EQUALITY, EQUITY AND JUSTICE
“When God speaks about equity, that choice of word, makes us understand that God is not referring to the leaders of the land or the elite this time around. He is actually talking about how ordinary citizens of the land relate to each other in fairness and impartiality” ― SUNDAY ADELAJA.
EQUALITY aims to ensure that everyone gets the same things in order to enjoy full, healthy lives. On the other hand, EQUITY involves trying to understand and give people what they need, to enjoy healthy lives. Sometimes, these terms are used in an interchangeable manner, which leads to confusion. For e.g. Like EQUITY, EQUALITY also aims to promote fairness and justice, but it can only work if everyone starts from the same place and needs the same things. There exists a thin layer of similarity in purpose but different approach has to be applied for fair results. One might think both are pretty much the same but in actuality, they are very different concepts that cannot be accurately explained by a simple definition. JUSTICE is the collective responsibility of a free and just society, to ensure that civil and human rights are preserved and protected for each individual regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, nation of origin, sexual orientation, class, physical or mental ability, and age. It can be considered as a scheme of law in which every person receives his/her/its due from the system, including all rights, both natural and legal.
It is good to understand the difference between equity and equality as it helps us to recognize and respond to the differences. Let us analyze it on the basis of few examples:
Q. Should per student funding at every school be exactly the same?
If we evaluate it, we find that it is the question under the domain of Equality. Here, we make sure that all the students have equal access to resources which is an important goal. All the students should have the resources necessary for a high-quality education.
But if we go deeper, we see another question arising.
Q. Should the students who come from less get more in order to ensure that they can catch up?
It is the question of equity where it is sensed that the students who are furthest behind-: most often low-income students and students of colour-: require more of those resources to catch up, succeed, and eventually, close the achievement gap.
And on the resulting ground, we come to a conclusion to these questions that giving the students who come to school lagging academically (because of factors outside of a school’s control) the exact same resources as students in higher income schools alone will not close the achievement gap. But making sure that low-income students and students of color have access to exceptional teachers and that their schools have the funding to provide them with the kind of high-quality education they need to succeed will continue us on the path towards narrowing that gap.
If we look at another example about the runners sprinting around an oval track during a competition. Through this concept of equality we should treat the runners in exactly the same way, ensuring that they all start at the same place on the track. On the surface, this seems fair. But we know that runners in the inside lanes have a distinct advantage over runners in the outer lanes because the distance they have to travel is shorter. As a result, equality — starting at the same place — doesn’t result in fairness. The concept of equity, in contrast, would lead us to stagger the starting positions of the runners in order to offset the disadvantages facing those in the outer lanes. In this case, different or tailored treatment is a surer path to fairness and justice than the same treatment. John Rawls of Harvard University, “Justice is the first virtue of social institutions.” He made this statement in his book, A Theory of justice, which was published in 1971. Justice is of central importance in political practice and theory. In defending or opposing laws, public policies and administrative decisions of governments, appeals are made to notices of justice. Justice is also invoked in social and political movements, civil- disobedience and satyagraha campaigns. Thus, the civil rights or civil liberties movements are essential movements for justice. So are Dalits, feminist and environmental movements. While a decent or good society or polity must have several virtues and according to a widespread view, Justice the first of them. But the real question is how many follow or are following the path of justice. We live in a materialistic world, where ethics, laws and order etc. are less cared about. Everything can be purchased with money even love and respect. People are generally measure others on the scale of richness, ‘’the richer a person is, the more will be his love and respect in the society’’ and vice-versa. Confucius once said, “In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of”. People with lack of money suffer everywhere, they not only struggle for their survival but also find it hard to earn respect in the society. Being poor is a curse, people with no money end up doing low paid jobs with no bright future. We can see examples of many domestic workers who work hard day and night in the same household throughout their life.
Justice, we see, manifests itself through the channels that society set up. Setting these channels involve laws that are set down by the founders and later rulers of the society. In theory, this is done by a person or group of people selected by the community and with inputs from the community regarding what issues are important. In practice, though, laws are often created by rulers without the input of the people or without certain situations in mind. This is when the principles of justice and fairness come in. Though there are a lot of ways but in many ways the best way to practice fairness and justice that has been found so far is the court system. For example: When a crime has been allegedly committed under the law, the perpetrator is allowed a trial by jury. The jury is constructed of people from the community who have no interest or previous disposition in the case. Thus, the jury is theoretically fair. The defendant and the accuser both have their chances to present their reasons for why a certain verdict should be given. It is not only the job of the jury to discern what events took place and whether they are illegal, but also whether the law is justly applied to the current case. In theory, the jury (given true evidence) will decide what is best for the community in the particular case.
To conclude, I quote MAHATMA GANDHI:” PEACE WILL NOT COME OUT OF A CLASH OF ARMS BUT OUT OF JUSTICE LIVED AND DONE BY UNARMED NATIONS IN THE FACE OF ODDS”. We are the ones responsible for our world. Change from us can ultimately change our societies for better. We must advocate to the people about “EQUALITY, EQUITY & JUSTICE, educate them about their rights and encourage them to treat others fairly, equally and nicely. That is how we will end up creating a beautiful society for our future generations.