7 PM | Why women are still being treated as unequal to men | 29th August, 2019

Context:Moving towards gender equality.

Gender equality: Gender equality is achieved when women and men enjoy the same rights and opportunities across all sectors of society, including economic participation and decision-making, and when the different behaviours, aspirations and needs of women and men are equally valued and favoured.

Gender parity:

  • Gender parity is a statistical measure that provides a numerical value of female-to-male or girl-to-boy ratio for indicators such as income or education.
  • For example, if there is equal number of girls and boys who completed primary education in a specific country, the gender parity ratio for that indicator is one.
  • The greater the difference between girls and boys, the lower is the gender parity value.
  • Gender parity is a useful tool for assessing gender inequality in specific areas, in setting goals, and in assessing change and progress under specific indicators of gender equality. However, gender parity is not the same as gender equality.

What the recent reports says:

  • According to the ‘World Employment and Social Outlook Trends for Women’ 2018 report, more women than ever before are both educated and participating in the labour market today.
  • According to the Global Gender Gap Report 2018, it will take 108 years to close the gender gap and 202 years to achieve parity in the workforce.
  • Economists at the University of Chicago, using census data from 1970 to 2000, found that marriages in which the woman earned more were less likely in the first place and more likely to end in divorce. 
  • India ranks at a dismal 108 out of the 149 countries included in the 2018 Global Gender Gap report, released at the World Economic Forum. Even within the South Asian region, which is the second lowest scoring region, with a remaining gender gap of 34.2 per cent, India ranks fourth, well behind Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal.

Causes of Gender Inequality in India:

  • Patriarchy: The root cause of gender inequality in Indian society lies in its patriarchy system. The system of patriarchy finds its validity and sanction in our religious beliefs, whether it is Hindu, Muslim or any other religion.
  • For instance, as per ancient Hindu law giver Manu: “Women are supposed to be in the custody of their father when they are children, they must be under the custody of their husband when married and under the custody of her son in old age or as widows. In no circumstances she should be allowed to assert herself independently”.
  • The above described position of women as per Manu is still the case in present modern day social structure.
  • Extreme poverty and lack of education are also some of the reasons for women’s low status in society. Poverty and lack of education derives countless women to work in low paying domestic service, organized prostitution or as migrant laborers.
  • Women are not only getting unequal pay for equal or more work but also they are being offered only low skill jobs for which lower wages are paid. This has become a major form of inequality on the basis of gender.
  • Educating girl child is still seen as a bad investment because she is bound to get married and leave her paternal home one day. Thus, without having good education women are found lacking in present day’s demanding job skills;
  • Whereas, each year’s High School and 10+2 standard results show that girls are always doing better than boys. This shows that parents are not spending much after 10+2 standard on girl child and that’s why they lack in job market.

Legal and Constitutional Safeguards against Gender Inequality:

  • Indian Constitution provides for positive efforts to eliminate gender inequality:
    • the Preamble to the Constitution talks about goals of achieving social, economic and political justice to everyone and to provide equality of status and of opportunity to all its citizens.
    • Women have equal right to vote in our political system.
    • Article 15 of the Constitution provides for prohibition of discrimination on grounds of sex also apart from other grounds such as religion, race, caste or place of birth. Article 15(3) authorizes the Sate to make any special provision for women and children.
    • The Directive Principles of State Policy also provides various provisions which are for the benefit of women and provides safeguards against discrimination.
  • Various protective Legislations have also been passed by the Parliament to eliminate exploitation of women and to give them equal status in society. For instance:
    • the Sati (Prevention) Act, 1987 was enacted to abolish and make punishable the inhuman custom of Sati;
    • the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 to eliminate the practice of dowry;
    • the Special Marriage Act, 1954 to give rightful status to married couples who marry inter-caste or inter-religion;
    • Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Bill (introduced in Parliament in 1991, passed in 1994 to stop female infanticide and many more such Acts.
    • the Parliament from time to time brings out amendments to existing laws in order to give protection to women according to the changing needs of the society, for instance, Section 304-B was added to the Indian Penal Code, 1860 to make dowry-death or bride-burning a specific offence punishable with maximum punishment of life imprisonment.

How We Can Eliminate Gender Inequality:

  • The list of legislations as well as types of discriminations or inequalities may go on but the real change will only come when the mentality of men will change; when the male species of human beings would start treating women as equal and not subordinate or weaker to them.
  • In fact not only men but women also need to change their mindset as through cultural conditioning they have also become part of the same exploitative system of patriarchy and are playing a supportive role in furthering men’s agenda of dominating women.
  • In the movement for Women’s empowerment where women can become economically independent and self-reliant, it is required that they fight their own fears and go out in the world fearless.
  • The Women Reservation Bill need to be passed in the parliament to give representation to women in political system.

Conclusion:As rightly said by Swami Vivekanand, ‘Just as a bird cannot fly with one wing only, a Nation cannot march forward if the women are left behind’. Men and women are the two holes of a perfect whole. Strength is borne of their union their separation results in weakness. Each has what the other does not have. Each completes the other, and is completed by other. Etymologically, the word ‘woman’ means – half of man. The relation of the male and female is very well illustrated in our Nyaya Darshan by the analogy of mind and matter, which means that man and woman are closely associated with each other, as the soul and body. Therefore the women ought to be respected.


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