“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 equality is a human right. Women are entitled to live with dignity and with freedom from want and from fear. Gender equality is also a precondition for advancing development and reducing poverty: Empowered women contribute to the health and productivity of whole families and communities, and they improve prospects for the next generation.
Gender bias is undermining our social fabric and devalues all of us. It is not just a human rights issue; it is a tremendous waste of the world’s human potential. By denying women equal rights, we deny half the population a chance to live life at its fullest. Political, economic and social equality for women will benefit all the world’s citizens
Still, despite solid evidence demonstrating the centrality of women’s empowerment to realizing human rights, reducing poverty, promoting development and addressing the world’s most urgent challenges, gender equality remains an unfulfilled promise.
Gender Inequality in India
Gender inequality in India is a multifaceted issue that concerns men and women. Some argue that various gender equality indices place men at a disadvantage. However, when India’s population is examined as a whole, women are at a disadvantage in several important ways. In India, discriminatory attitudes towards either sex have existed for generations and affect the lives of both sexes. Although the constitution of India grants men and women equal rights, gender disparities remain.
Global Gender Gap Index,2020 and India
The Global Gender Gap Report 2020 benchmarks 153 countries on their progress towards gender parity in 4 dimensions,
Revelations of the Global Gender Gap Index, 2020
Reasons for gender inequalities
Gender inequality has been a historic worldwide phenomena, a human invention and based on gender assumptions. It is linked to kinship rules rooted in cultures and gender norms that organizes human social life, human relations, as well as promotes subordination of women in a form of social strata. Amartya Sen highlighted the need to consider the socio-cultural influences that promote gender inequalities. In extreme cases, the discrimination takes the form of honour killings where families kill daughters or daughters-in-law who fail to conform to gender expectations about marriage and sexuality.
Patriarchy is a social system of privilege in which men are the primary authority figures, occupying roles of political leadership, moral authority, control of property, and authority over women and children. Most of India, with some exceptions, has strong patriarchal and patrilineal customs, where men hold authority over female family members and inherit family property and title.
The ‘inter-generational contract’ provides strong social and economic incentives for raising sons and disincentives for raising daughters.
The birth of a baby boy is celebrated with great pomp and ardour, but the birth of a girl child is received with dismay. The practice of female foeticide through sex selective abortion continues to be practiced in spite of the Prenatal Diagnostic Technique Act of 1994. In India the child sex ratio is at the lowest it has ever been with just 914 girls for every 1000 boys (Census, 2011).
And this discrimination continues in every aspect. Be it education, health, protection or participation, the girl child is always treated unequally. Indian society still hasn’t been awakened to the importance of empowering the women. The statistics still narrate a grim story of female foeticide, girl child discrimination and gender bias .
Traditional mindset of preferring Son
In impoverished families, these scholars found that daughters face discrimination in the medical treatment of illnesses and in the administration of vaccinations against serious childhood diseases. These practices were a cause of health and survival inequality for girls. While gender discrimination is a universal phenomena in poor nations, a 2005 UN study found that social norms-based gender discrimination leads to gender inequality in India.
The dowry system in India contributes to gender inequalities by influencing the perception that girls are a burden on families. Such beliefs limit the resources invested by parents in their girls and limits her bargaining power within the family.
Men and women have equal rights within marriage under Indian law, with the exception of all men who are allowed to unilaterally divorce their wife. The legal minimum age for marriage is 18 for women and 21 for men, except for those Indians whose religion is Islam for whom child marriage remains legal under India’s Mohammedan personal laws. Child marriage is one of the detriments to empowerment of women.
Discrimination against Men
Global Facts & Figures regarding Women’s Condition
Issues with Gender Equalities
Promote A Gender Equitable Society
Children learn a lot from their immediate surroundings — families, friends, school, neighbourhood, media and books. Stereotypes based on gender and its internalisation starts at an early age. Children, who grow up in gender-equitable environments, tend to believe in gender stereotypes less than their peers, who grow up in a gender-inequitable environment.
Breaking barriers require bold steps by both women and men, paving way for an enabling environment. Recognising the ‘positive deviants’ in our society like Mary Kom, the Phogat Sisters and their father is important. We must promote their stories to motivate others for progressive change.
Often, parents try to shield children from incidents related to gender-based violence, but children still get to know of these issues through friends or media exposure. It is important for parents to talk to children about gender-related issues in an age-appropriate manner so that they grow up to be more gender-aware, gender-responsive and respectful.
Gender is often misrepresented as pertaining only to women and girls. It is important to create awareness that society creates gender norms and stereotypes. Gender stereotypes impact all of us, yet affect women, girls and the ‘third gender’ more.
We all must share responsibility and commitment towards gender equality, not only women and girls. It also should not focus only on women and girls. Engaging with men and boys is equally important and helps in creating an enabling environment for an equitable society.