take lack of support. Similar incidences were

take place. However, it is
important to note that understanding the past allows us to understand our
present and perhaps, provides the cause of many events we experience today.

Over the past couple of months, news such as a string of sexual harassment
accusations towards women of all races have surfaced in the United States. In
other parts of the world such as Libya, the shocking revelation of a modern day
slave trade shone through the media. This essay stands to prove that historical
conceptions and events are linked to modern day issues such as the persistence
of gender and racial inequality as well as poverty and underdevelopment in
Africa.

In
early October, multiple women came forward to accuse Harvey Weinstein of rape
and sexual assault. This led to Weinstein being fired from his own Weinstein
Company and removed from the board of the Oscars and Emmys. In what appears to
be a seismic shift in what behavior is tolerated in the workplace, an array of
high-profile men, many in entertainment and politics, have since been fired or
forced to resign after accusations ranging from inappropriate comments to rape.

Although these events occurred in the United States, it is no question that
women all around the world are facing similar difficulties but do not have the
courage to confront their attackers due to lack of support. Similar incidences
were seen in 18th century during the peak times of the Enlightenment
as dramatic economic expansion led to the European population growth rate of
nearly 30 percent. The growing number of vulnerable or poor people mean that
there were many people desperately looking for jobs and this overwhelmed the
local governments. “Women who came to the city as domestic servants had little
recourse against masters or fellow servants who seduced or raped them (Hunt, Martin, & Rosenwein, p. 591).” Although not
exactly the same, many of today’s cases occurred in the workplace or between
colleagues. A recent poll which was released by the National Public Radio have
come to show that other forms of discrimination against women are also
pervasive in American society. Approximately 56 percent of women believe that
women are paid less than men for equal work where they live, and another 31
percent claim to have been discriminated against when they were applying for
jobs1. Such
statistics show that great efforts are needed to improve the country’s progress
toward gender equality.

Such
incidences can be traced back to early European history when women were
deprived of full-fledged citizenship and therefore, rights in various countries.  A clear example of this was seen in the
development of the French Declaration of the Rights of Man Citizen by the
National Assembly in August 1789. This was seen as the preamble for to the
French Constitution and established the sovereignty of the land and the rights
of its citizens.  The Declaration
proclaimed, “Men are born and remain free
and equal in rights (Robinson, p. 410).” However,
pronouncing that all men  are free and equal, the Declaration brought up
new issues. After playing a key role in recent demonstrations such as the march
to Versailles, writing petitions and organizing political clubs, women did not
accept their exclusion. In July 1790, a French philosopher known as Nicolas de
Condorcet made a speech addressing this issue. Sadly, it fell onto deaf ears
except that of Olympe de Gouges (1748–1793). In her Declaration of the Rights
of Woman of 1791, Olympe de Gouges chose to play on the language of the
official Declaration to solidify her point that women should also be included: “Woman is born free and lives equal to man
in her rights (de Gouges, 1791).” De Gouges
linked her complaints to a program of social reform in which women would have
equal rights to property and public office and equal responsibilities in taxes
and criminal punishment (Hunt, Martin, & Rosenwein, p. 615).

Women
were believed to be intellectually inferior despite the fact that some aristocratic
females ran the salons they were not expected to fully participate. As a result
of the this, the National Assembly remained unresponsive and turned to
preparing France’s first written constitution.  The deputies gave voting rights only to white
men who passed a test of wealth. Therefore, they left out the large population
of women and non-white males. In December 1789, a deputy known as
Clermont-Tonnerre raised the question of the status of non-Catholics under the
new regime. This question began a long debate that quickly expanded to cover
the fate of Jews as they were largely excluded from boarder political and civil
rights and faced numerous restrictions on how they could live their lives in
regards to things like occupation and property rights. In his speech, he
declared that “we must refuse everything
to the Jews as a nation and accord everything to the Jews as individuals (Hunt, p. 89).” The customary
religious hostility towards Jews particularly present in pre-industrial
civilizations, was a result of fear and antagonism and led to horrifying events
such as the Holocaust, that has scarred the world to this day.