Why we can’t celebrate every single day as Women’s Day? Why women and girls compromise for their daily lives and future? Why they still face discrimination? Yes, gender inequality is still a global problem despite ample national and international measures that have been taken to achieve women empowerment and equality, though the degree and causes vary throughout the world.
In India, we can see the disparity between males and females in every aspect of life, be it health, education, economy or politics. According to ‘Global Gender Gap Report’ released in 2013, India was ranked 101 among 135 countries polled to check the grade of male-female discrimination. No matter, its rank has improved in last few decades, but gender inequality still prevails, cursing the society as a whole.
A number of factors in India can explain how much sons are still preferred over daughters. This is one of the significant causes of gender discrimination. They are given the exclusive rights to inherit the family properties. They are believed to have higher economic utility. In Indian society, there are many religious practices which can be performed only by sons.
Old age security also influences parents to prefer son and neglect a daughter. The parents of daughters have to lose them to their husband’s family when she grows up and they have to pay expensive dowry that is the payment in cash or some kind of gifts along with her at the time of marriage. This practice also generates a feeling of liability in parents for their daughters. In extreme cases, the discrimination takes the form of honour killing where families kill daughters and daughters-in-law who fail to fulfill gender expectation of their husband and in-laws. The inequality in genders can be seen in India everywhere:
- Economic inequality – In India, there is wage inequality between men and women. Also, women lack collateral for bank loans due to less property ownership. Majority of female characters are depicted as weak and helpless while males are considered to be strong, adventurous and intelligent for high prestige jobs.
- Occupational inequalities – Women are not allowed to have a battle role in military service. A study also revealed that a permanent commission could not be granted to female officers. They have never been trained for command as well.
- Inequality in parental property distribution – Under the law, women have equal right to own property and receive equal inheritance rights. But in practice, a law is weakly enforced, especially in Northern India.
- Inequality in education – Though female literacy rate in India is gradually rising but it is still lower than the male literacy rate. Far fewer girls are enrolled in schools as compared to boys and many of them drop out. Only the states like Kerala and Mizoram have approached universal female literacy rates. The chief barriers to female education are an inadequate number of schools, poor sanitary facilities in schools, shortage of female teachers and of course the gender bias. In lower-middle-class families, boys are sent to higher quality private schools and girls are sent to government schools.
- Political inequalities – Number of women in politics is less than men. Though one-third reservation of women seats is mandated in the constitution and it guarantees equal treatment to men and women, but the reality is different. In political scene, the role of rural women is very negligible. They are still treated as second-class citizens.
- Gender-based violence – Gender-based violence includes domestic violence and sexual assault. Physical injuries, mental torture, gynecological disorders, adverse pregnancy outcomes and sexually transmitted infections are most inescapable forms of this kind of violence.
- Sex-selective abortion – In India this practice is common in lower and lower middle class. Sometimes it has been seen in affluent families who desire a boy child ridiculously. The sex of the child is determined in mother’s womb and if it is a girl then she gets aborted.
Boys are still considered as an additional status for the family. Indian women themselves express a strong preference for having at least one son. Nutritional discrimination has also been seen in the country where sons are well fed and daughters are suffering from malnutrition. Both the genders should be treated equally for the heterogeneous growth of the country and in making headway to expand like developed ones. Democracy is the strongest tool to end this discrimination against women. Save a girl child, admire a woman and treat her equal in all respect.