Radha Sharan talks about Gender Equality in India.
Gender equality is an issue that has long plagued Indian society despite the voluminous developmental stages the country has been undergoing. However, the age is such that this bias in the genders cannot be silently endured. With advancements in almost every field, including Education, women, who have long been the victim of this social crime, have been hogging the lime-light just as rightly as the other gender. They are redefining themselves, and this new raging definition of theirs is nothing like the one that used to be. The scenario is no longer the same as was back in the day, but to say that with time, gender equality in the country has died, would just be wishful thinking.
What is Gender Equality? Gender Equality is when all men and women enjoy the same privileges, opportunities and the same rights across all the sectors of society, be it in the economic sphere or in decision-making, and when the presence, needs, opinions, aspirations and abilities of both the genders are valued on the same level and in the same way. The question now is on why we need gender equality? The lack of gender equality, especially in such an era where a good number of women have risen to be as equally able and ready for challenges as men, shows a kind of backwardness and raises doubts on the governance of the country. Gender equality is a development priority. India ranks 132 out of 187 countries on the gender inequality index, according to the United Nations Development Program’s Human Development Report 2013. The report found that all countries in South Asia, with the exception of Afghanistan, were a better place for women than India. The report notes, “gender equality is especially tragic not only because it excludes women from basic social opportunities, but also because it gravely imperils the life prospects of future generations.” The UNDP study says that only 29% of Indian women above the age of 15 in2011 were part of the country’s labour force, compared to 80.7% men.
Gender inequality can be seen in the lack of basic facilities for women, in the mortality rates and in the ugly reality where a male child is preferred over a female. This is reinforced by the outdated traditions of society where women are not allowed to inherit property and where they are received with distaste on their participation in the public domain.The women in northern states in India live through more pronounced disparities and domestic violence. Women and girls in Uttar Pradesh suffer physical abuse at rates of 18-45percent, non-consensual sex at rates of 18-40 percent, and physically forced sex at rates of 4-7 percent.The female gender faces more hardships and are facing the brunt of this evil known as gender inequality and this is evident almost everywhere. In the field of education, a large number of girls aren’t privy to attend schools and get an education. Parents in the rural areas openly choose sending their boys to school rather than their girls. Even in the film industry, male actors are better paid than the actresses. Bollywood actress Anushka Sharma quite recently said, “In my industry, we women get paid about ¼ of the salary of our male counterparts.” Such a scene is sadly mirrored in almost every sphere.
It is true that the topic of gender equality is gaining prominence and why not! It is the need of the hour. It must be realized that the all-round development of the country will never be possible in the midst of these disparities, these inequalities. But one must make sure that equality for women does not turn into inequality for men. The cry should be to equalise the genders and not to create a different kind of disparity. Emma Watson, UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, said, “I was appointed six months ago, and the more I have spoken about Feminism, the more I have realized that fighting for women’s rights has too often become synonymous with man-hating. If there is one thing I know for certain, it is that this has to stop.”
For gender equality to become a reality, women must be encouraged to challenge the restraints and chains that tradition binds them in; they must voice whatever they feel is wrong, speak bravely against crimes, condemn all injustice, and follow their dreams, regardless of what holds them back. The gap between the two genders has for long been neglected but it can be bridged, not instantaneously of course, but with time women can enjoy rights as equal to men and live in a society without misogyny or misandry.