Gender Inequality in India
A major international issue over the last decade, more so in the developing nations has been gender inequality. Modern India has a multicultural society. Religion has a great influence on beliefs and norms. The social culture of this country comprises of different religions including Hindus, Christians and Islam. This country has 18 major languages, different customs, different lifestyles and rites (Parasher 103). During the ancient time, women in India were considered precious and people compared them to goddess (Devi).
However, this changed and the society started considering men as the superior species. Women started being oppressed and subjective to men. Polygamy worsened this situation. This has led to a drastic deterioration of women’s position. To understand gender inequality problem properly, gender and sex should be differentiated first. Sex refers to female and male species distinction which can be determined through biology. Gender is a social construct that entails the ideas of power, roles, responsibilities, value, obligations, rights and self-esteem that a person ascribes to on the basis of their sex.
Gender inequality has been a major problem in India regardless of the efforts by the government to ensure equity because of religious personal laws (RPLs). These are very reluctant to the reforms. In India, health access and population statistics indicate how women face the problem of gender inequality. For example, the women to men ration in 2001 stood at 933 to 1000. This situation has improved slightly to reach 940 to 1000 according to a census conducted in 2011 (Kishor and Gupta 5). This figure is low compared to that of Europe and North America because women of these regions are empowered. This ratio in these countries is about 105 women compared to 100 men. Infant mortality among the females is also higher. According to data by the NFHS-India, out of 1000 births 23 girls compared to 14 boys die (Kishor and Gupta 16). There is a major role that is played by cultural beliefs in relation to inefficient access to healthcare by women. Women are often reluctant to seek treatment from male doctors because of their beliefs. Males dominate the healthcare profession in India. Therefore, most women are not treated because of their fear to disclose health problems to men. Seeking medical help is their last resort and they would rather recognize their disease instead of sharing their problems with other people.
Additionally, the level of education among Indian women is low when compared to men’s education level. This is seen from the low number of the women who have secured employment in India as well as the low wages that they receive. Their education is also highly affected. For instance, NFHS-India shows that the affected school attendance for girls aged between 6 and 10 years was 957 as compared to 1,000 boys in 2006. Nevertheless, 889 girls compared to 1000 boys aged between 7 and 10 years attended school. This shows a huge rate of school drop-out among girls because they are denied the right to access education as they grow older. Girls abandon school to participate in the traditional practices that include marriage. This report also shows that only 38% of the adult women are literate as compared to 62% of adult men (Kishor and Gupta 20).
Regardless of a role that a woman plays in India, she is considered an economic burden. They face domestic violence, forced prostitution, rape, unequal payment and sexual harassments. Unequal payment discourages women from looking for employment. Additionally, they work under poor conditions. They are seen as dependents. The law denies them equal rights to property with men.
Additionally, crime data currently shows that the rate at which women are engaging in crime is alarming (Parasher
110). Indian women have various activities that they are subjected to. For instance, women have to pay men dowry which is contrary to what happens in most countries where dowry is paid by the family of the bride. In addition, only men are entitled to the inheritance of the family. Endogamy is encouraged by the caste system. This means that a man should not marry a woman whose social class differs from his.
There are challenges that Indian women’s empowerment faces because push for the empowerment of these women by critics is faced with demands by minority communities and religious leaders who require them to respect culture. The argument of the critics is that although gender equality is a law, it is theoretical because no changes can be seen in the society (Parasher 108). Religious personal laws established an obstacle to women empowerment while minimizing gender inequality. This is because these laws do not allow women right to legal equality formally in terms of personal relations.
Free movement of women without men’s consent is restricted and women are also isolated in the public places. Additionally, women lack economic independence and this makes them domestic violence’s victims since they have to be loyal to their husbands who are their families’ breadwinners. In India, domestic violence is a serious problem. The UN released a report that shows that in every 26 minutes a case of woman molestation occurs and in 34 minutes a rape case occurs. Girls below 16 years old are involved in a quarter of all rape cases that are reported in India (Kishor and Gupta 56).
Administration in India continues to be dominated by men. Only 7% of seats in parliaments are a preserve for women. It is very unfortunate to see that Indian women are still facing exploitation 60 years after independence. Reforms are being delayed by the government since 33% reservation has been provided by the74th Constitution Amendment for women in Panchayati Raj System (Parasher 110). Women empowerment initiatives and programs can enhance the achievement of gender equality. Societal females’ progress should be encouraged by such initiatives. Religion plays a role in promoting inequality.
Therefore, the government ought to allow for negotiation with religious leaders to ensure that females’ empowerment terms are developed in this country. Self advancement entails capacity building, gaining confidence and self-awareness which shows that a person is vital in a community. Women ought to be encouraged to come up with groups with sufficient government’s and stakeholders’ support in order to enhance their problem solving skills, leadership skills and decision making skills. The entire community should curb discrimination and stop bias. In addition, women ought to be economically empowered by being allowed the rights to save, information availability, acquiring entrepreneurship knowledge and resource mobilization.
Women should also be allowed access to education and equal education rights with men. Literate people are more stable economically and they have access to different opportunities for constructing lives. Women should be encouraged to adopt new practices and they should quit following ancient traditions which deny them freedom. Healthcare plays a vital role in the reduction of gender inequality. Therefore, awareness should be created by the government to women so that they can start seeking medical care. It is saddening to see human beings being considered inferior on the basis of their social class, sex and age in the contemporary society. Additionally, how women are treated in a country can determine advancement in a nation and prosperity.
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Kishor, Sunita and Gupta, Kamla. Gender equality and Women’s empowerment in India. National Family Health Survey (NFHS-3), (2009): 7-132
Parasher, Archana. Gender Inequality and Religious Personal Laws in India. Brown Journal of World Affairs. 15, 2 (2008): 103-112