Law · Public Policy · Society · Strategy

Gender Equality – The Significance Of A Gender – Sensitive Approach

Toshan Chandrakar explains about the basic human rights and the gender – based rights and how the some of the laws framed tend to alienate men while seeking to protect women.

Rights are those inherent features of a man’s life which makes him enjoy the basic necessities of life. Now, life doesn’t only mean mere animal existence but includes all those facilities which add to the standard of living and which makes life reasonably comfortable and enjoyable. Though every human is born different, but they share the same basic set of rights which are known as human rights. Such rights exist from the day a baby is conceived, continues and becomes wide as it becomes a man and enjoys them till he lives. Even he is entitled to be buried with dignity and respect. The full consciousness of the fact that men are entitled with rights which are inalienable and inexhaustible, makes a life worth living.

Recognizing rights becomes difficult when laws are made specifically for a single community or made favoring a special class of citizens. This results in discrimination and alienation of the ‘unprivileged class’ of such laws. Gender specific rights are one such type.

Gender equality or equality regarding sex means that, everyone should receive equal treatment and not be discriminated against based on their gender. Equality in gender is such a reality which the mankind seeks to achieve, but fail since a very long time. It was always the female which was considered as the weaker sex and was dominated in every field and was made to feel that they were only sexual objects and not independent or confident beings.

The war of masculinity versus feminism has been going on since decades. Though we seem to recognize some gender neutral laws, there still exist some provisions which are really gender – specific and disadvantageous to the other gender. While in the recent years, feminists and the lawmakers have tried to bring the females at par with the males, somehow it has become disadvantageous for the other gender. Yet, women in India are still fighting for a more comprehensive set of laws like that of protection from sexual harassment at workplace. On the other hand, men also are trying to make rape laws in India gender neutral. On one hand the Supreme Court in Vishakha v. State of Rajasthan tried to fill that void of the legislation relating to sexual harassment at workplace by setting out guidelines which are popularly known as ‘Vishakha guidelines’ ,while on the other hand, there is no such thing as male rape in the Indian Penal Code, 1860. The IPC doesn’t recognize males being sexually abused as in rape. According to the present law, only females can be raped.

Gender biased laws are a reality. While divorce rates are on a rise in India, the Dowry Act has become the most used and abused law. Section 498 A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, was made with a very noble intention to prevent violence and cruelty perpetuated on married women from the hands of their husbands and their families. It was a law made with good intentions, but 30 years down the line, the section is being recognized as a law which is most abused in the history of Indian Jurisprudence. It does not matter whether you have done something wrong or not done something at all, but that you have been accused under this law. Barely 15% of the men accused under this law are found to be actually guilty.

In Sushil Kumar V. Union Of India, the court stated: “Merely because the provision is constitutional and intra vires, does not give a license to unscrupulous persons to wreck personal vendetta or unleash harassment. It may, therefore, become necessary for the legislature to find out ways how the makers of frivolous complaints or allegations can be appropriately dealt with. By misuse of the provision a new legal terrorism can be unleashed. The provision is intended to be used a shield and not assassins’ weapon. If cry of “wolf” is made too often as a prank assistance, protection may not be available when the actual “wolf” appears.” 

While that is the case for men, women have also been victimized and more than men since ages. Not only they have faced evils such as Sati practice in the past but they still fight for equal pay for equal work. While in many countries the problem lies in the lack of adequate legislation, in India the principal problem is not much as the lack of a legal framework, but the fact that most women do not know their legal rights. Income disparity and gender roles in marriage and parenting further widens the gap between the two genders. Similarly, the gap is further widened when we have commissions for children and women but none for the men. Surely, women need rights, their recognition and implementation which are at par with the males, but while doing the same we must not forget that such measures don’t create a situation for men in the future like it was for women in the past.

With the introduction of the third gender and recognition of their rights in the society, it becomes ever important to take important decisions and policies regarding gender neutrality. A step towards gender neutral laws will mean a big achievement in the feminist movements. While also it will wipe out the stigma of ‘men can’t cry’, sex education and gender sensitization at the school level while the children are still teenagers would also help in coming out with a solution for the unfortunate phenomenon.


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