In societies such as ours, where over the past few decades women have gained almost equal status with men, it is clear that their liberation is a basic component of progress and prosperity. This was evident in a Eurobarometer poll released on Thursday to commemorate International Women’s Day on March 8: It found that more than nine out of 10 Europeans believe that “gender equality improves the way societies function and that all aid programs should take specific account of women’s rights.”
Over 25,000 citizens of the 27 member states took part in the poll and their opinion was almost unanimous, ranging from 96 percent in Sweden, the Netherlands and Romania to 85 percent in Estonia. (In Greece it was 92 percent.) According to the UN Development Program’s Gender Inequality Index for 2011, European nations are at the top of gender equality, with Greece in 24th position, ahead of the United States in 47th and the UK in 34th. We can say that the people who have experience of women’s liberation have no doubt as to its benefits. Although few European societies have actually attained equality, citizens are aware that the target is not in doubt.
A very serious parameter of inequality is the fact that in developing countries women face great danger in terms of maternal health and violence. “Violence affects one-third of all women in their lifetime,” the European Commission noted. In the poll, “over three-quarters of respondents said that getting more women into leading roles in developing countries would improve respect for human rights, with 72 percent saying it would also improve living conditions and 65 percent believing it would prevent conflict and war.”
An overwhelming number of Europeans has understood the benefits of women’s liberation and the effect that this would have around the world. This may be the first time that a cornerstone of most societies and religions – that men must be in charge – is being questioned in such a massive way. A few decades of equality, in a limited number of countries, has shown up the mistake of millennia. In every war zone we see women raising children, cultivating the land, crossing great distances and facing countless dangers to keep trade and society alive – often paying with their lives for their men’s stupidity.
Women’s liberation and total equality have to be the 21st century’s main target. European citizens believe that the greatest problems faced by women compared to men are physical violence (83 percent) and exclusion from education (63 percent). Both can be solved by education and aid programs. But wherever men insist on obstructing this, there is another solution, not mentioned in the poll: We could arm the women.