In spite of seventy two years of India’s freedom, social inequality exists in every aspect of the gender roles. Here the families rejoice in celebrations when a boy is born, and if it is a girl, a muted or no celebrations is the norm. Male preference is so high from the ancient times we are killing our daughters at birth or before birth, and if, fortunately, she is not killed we find various ways to discriminate against her throughout her life.
It’s very ironical that a nation which boasts of many Goddesses being worshiped has the maximum number of gender crimes. In spite of many life cycle ceremonies, rituals about purity being worshiped females suffer a lot in this land. Its hypocrisy when as a society the country talks about culture and rich history when fact of the matter is India has been positioned as number one nation in crimes against women. The current government is in a denial mode. But looking at the crime data against females the tales is yet to be unfolded.
WHAT IS GENDER?
Gender inequality addresses the gender based inequality against women. Gender is a concept where the meanings have been provided by the male kingdom. It’s a definite social construct to suit the lifestyle of male dominated society. It’s very different from the physiological difference as between the sexes. Which is quite natural due to birth?
However ‘Gender’ is a socio-cultural term referring to socially defined roles and behaviors assigned to ‘males’ and ‘females’ in a given society; whereas, the term ‘sex’ is a biological and physiological phenomenon which defines male and female.
In a man- made world where there is history and no her-story, heroes and no she-roes, all the narratives are man written in a mansplaining words. Hence the world we live in is already blue in color. So the meanings already exist beforehand in the establishment of the power game. Therefore, ‘gender’ can be understood as a male construction in accordance to his norms and traditions, whereas ‘sex’ is natural or biological category with the gene pool traits.
Women are usually neglected with their basic human rights. She has to often give a struggle for her personal and public space for a decent living. Her rights are usually suppressed or taken away in the spheres of their social, cultural, economic, and political rights. She needs to battle out for her basic rights to equality. It is when people of all gender do not get equal privileges which gave birth to feminism. Feminism in simple words just addresses equality for all irrespective of your categories.
FEMINIZATION OF POVERTY
Most of the unorganized sectors in the labor market are performed by women. For instance top clothing brands from Europe as Zara, Mango, Primark outsource its centers in Asia as Bangladesh and India where women are its major employees. Women work here without any perks and benefits. In fact they work without any job security and allowances. They are all contractual workers. They can be removed from work, asked to work extra, for long hours as per their boss’s wishes. She is in here as one of the most vulnerable segment of the work force. She is paid little for the amount of work she puts in.
At the bottom of the work pyramid lays women who work in mills, factories, domestic help, daily wage earner etc where she faces innumerable challenges at a daily basis. It’s an institutionalized mechanism of making women at the bottom of this pyramid.
The feminization of poverty highlights the apathy and indifference which womenfolk experience in major parts of the world. It is unfortunate that women constitute a greater proportion of world’s poor.
In India feminization of poverty often witnesses multiple burdens. She has caste obstacles and added taboos with it. Then if she is a Dalit or someone from the lowest caste there are plenty of job restrictions. So she is a poor who gets all the poorer.
CAUSES OF GENDER INEQUALITY IN INDIA
Patriarchy is one prime reason which unifies in its crimes against women throughout India. India is a patriarchal nation. In free Independent country there were states like Kerala and Meghalaya which were originally matriarchal in nature.
However with the latest trends of globalization, social media and external factors as colonization influence of western cultures and impact of different regions changed its original state. Both these states had more control especially the economic and property rights at the hands of women. Things have changed now. These societies are no more completely matriarchal. Now India is absolutely male run nation.
India is a multi religious nation. Most of the world religions thrive in this country. Some of the major religions are Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, and Jainism which are commonly practiced by Indians. However in these religious institutions there religious heads and preachers have educated the masses with their set of norms and traditions as to treat women subordinately. For instance in Christianity it is believed that woman was created after a man from his flesh, in Hinduism there is the concept of purity and pollution. Such beliefs make these institutions to normalize the exploitation of women. In Islam there is the triple talaq which is not fair and just system.
LIMITATIONS TO EDUCATION, HEALTH AND NUTRITION
“You can tell the condition of a nation by the status of women” J.Nehru.
Our country in spite of many Five year plans and now Aadhaar Card system boasts of a transparent public distribution system have many women kind living in utter poverty. The females in many Indian household are the last to eat and the least to have full bellies in the families.
Its is a fundamental right of citizens under the 86th Amendment to the Constitution of India to avail free and compulsory education to all children between the ages of 6 and 14 . In spite of these constitutional guarantees the women’s education in India is far from ‘free’ or achievable in the coming years to come. Although the government, through its various initiatives such Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao, as the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan with its aims and objectives to educate the girl child. There are many obstacles in its path of fulfillment.
The data tells a grim story. Here male literacy was found as 75.26%, female literacy lags behind at 53.67%. A more recent government report on education statistics (2008), notes that the literacy rates for Indian females has steadily increased from 8.9% in 1951 to around 57% in 2004. Some bit of growth has surely taken place in the level of female literacy but in these modern times such a change is miniscule. Since independence when less than 8% of females were literate, the gains have not been rapid enough to keep pace with population growth. If we compare this data with the SAARC neighbors there has been some marked improvement in women’s literacy. But if we see the total dense Indian population much needs to be done to achieve at least complete female literacy at both rural and urban places.
Some obstacles to girl’s education are sociological, based in gender stereotyping, and gender segregation and parental reluctance.
The schools see a major drop out by the girls in the adolescent stage due to menstruation. There are lack of facilities as toilets and clean water in schools. There is no medical aid as pads in school premises. The Indian state has been well depicted in the Bollywood film Pad man, which shows apathy to the state of females during menstruation in Indian villages.
As per NCPCR report, around 40% of teenage girls lack access to education, and majority are forced to be within the domestic boundaries due to certain beliefs and conditioning. (NCPCR- National Commission for Protection of Child’s Rights).
NORMS AND TRADITIONS
Most of the religious institutions reinforce exploitation of women as a cultural norm. These practices should be challenged with changing times. Honor killing, dowry, love jihad are absolute crimes of heinous nature which follows ancients practices and norms. These cultures are not just found in the northern belt of India but unfortunately even in Telangana regions of the south part of India. Crimes are contagious. In this modern age and a booming economy India still faces prejudices against the female species.
In majority India is an agrarian economy. The country still suffers from farmers suicide every year. So in such a poor situation like these, women suffer from multiple burdens both at family level and the ones institutionalized in her community. Women get abandoned in the families, triple talaq was easily said in Muslim households before the recent Supreme Court Verdict came out.Due to Dowry demands, women are subjected to mental and emotional torture. The number of dowry deaths has still not been abolished. Any major layoffs, women are fired. Even the new maternity law which aims to strengthen her condition, women, (due to such laws are not even hired.) There is a big gender gap in the pay structure in the unorganized as well as organized sector.
Social inequality is now also thought of as a human rights issue. Gender inequality cannot be completely abolished merely by the documentation of legal and administrative measures. The communities such as NGO’s, activists, intellectuals and other bodies should develop a national consciousness of the positive impact of gender equality. There is a dire need for changes in attitude towards women. Changes needs to come at all levels. This has to unite each of us at individual levels where we strive to work together in harmony and peace.
Social equality should be enjoyed by all fellow Indian citizens. Each individual is a deserving candidate for equal opportunities and access to growth. Equality should be for all, regardless of gender, caste, age, race or nationality. That means respecting women without any hidden biases and prejudices and treating all in a respectful manner.