|Demand of the question|
Introduction. Contextual introduction.
Body. Mention prejudices and social belief against women. Their Impact. Measures needed to reduce gender inequalities.
Conclusion. Way forward.
The Human Development Report (HDR) for 2019 has ranked India 129 out of 189 countries. Although India has improved one rank from the 130th position last year, However, for inequality-adjusted HDI (IHDI), India’s position drops by one position to 130. This indicates that gender inequalities are still high and not much progress has been made. Prejudices against women and girls still exist in Indian society at every level, and are root cause of gender discrimination, as mentioned by HDR.
Prejudices and social belief against women:
- A culturally ingrained parental preference for sons(Son-Meta preference as per Economic survey 2018), emanating from their importance as caregivers for parents in old age is linked to poorer consequences for daughters.
- The dowry system, involving a cash or in-kind payment from the bride’s family to the groom’s at the time of marriage, is another institution that disempowers women. The dowry is seen as an instrument to carry the burden of women by some group of people.
- Prejudices like girls as ‘paraya dhan’ and one who produce only children and take care of kitchen lead to gender atrocities and inequalities.
- Social belief that women are not fit to do male work(sexual division of labour), often lead to gender discrimination when it comes to employment.
- Prejudices create incentives for parents not to have girl children or to invest less in girls’ health and education. Such parental preferences are reflected in increasingly masculine sex ratios in India. This reinforces the inferior status of Indian women and puts them at risk of violence in their marital households.
What is the impact of gender inequalities?
- Stereotypes hinder women’s ability to fulfill their potential by limiting choices and opportunities.
- They translate into practical policies, laws and practices that cause harm to women on the ground.
- The effect of this on the mental and physical integrity of women which deprive them of equal knowledge, exercise and enjoyment of rights and fundamental freedoms.
- Stereotypes justify gender discrimination more broadly and reinforce and perpetuate historical and structural patterns of discrimination.
- Men suffer too because conforming to masculine roles of competitive and ambitious self-seeking can put pressure on them and deprive them of joy that can come from parenting and having intimate respectful relationships.
- Prejudices and gender discrimination resulting from this have high costs in terms of development, impeded democracy, human rights denied and peace and security endangered.
What needs to be done to counter gender inequalities?
- The phenomenon of gender stereotypes needs to be countered and fought in multiple areas- in laws and practices, mind-sets of people, justice systems, media and education, in different organisations and public authorities, in enterprises, and among individuals.
- We need to create an enabling environment, specific institutions and systems, and individual champions and role model creation.
- Temporary special measures, including quotas in parliament and political parties, judiciary, law enforcement agencies, executive and the corporate sector should be taken.
- Rigorous and corrective education curriculum development, imparting education since early childhood to all levels, and considering both boys and girls should be accompanied by educational campaigns for adults. Development of special educational tools at all levels, including use of e-learning.
- Encourage women and girls to enter into traditionally male-dominated fields of education and professions like armed forces, pilots, sciences, engineering, etc.
- Enact laws that change mind-sets, like those against domestic violence and other gender-based violence, including sexual harassment at the work place and rape. Laws should criminalise such activities and high-rate of convictions against gender discrimination.
- Allocation of adequate resources for programmes targeting the elimination of gender stereotypes, for example through advocacy and awareness-raising campaigns, and educational curriculum development.
- Improvements in labour market prospects also have the potential to empower women.
There is clearly a need for policy initiatives to empower women as gender disparities in India persist even against the backdrop of economic growth. Studies find that while in the short run there is backlash by men as traditional gender roles are being challenged, the negative stereotype eventually disappears. This underscores the importance of sustained affirmative action as a way to reduce gender bias.