OFFICIAL WEBSITE OF THE UNITED NATIONAL CONGRESS, The Official Opposition In The Republic Of Trinidad And Tobago.

T&T a leader in gender equality

Ibelieve we should invest in all persons equally regardless of gender. Men and women are not created biologically equal but we are physically and emotionally complementary. There are some tasks that women are better at, some tasks that men are better at, and some tasks that they are equally good at. Accelerating progress means encouraging society to create equal opportunities for both males and females and judging applicants fairly on meritorious criteria, not on identity.

Whoever is more qualified for any particular task-regardless of gendershould be chosen for the job. I don’t believe either gender should receive special treatment. I believe in equality of opportunity with fair judging criteria and not equality of outcome. Any individual would like to look back at their life and know that they fairly out-competed others and earned their achievements.

The International Women’s Day (IWD) campaign theme for this year encouraged to inspire inclusion, but the reality is the structural concepts of the modern women’s movement seem rooted exclusively in modern American and European feminist values. Many times, the cultural, religious, social and familial values of the other parts of the world are not taken into consideration to be included in women’s rights messaging.

It is insulting for an educated woman who independently chooses to follow cultural, religious, social and familial values other than modern American and European feminist values to then be judged as oppressed.

I choose to wear an orhni and fulllength clothing to cover my head and body at times during religious events. Modern radical feminists would deem these head coverings oppressive; however, it is my choice based on my religious beliefs, just as it is their choice how to dress as they see fit.

Inclusion means expanding the concepts of the modern women’s movement to include a wider consideration of the world’s customs, values and beliefs. Of course, there are some countries that have repressive policies towards women, but the Caribbean and Trinidad and Tobago, in particular, are very progressive regarding women’s rights.

Twenty-two countries in Africa, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and many countries in the Caribbean have elected women to lead them, but the USA has never elected a woman leader. That should be food for thought.

Each woman should be free to independently choose her own cultural, religious, social and familial values and not have them imposed on her by any individual, group or movement. In the Caribbean region, female presidents, prime ministers, ministers and parliamentarians have been elected, which could not have happened without the votes of men.

Inclusion is not about special treatment; it is about allowing people to elevate themselves based on the merit of their work. The best person should get the opportunity irrespective of gender. I firmly believe that men and women should be paid equally per unit of work. Salaries based per unit of work, regardless of gender, are truly fair and equitable.

Concerning violence in our country, there is violence against both men and women. Women are more affected by domestic violence and sexual assaults, while men make up the vast majority of blood crimes and murder victims. Both men and women are also involved in criminal activities. To selectively highlight domestic violence and ignore all other crimes to support the inequality argument is a less than honest assessment of reality.

I salute the first-wave, second-wave and early third-wave feminists who achieved so much progress for women’s rights and equality. Late third-wave or fourth-wave feminists have carried the women’s movement into a radicalism that is harmful to fostering healthy relationships between men and women. Feminism should not be about any women’s group or individual dictating to women what criteria their personal choices must be aligned to. Feminism should be the promotion of the right for women to freely choose cultural, religious, social and familial values that align with their personal thinking.

Going forward, I would like to see our women and girls ignore the false lifestyles and misleading social standards put out on the various platforms as these wrongly make some women feel inadequate in their own lives and negatively affect their self-esteem.

Our women and girls must live their lives to be happy and not betray themselves to look or act or speak a certain way, to fit in and gain social acceptance.

I want to see all women and girls take back control of their self-confidence and create their own standards for being happy, and see a resurgence of self-worth based on their own feelings and emotions, not on what they believe others want them to be.

I stand by my belief that Trinidad and Tobago does provide equal opportunities and rights to both genders, and that there is no gender domination. Yes, as in any society, there will always be room for improvement in all things we do. I support any movement to improve the lives of all citizens and I have supported many women’s causes and issues. However, the promotion of women’s issues cannot and must not be used by modern radical feminists to simultaneously attack and tear down our men in society.

I stand my ground and repeat, men and women are to be equally loved and respected. Trinidad and Tobago may have many problems but our country is a leading example of gender equality.

Kamla Persad-Bissessar
The author is Opposition Leader.

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