By Syed Anjum
Gender inequality is recognised as political, economic and social evil. Human civilisation has lost much of its talent because of the lack of rights provided to eve’s daughters. Although governments throughout the world have taken some steps for the improvement of women’s lives, inequalities still exist. Gender inequality is not natural; it is socially constructed. Construction of gender has become a bane for our society as it has led to a loss of economic, social and political opportunities to half of the population of the world. Women are discriminated in all spheres; political, social and economic.
In politics, women’s role is highly marginalized. All over the world, there are more men as compared to women who have authority over decision making-both at higher levels of power and lower bureaucracy. A cursory look at the organization of any country will reveal the faultiness that exists in our societies. One section of society (Men) is highly rich and controls almost all political power on the other hand we have another section that continues to fight for its freedom. The irony is that the twentieth century is known as the age of freedom, intellectualism and liberty. This is a sheer hypocrisy of power structures and those who control there to curtail the wings of the women and retard their development and progress. Female regression and marginalization has negative consequences on society as a whole and world over.
Consider the following example. An organization- the Food and agricultural organisation- has reported that lack of property rights to women annually results in the loss of more than 30 % of food production. Related research has concluded that money in the hands of women is likely to be spent on literacy of children, food and clothing as compared to men. In other areas women have potential to play an important role. Women are considered to be more responsive to environmental damage. In the Chipko movement as well as Narmada Bachaw Movement, women have played a dominant role. It is now widely believed that putting decision making resources into hands of women will lead to a progressive world.
Consider another example- the case of wars and conflicts around the world. Even though there are geo-political, economic and political concerns for war, still it is men not women that are crucial in starting and ending wars. Women are swept away in the battle of men. Masculinity and feminity are the crucial concepts that can lead to why war starts in first place. It is found that men like to take more risks than women. Even in the global financial crisis of 2008, companies that had women in boards fared well as compared to those controlled by women. A company in the hands of women is likely to fare well in economic disturbances.
On the economic front, women’s role is even more disturbing. Women are found to do 90% of the worlds over all work, but retain only 10% of global income. They are under-paid, are categorized into low paid jobs, lack access to health, social security when they work in informal economy. Recently, demonetization created havoc for women in India. They were silent victims of demonetization. More than 90 per cent of women in India worked in informal sectors and only 25 per cent had back accounts with them.
When we talk about social issues, gender inequality prevails as the result of institutional and cultural sexism. They crave for their rights. Repression has made women totally submissive, docile women who work to cater the whims of their husband. There is a hard core belief in the Indian society, as well at world at large, that the family runs through males so bearing a male child in the family is imminent to carry on the legacy. This leads to the preference of boys over girls thus results in skewed child-sex ratio-a trend that is witnessed around the world. Though some countries including India have enacted some laws for the prohibition of female-foeticide, this practice is still rampant in India due to corruption and patriarchal mind-set.
Dowry system is another institutional horror which has devalued our social consciousness. No sooner a baby girl is born the family begins to estimate expenses of her future i.e. marriage, education. Dowry is given as an insurance of her security in the family she is wedded to. Initially, this malpractice emanated in upper caste families as the wedding gift to the bride from her family, it was then institutionalised into culture and also gradually percolated down to masses. It establishes a type of conjugal fund, the nature of which may vary diversely. Dowry includes all kinds of possessions that starting from cash, utensils in case of poor people, and furniture to real or movable property. Although the practice is prohibited still rural India has seen rising cases of violence against women related to dowry.
Women have been deeply abused by the system of dowry and worst crimes were witnessed against them which include burning, beating andg divorce. It is like primordial and regnant disease all across the globe. Domestic violence can be interpreted as emotional, physical and verbal abuse. Physical abuse includes more pugnacious acts like harsh treatment, beating or can take less severe acts like showing and slapping. It usually begins as emotional abuse andthen becomes physical. Most women however choose to remain silent due to social stigmas attached with divorce.
There is an urgent need to tackle gender inequality at all levels. Women must be provided with opportunities for their progress and development. Their development is crucially important not only for their freedom and progress but the world at large. It is necessary that governments must resort to mainstreaming of gender so that women’s role could be exploited for the progress of humanity and development for world at large.
—Syed Anjum is a B.A second year student in Women’s college M.A Road and can be reached at: [email protected]