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By Lynda Ekoue

Equality between men and women is often at the heart of the debates in Asia, and worldwide. Thus it is a challenge for a woman to raise children while working full-time, and this is how, in many Asian countries, the number of women who have a paid job is few. The participation rate of women is lower than that of men; for example, it is 24% in Japan and 22% in Korea. In other Asian countries like China and others, the gap is even more significant.

The publication of the latest report on inequality and discrimination between men and women in 2003 in a country like Pakistan still shows that the situation of women remains much contrasted. The constitutions of these Asian countries have affirmed the principle of gender equality has been, and women have always had equal political rights with men. But these laws and policies are often not respected in law and practice. The family law promulgated in some countries gives a certain number of guarantees to women, but they do not manage to impose their rights in matters such as marriage, divorce or inheritance.

It is difficult for one in Asia – but also in many parts of the world - to prove rape, while the accusation of adultery can be used to pressure a woman by her family or the police. Women also suffer from the problem of illiteracy. In some countries, only according to studies carried out 42% of women over 15 are literate compared to 67% of men. Official statistics often downplayed the role of women in the economy is in for which they make up only 20% of the labour force. According to the World Bank, the mortality rate for children under one year of age is higher for girls (22% versus 14%).

Violence against women is significant, and sexual harassment, domestic violence, crimes of honour and acid attacks are still widespread forms of violence. In the member countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the activity rate had fallen from an average of 61% in 1985 to 77% in 2005. Countries which initially have the lowest participation rate are catching up to those whose the labour force is more balanced. These changes go hand in hand with the broader acceptance of women at work. There are now more women who are studying for a long time, which increases their potential earnings during their working lives and increases their participation. In fact, in many countries, women on average have a higher level of education than men. For example, at a university in Seoul, Korea today, women represent about half of the undergraduate student body compared to a quarter ten years of this. This rise in education has brought more women into the labour market, and they are less likely to sacrifice a career to raise children.

Women around the world marry later and choose to have fewer children, so they decide to pursue careers before having to decide whether to stay in the home. The study of the relationship between fertility rates and participation in the labour force of women in various Asian countries in recent years shows the importance of government laws and measures. In other countries on this continent mimed the remarks are overwhelming.

The small number of women in management positions in countries like Japan, Indonesia and China are not reassuring. This lack of women in management positions is explained by the low participation rate but also by a system that dissuades women from a career. The choice of orientation can also explain the flat rate of women in decision-making positions. At the University of Tokyo in Japan, for example, where one is admitted based on the examination, women represent less than 20%  of the student body. If the number of women in positions of responsibility increases, it will serve as an example and encourage vocations. Some changes are observed even at the Bank of Japan; a woman was first appointed in 2005, and others followed years later.

While this article focused on Asia, the same challenges are found in Africa and the Middle East, and it is only women in Europe and the USA who have further advanced in their fight of equality. Thus, they show that equality is an achievable dream for worldwide women.

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