What Are the Differences Between Treatment to Men and Women from the Perspective of Law?
Inequality between genders have always characterized worldwide human communities. To a certain extent, it resulted at the beginning of the feminist movement which has emerged in the late 60s. Feminism started progressing at a rapid pace and, as Zeisler states, within the last decades has quickly become the leading trend in American, if not global, culture (Zeisler 7). The representatives of the feminist movement advocated women’s rights and encourage to stop treating the woman as “second-class” person. Owing to enormous efforts of feminists, the impact of mass media sources and pop-culture representations, the attitude towards women has changed tremendously in some areas. At present, women are guided only by their values and sense in decision-making, have freedom of choice and are less frightened because they are aware of further actions in case of sexual harassment or domestic violence. What is more, women have obtained the same career perspectives, job opportunities, and education as men. In the United States, women have shown more significant progress than men in educational achievement.
To go beyond what has been done before, the Commission adopted the Strategy for Equality between men and women 2010-2015. It included the promotion of equal economic independence for women and men, equal pay for work of equal value, equality in decision-making, guaranteed the ending of gender-based violence and promoting gender equality beyond the EU horizontal. The Strategy also contained some issues of gender roles, including the role of men, legislation and governance tools (Strategy For Equality Between Women And Men 2010-2015).
The following paper considering the available figures and data reveals whether all the changes occurred might be regarded as fair in relation to men, and whether “same legal rights” which women have finally achieved are really the same both for man and woman from the perspective of law.
In the fast-moving twenty-first century, the world may be depicted as a hot melting pot where nothing stays the same for long. The significant number of countries host lots of people of various nationalities, different mentalities, and systems of values annually. It is essential to create the certain conditions which will contribute to the favorable atmosphere at the workplace because the way people treat each other on a daily basis has a serious impact on their further actions and work they are involved in. Moreover, people should be provided with the legal right of recourse to the courts. Such conditions must be based on at least three things: tolerance, respect, and equality. Gender is considered to be one of the root problems when it comes to equality. It severely affects the cooperation and communication between man and woman. The gender stereotypes are deeply rooted in society and serve as a primary reason for the following tendency. The law not only increasingly articulates but also sets the course for major social changes. According to Hazou, the law is a major institution of social integration, as it helps regulate human interaction by supplying coherence, stability, and limitations for personal behavior patterns. Human freedom is defined as freedom within the formal and informal boundaries set by society (Hazou 29). Modern law in the United States is both the cause and the effect of a social change in the lives of women, although the relationship is extremely complex and controversial. During the last years, numerous government publications and official documents considering equality between sexes were signed and published to reduce the cases of gender inequality.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the International Council on Human Rights Policy say that all persons shall be equal before the courts and tribunals. In the determination of any criminal charge against him, or of his rights and obligations in a suit at law, everyone shall be entitled to a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law (The Universal Declaration of Human Rights).
Despite the fact that one of the founding principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the European Union’s is equality between women and men, data shows that it is still challenging to get rid of some gender stereotypes and currently, women earn 80 percent of what men are paid (“The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap”). Considering this from another angle, the law in particular, when men and women stand trial for committing the same crime, the consequences of their actions are frequently entirely different. At this point, it is appropriate to illustrate the statement given above with some examples.
According to the research conducted by Interim Director of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Jill K. Doerner, female defendants receive more lenient sentence outcomes than their male counterparts (Doerner 94). What is more, Professor of Law Sonja Starr states that men receive 63% longer sentences on average than women do. Women are also significantly likelier to avoid charges and convictions, and twice as likely to avoid high incarceration if convicted (Starr 17). As Steffensmeier states, women are in such a way rewarded for their ability to establish and maintain relationships and to accept family obligations, and their identity tends to be derived from key males in their lives (e.g., father, brother, husband). However, it should be indicated, that women are judged more harshly for being bad mothers.
The reasons for committing crime are often different from the perspective of men and women. The role of inequality may be seen in the career paths of female teens who drift into criminality as a consequence of running away from sexual and physical abuse at home. The struggle to survive on the streets may lead to other status offenses and crimes, including prostitution and drug dealing (Gilfus 65). Greater child-rearing responsibilities further constrain female criminality. In contrast, men who are conditioned toward status-seeking, yet marginalized from the world of work, may develop an amoral worldview in which the “takers” gain superior status at the expense of the “givers” (Steffensmeier 476). Such a moral stance naturally increases the likelihood of an aggressive criminal behavior.
What is more, as James Messerschmidt states, there is a specific link between male offending and masculinity. He says all men want the dominant “hegemonic masculinity” which is achieved through domination of work, women, and sexuality. Previously the vast majority of men used to have jobs in manufacturing, which allowed to express their masculinity. At present things are different, and James Messerschmidt concludes that lower class men and ethnic minorities lack the resources to achieve this masculinity so commit a crime in order to achieve it (Messerschmidt 82).
Whatever the range of factors (brain damage, psychopathy, childhood trauma, the influence of groups, or societal context) contributing to violent behavior – it is obvious that men are affected to a larger degree than women. To prove the given above statement, the figures of the U.S. Department of Justice are used. According to the report of the Office of Justice Programmes made by Alexia Cooper and Erica L. Smith, men were responsible for 90% of the murders in the United States committed during the period starting from 1980 to 2008 (U.S. Department of Justice).
When it comes to divorce law, men severely undergo discrimination. The following statement can be proved by the fact, that women usually have more chances to win the case than men. The stereotype that women need to be protected is to blame. The overwhelming majority of women are granted profound proportions (sometimes even more than half) of an ex-husband’s income. Such general unfairness to men in these particular areas of the law and courts is a big reason why fewer men are willing to get married. Especially if they have had the “pleasure” of going through that process previously.
In matters of child care, judges examine a list of things before they decide who will be given custody. They usually check whether a child gets enough emotional support from a parent, is well-fed and clothed, lives in a safe surrounding. Most places will award custody to the mother unless the man has an excellent lawyer, a more enlightened court or a huge disparity in income. Because despite all the discussions about equal rights, women, although working full time, still are in charge of maintaining the house and caretaking of the children. Unlike men, women can and in most cases do leave their careers to raise children. But if the father shows his high activity in the children’s upbringing by spending time with them and attending events his chances are good enough to get joint custody. To exemplify, in California parents can split custody however they want. But if they can’t agree on their own, the court will split custody 50/50. However, in some cases divorcing parents themselves agree that after a divorce it will be the mother who will have custody while the father will have a constitutional right to reasonable visitation. The reason for such decision is simple: both parents understand that mother owing to greater inclination has a better understanding of the children’s daily need.
On account of tax systems, in many countries law discriminates in favor of women. For example, in Singapore, a married woman holds a right to additional allowances for children if she has chosen to be charged to tax in her name. In Pakistan, women are provided with a basic exemption that is usually lower for a working man than a woman (Stotsky 31).
Still, much has been done to eliminate gender bias in developing countries. Starting from the 80s of the past century, France began to require two signatures of family tax except for only one – a husband’s, while the Netherlands set an equal basic tax allowance. A decade later Ireland made an option “primary taxpayer” available for women. At the same time, Malaysia tax system began treated husbands and wives as separate taxable units but with an option for joint treatment.
One of the reasons for such gender inequality in the tax code is quite legitimate – differences in average life expectancy between men and women. For example, there is a certain donation that should be discounted throughout the life of each person. As reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average life expectancy of females shows the figure of 81, while males` tendency accounts only for 76 years (“Life Expectancy”). Furthermore, in many developed countries and most undeveloped ones, women tend to outlive men by a margin of 10 years. It means that women have more time to cover the donation. Consequently, men might be required to receive a more significant proportion of the total value annually, mainly because their life expectancy is shorter.
Considering the results of researches conducted by leading experts in Law, it must be concluded that men and women are treated differently when standing trial. Among all areas of the Law, women are mostly favored by the family court system, divorce and child care in particular. The next gender biased area is the one responsible for the criminal cases, where women are likely to escape such punishment as charges and convictions and either be offered alternative sentences to avoid jail time or get much shorter prison time. It is explained by the fact, that the way women are socialized to be quiet and demure does not encourage them to behave aggressively or break the law. Another can of worms for men is connected with the tax system, which struggles to eradicate gender bias but still can offer more options and privileges for women than for men. The reasons for gender inequality are quite reasonable and logic in the case of the tax system, but when it comes to the matters of child care, the law is mostly influenced by traditional stereotypes regarding women.
Doerner, Jill K. Explaining the Gender Gap in Sentencing Outcomes: An Investigation of Differential Treatment in U.S. Federal Courts. 2017. Graduate College of Bowling Green State University, Ph.D. Dissertation.
Gilfus, Mary E. “From Victims to Survivors to Offenders.” Women & Criminal Justice, vol 4, no. 1, 1993, pp. 63-89. Informa UK Limited, doi:10.1300/j012v04n01_04.
Hazou, Winnie. The Social and Legal Status of Women.Praeger, 1990.
Messerschmidt, James W. Masculinities and Crime. Rowman & Littlefield, 1993.
“Life Expectancy.” NCHS – Death Rates and Life Expectancy at Birth. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017, www.cdc.gov/.
Starr, Sonja B. “Estimating Gender Disparities in Federal Criminal Cases.” SSRN Electronic Journal, 2012, doi:10.2139/ssrn.2144002.
Steffensmeier, Darrell, and Emilie Allan. “Gender and Crime: Toward a Gendered Theory of Female Offending.” Annual Review of Sociology, vol. 22, no. 1, 1996, pp. 459-487. Annual Reviews, doi:10.1146/annurev.soc.22.1.459.
Stotsky, Janet G. “How Tax Systems Treat Men and Women Differently.” Finance & Development, vol. 34, no. 1, 1997.
Strategy for Equality Between Women and Men 2010-2015. Luxembourg, Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, 2011.
“The Simple Truth About the Gender Pay Gap.” Economic Security. The American Association of University Women (AAUW), 2017.
UN General Assembly. “Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” United Nations, 217 (III) A, 1948, Paris, art. 1, http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/.
U.S. Department of Justice. “Homicide Trends in the United States, 1980–2008,” Patterns & Trends, Bureau of Justice Statistics, November 2011, p. 18, www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/htus8008.pdf.