11/30/2012 11:45 am ET Updated Jan 30, 2013

Why Gender Equality Is Still an Issue

Last week, there was some stunning news from the other side of the Atlantic. The Church of England's General Synod decided to ban women from becoming bishops. It was a close decision, lost by just six votes in the House of Laity (the other two Houses were in favor). Because of the way the rules work, it may be five years before a similar vote can be held again.

The result has wide implications in Britain. The Church of England is the established church of the land and its bishops have a public profile, presiding over many ceremonies and state occasions. Twenty-six bishops sit in the House of Lords, and since women may not be bishops, this amounts to discrimination at a political level.

Within the Church there is already talk of figuring out a way to turn the situation around. But the vote is a reminder of the discrimination that women continue to encounter, and the inequalities that persist in so many different realms of life and in almost every corner of the world.

Sunday November 25 was the UN's International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. It was a day to reflect on the challenges and sometimes the hostility that women face: up to seven in ten women report experiencing physical or sexual violence at some point in their lives, and as many as one in four women endures violence during pregnancy. The list goes on.

Women's rights have taken great steps in the past few decades and we should be proud of the progress we have made. Recent events are a reminder, however, that in the world of politics and religion, and in everyday life as well, there is plenty more work ahead of us.