic cycle the GER increased from 43% to 65%. This growth in enrollment represents an average annual growth rate of 15%. However the period 2005/2006 – 2007/2008 witness a drop in NER for boys from 62% to 58% whilst that of girls slightly increased from 56% to 69%. The gender parity index in 2006 was 1.03% at the lower basic level and at the upper basic cycle was 0.91%. . Girl education is free in the public schools up to Grade 9, whiles that of boys are still paying.
Equal access to higher education: The University of The Gambia is the highest pinnacle of education in The Gambia, in 2008, girl’s enrollment constituted 21.58%, whiles boys constitute 78.42 of the total. Girl’s enrollment has increased significant from its inception, which was 10% enrollment to 21.58% enrollment. Equal access to the same fields of study: Some fields of study have strong gender segregation in The Gambia, reflecting the sex-stereotyped choice of study. This is reflected in gender segregation of occupations. Occupational segregation in education: Although the majority of teachers are women, they are concentrated at the primary and lower secondary levels. Sex-based occupational segregation within the labor market is reflected in the fact that most principals and managers in the field of education are men.
PUBLIC LIFE & DECISION MAKING
Governance is manifest in the mechanisms, processes and institutions through which decisions are negotiated and implemented. It refers not only to formal public decision-making structures and processes (i.e. national and local government), but includes decision-making within the family, community and private sector as well. A “gender perspective” into governance thus entails addressing the ways in which men and women participate in, and are affected by various systems of governance, as well as the interaction between these various systems. Key positions in political decision-making: Towards an improved quality of governance, a more equitable participation of women and men is needed in political parties and government positions, and public administration.
In The Gambia men make up 67% of the cabinet and women 33%. At the level of the National Assembly women make up 9.43% and men make up 90.57%. Key positions in economic decision-making: At a national level in The Gambia, as well as at an international level, men by far outnumber women in economic decision-making. Key positions in judiciary: The judiciary sphere further reflects on the gender aspects of decision-making in The Gambia. At the judiciary level there are currently 72% of female high court judges and men make up 18% high court judges. HEALTH
In The Gambia, as in nearly all countries of the world, women tend to live longer than men, as their higher life expectancy at birth demonstrates. Infant and child mortality is also lower for girls than for boys and for most causes of death, rates are lower for women than men, often a great deal lower as in the case of lung cancer. Because biology and physiology are two of the few ways in which men and women irrefutably differ, health policies and programmes are logical entry points for the integration of a gender perspective. At the same time, we know that health is not simply the lack of physical infirmity, nor is it a simple question of bodily parts and functions. It is a holistic state of well-being, and is thus profoundly influenced by psychological, economic, social and environmental factors. The ultimate goal of addressing gender issues in the context of health is to close the gap between male and female life expectancy at birth, aiming for maximum life expectancy whereby both men and women can enjoy healthy and productive lives. The following key issues illuminate some of the main gender concerns related to health. Biological differences between women and men: This has important implications for the life expectancy of men and women, as well as disease patterns characterizing women and men at different ages in their lives. Life styles and socio-economic influences:
The interplay of factors such as gender roles and stereotypes, copying mechanisms of men and women and different exposure to risk factors are among the things affecting the health status of women and men in The Gambia. Reproductive health: Reproductive health implies that women and men are able to have safe sex life and that they have the right to decide if, when and how to reproduce. Access to contraceptives and protection from high-risk sexual behaviour are important factors in reproductive health, as well as the right of men and women to be informed and to have access to safe, effective, affordable and acceptable methods of family planning of their choice. Health and poverty: Although income is an important indicator of poverty, poverty has many dimensions that need to be considered in any attempt to alleviate it. One of these dimensions is health, with poor health being a cause, as well as an effect of poverty. MEDIA
The mass media not only reflect society, but also plays a part in directing it. Men continue to outnumber women in decision-making in the media, although the number of women in the profession has increased over the last decades. The media plays an important role in shaping and reflecting gender roles and stereotypes. In The Gambia media representations of men and women tend to conform to traditional gender norms, reinforcing the aggressive independence of men and the passive dependence of women. Although exceptions certainly exist, entertainment industries predominantly present men and women in roles that reinforce inequality between the sexes. The Technical Committee Internal Validation carried out a research on the public media and decision making positions. Below is there findings.
POSITIONS| TOTAL # OF MEN AND WOMEN| NUMBER OF WOMEN| NUMBER OF MEN|
Managing Director| 1| 0| 1|
Managers| 10| 1| 9|
Principal Producers TV| 5| 4| 1|
Principal Producers Radio| 7| 2| 5|
CRIME & VIOLENCE
Although few cases of domestic violence and abuse are reported, their incidence is believed to be fairly common. The number of crimes recorded by the police, however underreported, shows that men are more often than women the perpetrators of crime. They are also more often the victims of homicides and assaults, apart from sexual assault of which women are most often the victims. Where men generally experience violence outside their domestic environment, women are more likely to experience violence and abuse inside the domestic sphere, perpetrated by someone they know, often by their own partner. Indicators of violence are difficult to compare in The Gambia due to differences in concepts, definitions, and measurement methods.
However, statistics and indicators are needed on both offenders and victims as policies and interventions are necessary to prevent crimes as well as to address the needs of victims. In order to understand the social processes that lead to criminal behaviors, it is crucial to look at gender issues in crime and violence. Perpetrators and types of crime: The number of convicted criminals, sex and age distribution, and the type of crime are indicators that are necessary for gender analysis. Violence against sexes: Large number of women experience violence at some point in their lives. At the same time, violence against women is one of the most underreported crimes taking place in The Gambia, and the rest of the world, notwithstanding men likewise face sexual abuse and other forms of abuses, these are cases that are never reported in The Gambia.
Trafficking in humans: Women and girls are much more likely to be victims of trafficking than are boys or men. Trafficking in women and children encompasses exploitation within the sex industry, other forms of bonded labor, such as domestic service and even cases of involuntary organ transplants
RELIGION AND GENDER EQUALITY
There are several notable issues relating to gender and religion. These include both religious comment on secular society and views regarding traditional forms of religious communities themselves. Internal religious issues include the roles and rights of men and women in leadership position, financial matters, inheritance,, education and worship. They also include beliefs about the gender of deities and religious figures, and about the origin and meaning of human gender. Religious perspectives on social issues in the general community notably include comment on values regarding family units. We will be discussing the two main religions in The Gambia that is Islam and Christianity, In The Gambia 90% of the population are Muslims, making them the largest religious group, followed by 9% for Christians, the stand of the two religions in matters of gender equality will be noted. ISLAM AND GENDEREQUALITY
The Islamic view on Gender equality will discussed in detail, issues ranging from the family, social political and religious perspective on the subject matter of gender equality. The position of Gambian women depends more on their religious affiliation than their ethnic group. For this being the case Islam have a significant stake on the issue of gender equality. Financial security and inheritance laws
In Islam, financial security is assured for women. They are entitled to receive martial gifts without limit and to keep present and future properties and income for their own security, even after marriage. No married woman is required to spend any amount at all from her property and income on the household. She may find it necessary to spend from her earnings or savings to provide the necessities for her family, while this is not a legal obligation. The woman is entitled also to full financial support during marriage and during the waiting period (‘iddah) in case of divorce or widowhood. A woman who bears a child in marriage is entitled to child support from the child’s father. Generally, a Muslim woman is guaranteed support in all stages of her life, as a daughter, wife and mother or sister.
The financial advantages accorded to women and not to men in marriage and in family have a social counterpart in the provisions that the Qur’an lays down in the laws of inheritance, which afford the male, in most cases, twice the inheritance of a female. Males inherit more but ultimately they are financially responsible for their female relatives: their wives, daughters, mothers and sisters. Females inherit less but retain their share for investment and financial security, without any legal obligation to spend any part of it, even for their own sustenance (food, clothing, housing, medication, and etcetera). It should be noted that in pre-Islamic society, women themselves were sometimes objects of inheritance. In some Western countries, even after the advent of Islam, the whole estate of the deceased was given to his/her eldest son. The Qur’an however, made it clear that both men and women are entitled to a specified share of the estate of their deceased parents or close relations: Employment
With regard to the woman’s right to seek employment, it should be stated first that Islam regards her role in society as a mother and a wife as her most sacred and essential one. Neither maids nor baby sitters can possibly take the mother’s place as the educator of an upright, complex-free and carefully-reared child. Such a noble and vital role, which largely shapes the future of nations, cannot be regarded as “idleness.” This may explain why Islamic “sharia” believe’s a married woman must secure her husband’s consent if she wishes to work, unless her right to work was mutually agreed to as a condition at the time of marriage. However, there is no decree in Islam that forbids women from seeking employment whenever there is a necessity for it, especially in positions which fit her nature best and in which society needs her most. Examples of these professions are nursing, teaching (especially children), medicine, and social and charitable work. Moreover there is no restriction on benefiting from women’s talents in any field. Some early jurists uphold that a qualified Muslim woman may be appointed to the position of a judge. Other jurists hold different opinions. Yet, no jurist is able to point to an explicit text in the Qur’an or “Sunnah” that categorically excludes women from any lawful type of employment except for the headship of the state. Equality before the law
Both genders are entitled to equality before the law and courts of law. Justice is genderless. According to the Qur’an, men and women receive the same punishment for crimes such as theft, fornication, murder and injury. Women do possess an independent legal entity in financial and other matters. One legal issue is widely misunderstood: testimony. A common but erroneous belief is that as a “rule,” the worth of women’s testimony is one half of men’s testimony. A survey of all passages in the Qur’an relating to testimony does not substantiate this claimed “rule.” Testimony
a. It is widely argued that there is a general rule in the Qur’an that the worth of a female’s witness is only half the males. Islamic scholars believed that this presumed “rule” is voided by the above reference (24:6-9), which explicitly equates the testimony of both genders on the issue at hand. b. The context of this passage (verse, or ayah) relates to testimony on financial transactions, which are often complex and laden with business jargon. The passage does not make a blanket generalization that would otherwise contradict 24:6-9. c. The reason for variations in the number of male and female witnesses required is given in the same passage. No reference is made to the inferiority or superiority of one gender’s witness or the other’s. The only reason given is to corroborate the female’s witness and prevent unintended errors in the perception of the business deal. The Arabic term used in this passage, tadhilla, literally means “loses the way,” “gets confused,” or “errs.” But Islamic scholars argued that, are females the only gender that may err and need corroboration of their testimony?
Definitely not, and that is why the general rule of testimony in Islamic law is to have two witnesses, even when they are both male. Islamic jurist believe that one possible interpretation of the requirements related to this particular type of testimony is that in numerous societies, past and present, women generally may not be heavily involved with and experienced in business transactions. As such, they may not be completely cognizant of what is involved. Therefore, corroboration of a woman’s testimony by another woman who may be present ascertains accuracy and, hence, justice. It would be unreasonable to interpret this requirement as a reflection on the worth of women’s testimony, as it is the ONLY exception discerned from the text of the Qur’an. d. Islamic scholars noted that unlike pure acts of worship, which must be observed exactly as taught by the prophet (P), testimony is a means to an end, ascertaining justice as a major objective of Islamic law. Therefore, it is the duty of a fair judge to be guided by this objective when assessing the worth and credibility of a given testimony, regardless of the gender of the witness. A witness of a female graduate of a business school is certainly far more worthy than the witness of an illiterate person with no business education or experience. Participation in social and political life
The general rule in social and political life is participation and collaboration of males and females in public affairs. Scholars argue that there is sufficient historical evidence of participation by Muslim women in the choice of rulers, in public issues, in lawmaking, in administrative positions, in scholarship and teaching, and even in the battlefield. Such involvement in social and political affairs was conducted without the participants’ losing sight of the complementary priorities of both genders and without violating Islamic guidelines of modesty and virtue. Women in leadership position
Islamic jurist noted that there is no text in the Qur’an or “Sunnah” that precludes women from any position of leadership, except in leading prayer (however, women may lead other women in prayer) There is no evidence from the Qur’an to preclude women from headship of state. Some may argue that according to the Qur’an (4:34), men are the protectors and maintainers of women. Such a leadership position (responsibility or qiwamah) for men in the family unit implies their exclusive leadership in political life as well. This analogy, however, is far from conclusive. Qiwamah deals with the particularity of family life and the need for financial arrangements, role differentiation, and complementary of the roles of husband and wife. These particularities are not necessarily the same as the headship of state, even if some elements may be similar. Therefore, a Qur’anically based argument to exclude women from the headship of state is neither sound nor convincing. Some argue that since women are excluded from leading the prayer for a mixed gathering of men and women, they should be excluded from leading the state as well.