Even in Europe and the United States, world referents of progress and individual liberties, economy and politics are still run mostly by men. Is our situation a religious issue or perhaps another example of sexism worldwide?” With this posing, Shirin Ebadi, Iranian attorney and Nobel Peace Prize laureate in 2003, addresses the audience at a conference on gender equality celebrated at University of Sevilla.
Despite the big progress achieved in the field of equality all throughout the 20th century, “there is still a lot to do”, according to Ebadi. A clear example of this situation is that Finland, a model of equality, feels like it is not enough. After visiting the Scandinavian country, the Nobel Prize laureate highlights that the power of men goes “beyond the Sacred Scriptures.” Ebadi noticed that not even in one of the most developed countries, gender equality is a reality, “almost every person that attended the conference carried a sticker with one end ripped off, as a symbol of protest against the 25% margin that differentiates average salaries for women and men.” In that regard, Shirin Ebadi is very critical towards the idealization of the Western model and emphasizes that the evolution of the career pursued by women is in a different stage in Europe and in the East, it barely accounts for 50 years. Ebadi makes a special reference to Spain during Franco in the 60’s, in which wives had to ask for their husbands’ permission to travel or even take money out of the bank. Women in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait or Yemen live a similar situation nowadays, where they are considered to be second-category citizens whose status depends on how many boys they give birth to. And she questions herself again, “do you think it is only a matter of theological principles or a mere justification of male power?”