Tulja Jha Delhi India
GENDER EQUALITY AND INEQUALITY IN CONTEMPORARY INDIA
BY: TULJA JHA
Contains mentions of rape, violence, etc.
What is gender? What is Sex?
‘Sex’ and ‘Gender’ are often used interchangeably, despite having extremely contrasting meanings.
Sex refers to a set of biological attributes in humans and animals. It is primarily associated with physical and physiological features including chromosomes, gene expression, hormone levels and functions, and reproductive/sexual anatomy. Sex is usually categorised as female or male, but there is variation in the expression of biological attributes.
Gender refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviours, expressions and identities of girls, women, boys, men, and gender diverse people. It influences how people perceive themselves and each other, how they act and interact, and the distribution of powers and resources in society. Gender identity is not confined to a binary (girl/woman, boy/man) nor is it static. It exists along a continuum and can change over time (or by choice). There is considerable diversity in how individuals and groups understand, experience, and express gender through the roles they take on, the expectations placed on them, relations with others, and the complex ways that gender is institutionalised in society.
Gender equality, or equality between men and women, entails the concept that all human beings are free to develop their personal abilities and make choices without the limitations set by stereotypes, rigid gender roles and prejudices.
A man and a woman are heading to a small scale industry in central Africa for work. They part ways upon arrival - him disappearing underground to dig, and her making her way to the area where women process ore. He will earn much higher wages, and his job is more secure, but she’ll never be able to join him in the mine. Her community believes that women cannot be “real” miners.
The above example shows how culturally rooted gender norms and attitudes in society dictates which activities women are “allowed” to do, and what is considered “acceptable for them to do. This is the situation in most of the countries of the world, exempting only a few (Iceland, Norway, Sweden, etc), where the situation is much more moderate, and may even have said to attain gender equality, in contrast with other countries (Turkey, Nigeria, Morocco, etc).
Norms and attitudes as such not only affect economic opportunities; they can also influence women’s mobility, security, safety, health, and many other aspects of their lives.
Gender equality - and how people experience it within households, organisations, and communities - is the product of how different social systems and structures are designed, negotiated, and implemented. Influencing positive, change at these levels depends on evidence that moves beyond, simply identification inequalities.
Gender Inequality in India
Gender inequality has been a social issue in India for centuries. In many parts of the country, the birth of a girl child is not welcomed. Discrimination starts even before the child is born. Sometimes, she is killed as a foetus, and even as an infant. For every 1000 boys in India, there are only 908 girls, and many girls are forced to even drop out of school.
Patriarchal norms have marked women inferior to men. The most natural occurrences like menstruation, breast-feeding, etc are made into an obnoxious occurrence, something to be ashamed of. Women are objectified to a level of such that they themselves start to believe that they are the ones who need to cover up. The elderly believe that activities like rape, stalking, molestation, domestic violence, marital rape, etc are problems of this generation. No, they are not. These problems have existed since the beginning of humankind. It is only now, that they are spoken about, and women are told that this is not how they are supposed to be treated. Sadly, 1 in 2 women have experienced physical/sexual violence. Rape is the fourth most common crime against women in India
- Nirbhaya case, 16 December, 2012, was active for 8 years, and the accused were hanged on 20 March, 2020. An obvious case of rape and murder, and the goverment took 8 years to bring it to justice.
- Criminalization of marital rape is yet to be achived. It is considered a crime only when the wife is below 15 (which is illegal as the legal age of marriage in India is 18) - making marital rape legal.
- Although voyeurism is considered a crime in India, it is widely streamed throughout the country, and sites like Pornhub (which have been banned in India), had been streamed by 89% of the Indian population in 2019. And it was considered by many, sex education. But in reality, it is teaching exploitation of a whole gender.
- There are no forms of proper sexual education in India, excluding a few adolescence workshops and a chapter on reproduction in biology. The parents believe that their children should not be learning about “such shameful things”. It is a hushed topic in the Indian society.
- Such sites exploit their actors (mainly women), with drugs filling up their genital anatomy, and posting rape videos (which are the most watched videos on such sites).
- In legal discussion of such topics, the most common phrase used is, “Such laws can be misused by women”. In a survey made in 2014, it was released by the media that 53% of rape accusations were false. But in truth, these 53% of accusations had simply not gone to trial. Using a trick of words, these allegations were made to look false.
- 99.1% of sexual violence cases are not reported in India. This is as such delicate topics are considered black and white by the law. The definition of rape is forced penetration, which automatically excludes sexual violence against men. And if forced penetration did not occur, then the case is not considered sexual violence at all.
- About 300 cases of acid attacks against women take place every year.
- 27% of girls in India are married before the age of 18, and 7% before the age of 15.
- Feminism (fight for rights of women in such a way that they are considered equal to men in political, and human status) is ridiculed without being fully understood.
Few laws and accommodations across the world
Convention of elimination of all forms of descrimination against women (CEDAW), 1933.
In other countries:
- The Mexico Plan of Action (1975)
- The Nairobi Forward Looking (1985)
- The Beijing Declaration as well as the Platform for Action (1995)
- The Outcome Document Adopted by the UNGA Session of Gender Equality and Development and Peace for the 21st century.
The policy also takes note of the commitments of the Ninth Five Year Plan and the other Sectoral policies relating to the empowerment of women.
Gender disparity manifests itself in various forms, the most obvious being the trend of continuously declining female ratio in the population in the last few decades. Social stereotyping, domestic as well as violence are some more examples.
The underlying causes of gender inequality are related to social and economic structure, which is based on informal and formal norms, and practises.
Laws, Acts and Accomodations in India
Article 14 - Equality before law:
The state shall not deny to any person equality before law or the equal treatment of all. Prohibition of discrimination against any citizen on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.
Prohibition of discrimination against any citizen on grounds of religion, race, sex, or place of birth.
Equality of opportunity in matters of public employment.
The sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace.
(Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act, 2013.
- Equal Remuneration Act, 1976
- Women’s Reservation Bill
- Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013
New offences: This new act has expressly recognised certain acts as offences which were dealt under related laws. These new offences have been incorporated with the Indian Penal Code.
- Acid attacks and stalking
- Sexual Harassment
The social media movements
- #Metoo - Tarana Burke founded the #MeToo movement to create a platform for girls with similar experiences to connect with one another in a safe space. In 2017, a tweet from actress Alyssa Milano sparked a global deluge of disclosures and solidarity from women who had been silent about their experiences of sexual assault.
- #HeForShe - In 2014, Actress and UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, Emma Watson invited men to join the movement for gender equality by taking part in the #HeForShe campaign.
- #OrangeTheWorld - Every year, from the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on 25 November to Human Rights Day on 10 December, we commemorate the 16 Days of Action of Gender-Based Violence by calling on the global community to #OrangeTheWorld.
- #BringBackOurGirls - In April 2014, 276 teenage girls in Chibok, Borno State, Nigeria were abducted from their school hostel by the terrorist group, Boko Haram. Parents and community members took to social media, sparking outrage around the world and creating the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls. While more than 100 of the kidnapped girls have been found or released, many remain missing.
- #EverydaySexism - In spring 2012, author Laura Bates set up a website called “The Everyday Sexism Project” to catalogue instances of sexism that women experience on a daily basis. The aim of the project was to encourage women to share their stories of sexism, no matter how minor they may seem, and expose the stark reality to the world that sexism is very much alive and widespread, and mostly so normalized within our societies that we don’t even protest most of the time. When the project became a hashtag, the conversation became global and unstoppable.
- #WomenShould - A series of ads, developed as a creative idea for UN Women by Memac Ogilvy & Mather Dubai in 2013, used genuine Google searches to reveal the widespread prevalence of sexism and discrimination against women. Based on searches dated 9 March, 2013, the ads exposed negative sentiments ranging from stereotyping as well as outright denial of women’s rights.
- #YesAllWomen - On 23 May 2014, a man killed six people and then himself, leaving behind a manifesto in which he stated that the reason was because he wanted to punish women for rejecting him and he envied attractive men who could accomplish things he couldn’t. In the days that followed this terrible event, social media became not only a space where people of all genders expressed their horror and solidarity with the victims and their loved ones, but also a space for serious conversations about sexual harassment, rape and misogyny.
- #WhyIStayed - Today, some 30 per cent of women worldwide who have ever been in a relationship have experienced physical and/or sexual violence from an intimate partner over their lifetime. Choosing to leave and leaving an abusive relationship is a complicated process rather than an instant event. That’s exactly what writer Beverly Gooden wanted to explain in November 2014 when she shared her story of domestic violence with #WhyIStayed, in reaction to people who were questioning why women don’t “just leave” if they are survivors of domestic abuse.
- #IWillGoOut - When women across India were outraged and fed up with victim-blaming in cases of sexual harassment and sexist comments, they wanted to channel their anger into action, so they turned to social media to organize.
- #GenerationEquality - the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action with a new campaign,“Generation Equality: Realizing women’s rights for an equal future”.
Our society is patriarchal, and it is not impossible to change that. We learn that men are better than women, and what we learn, we can forget. We are not born with a mindset, we are taught a mindset.
It is not awkward or wrong to show skin as a woman, to talk about my body, to dress as a woman for yourself. I dress for me, I look beautiful for me, and I stand for me.
Wearing makeup or lesser clothing that what is considered modest doesn’t make me a “distraction” to boys. I remember my parents saying, “Television is a distraction”. And I feel objectified if I am told, I know exactly why you are wearing such clothes, you are doing it because you want the boys to look at you. No I don't. I don’t dress to be a distraction, I dress because I like to look good. I like to look at the mirror and wink at my reflection, or smile at it. But to be told that I do it for the boys? That makes me disappointed.
If a person thinks I’m being fake by wearing makeup, I’m sorry but do you think that I wake up with golden eyelids and perfectly shaped red lips.
Makeup or heels are not feminine. They are objects to modify you to look the way you want.
My body is not an object to be sexualised, I AM A HUMAN BEING, as much as a boy is. My female classmates have the same rights as my male classmates.
When my parents tell me to not wear certain clothes, or not stay out in the dark alone, then I don't. Because they tell me, that world is not safe. And as much as I hate that sentence, I know that it is true. I wish that my mom would be comfortable with me wearing what I want, which she would’ve been if it weren’t for everything she reads in the news that gives her fear. And I know that wearing what I want is ok if I am with my parents, or at a family party, or in a mall. But not when I am out of their sight, because then they can’t see me, then they can’t make sure no one looks at me wrong, or make sure that I am safe. And that shows how they have no faith is society for women.
Image below - shows gender gap index across the world.