Women And Globalization (LBST 2102 Final Exam: Fall 2011)

The process of globalization has a large impact on women, how they are treated, and how they fit in with society, in every culture. Three of the most prominent issues affecting women through globalization today are sex trafficking, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and gender inequality.  These three issues truly feed into one another, making each one worse. Alternatively, with every small victory within one problem, the others tend to slowly get a little better.

            With the onset of globalization, the sex trafficking industry has been experiencing great success. According to the Initiative Against Sexual Trafficking (IAST), in 2001 it was estimated by USAID that between 700,000 and four million men, women, and children were being trafficked each year.[1] Women are trafficked for not only sexual purposes, but also for domestic servitude, agricultural work, and sweatshop labor.[2] Working in the sex trade is deadly—women most commonly perish prematurely from homicide, suicide, drug addiction, or HIV/AIDS.[3] Many times women are tricked into going into the sex trade, or are forced into it because they have no other means of gaining an income, otherwise called “economic discrimination” by the YouTube clip “The Big Picture: Macroeconomics, Women, and HIV/AIDS.”[4] The most beneficial solution to sex trafficking seems to be giving women alternative ways to earn income. One way to do that is to teach them basic skills that will allow them to be financially independent. As mentioned in the previously cited YouTube clip, “These women need concrete occupations that permit them to live well.”[5]

            In America, we have regulated the spread of HIV/AIDS pretty well. We have educational programs teaching safe sex methods and we have created rules in hospitals and tattoo parlors to make sure it isn’t being spread by infected needles. However, in developing countries, the AIDS epidemic leaves many women infected and widowed with children or family members to care for.[6] These women lack the skills to earn a decent income, let alone buy the expensive medication it takes to be able to live with HIV/AIDS. Women in these countries feel they have no choice but to go into the sex trade. This is why education is such an important tool in preventing the spread of AIDS as well as sexual exploitation—a woman is much more able to live independently and earn higher wages than someone working as a prostitute. They are also better informed about the spread of the disease and can negotiate for safer sex practices to keep themselves from being infected.[7] Furthermore, 86% of the care of individuals suffering from HIV falls on women, taking away from their education and the wages they could be earning.[8] A few countries have begun to recognize this, and are changing accordingly, giving caregivers things like free healthcare or a monthly allowance to offset expenses.[9]

            Rape is another important issue in these countries, since this is one of the main ways AIDS is spread. If a woman is infected with AIDS after being raped, she is most likely to be thrown into poverty, even if she was well-off before.[10] In the YouTube clip, it is stated that a large number of these rapes are being perpetrated by militia men, 60% of whom are infected.[11] In developing countries, women are not protected from rape by the law—it is a reality they live with every day. Support groups for victims have been created in most countries, by women and for women. They too are teaching skills the women need to live life with HIV/AIDS.

            Gender discrimination is a problem in our own country, but the face of it seems to be in Afghanistan. Women in this country are continuously given less rights and privileges than their male counterparts. Perhaps the best example of this is the burka, an article of clothing that women must wear out in public at all times, hiding their face and bodies.[12] In Afghan culture, women are thought to be inferior to men, and are conditioned to be dependent on their husbands. The problem is that women have no means to care for themselves if something were to happen to him. The removal of the Taliban has given girls more opportunities for education and involvement in their communities, but they are still being discriminated against on a daily basis, and they don’t like it.[13] Educating women is only half the solution to this problem. The other half is educating men as well. This quote by Roshanak Wordak explains why: “If a woman is very much highly educated, but a man is not educated, it’s impossible to recognize her rights, what rights she has. But if a man is educated, man will give her rights by himself.”[14]

            Over time, we have been able to measure changes in the world’s population. This model is called the “demographic transition.”[15] We can use it to see how birth and death rates have changed the population over time. For example, it is obvious by looking at the chart that the more advanced our technology has become (moving into the post-industrial stage), the birth rate and death rate have both decreased from stage two, which is characterized by industrialization. This is because with technological advancement, we have been able to create medicines to combat diseases, and people are becoming more career-oriented, instead of focusing on having a big family.

            Though at first glance this seems like a good thing, there are some setbacks in our advancement. Because of the global sharing of vaccines and other medicines, less people are dying, causing our populations to spike. Taking into account the effort to cut down on infant mortality in a large number of countries, these things could potentially create overcrowding and lead to a strain on natural resources. Economic development can either provide the general population with the funds it needs to survive, or it can throw certain demographics into poverty, as it has in our economy. Besides educating the population about these issues and how to fix them, not much can really be done. As “The Bottom Billion” so eloquently states, “Change has to come from within.”[16]

[1]http://www.iast.net/thefacts.htm accessed December 8, 2011

[2] http://www.iast.net/thefacts.htm accessed December 8, 2011

[3] http://www.iast.net/thefacts.htm accessed December 8, 2011

[16] Collier, The Bottom Billion. Oxford University Press, 2007

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