“ Gender equality is more than a goal in itself. It is a precondition for meeting the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development and building good governance ”
A very appropriate statement given by the Noble laureate Kofi Annan signifies the importance of gender equality not only in our country India but also throughout the World. The exploitation, exclusion, and alienation of human beings based on caste, gender and ethnicity are being a part of each and every society, our country is not indifferent from that. Instead of having a high growth rate and lots of Governmental schemes and policies to maintain gender equality, the gender gap still exists in India in this 21st century also. This gender inequality is the result of different types of narrow – minded values of the various people of our society. They believed men only as “ bread – earner ” and women as only the means to amplify their so-called “ generation ”. These values not only restrict the access of women to various resources and opportunities but also puts the life prospects of the future generation at risk. Gender inequality or the gender gap is a matter of great concern in India despite its achieving high rates of economic growth in modern times. The traditional patriarchal customs and norms have removed women to a secondary position within the household and workplace. If we seriously want to change the present scenario and we want to take our country at the zenith , then the first step has to be taken by us. We have to change our ideas, values, and notions first.We have to treat everyone with equal rights, freedom, and respect. This is the only solution for solving this problem because unless and until we stand together, we are unable to achieve what we really want to.
Discrimination has been faced by “ women ” in almost every aspect of life but it is very less in education and healthcare whereas it is maximum in social behavior or the values of the people of the society. As our population is diverse, variations or difference in views and opinions is obvious. Generally, there are peoples of two mindsets, the literate and the illiterate. The illiterate group has their faith that only boys should continue their education as they will grow up to be “ bread earners”. Now also people believe that investing in the education of girls is a waste of resources. The literate group believes that the girls should be educated and they have the full right to better healthcare facilities. But when it comes to making a decision , both groups have the same opinion that women are not capable of making decisions and so the men in their families either fathers or husbands should take decisions on the behalf of women. This proves that education is still unsuccessful in changing the patriarchal mindset of the people because not only men but also women think that deciding the fate of women in their family is the right of men. The society still believes that sons are a “blessing” while the daughter is a “burden”. The male members of every family are given the utmost importance in every possible field, even in basic things like food. The same amount of nutrition is needed by both boys and girls but boys get to eat better food than girls. From their childhood, the girls are ordered and taught that the needs of the men are more important than them and so it must be fulfilled immediately. The girls or women are also raised in such an adverse environment where men are always considered superior and control the lives of women. Therefore the feeling of inferiority, insecurity and low self-esteem completely fills the minds of women who later on accept that discrimination and abuse as a part of their lives and the norm of the so-called society. It is of utmost importance to destroy the damaging stereotypes if we want to eliminate the traditional views of what women are supposed to do and rather to see them as the individuals that they are. Gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but it is also a crucial element in obtaining a sustainable, peaceful and prosperous world. This preference of son has led to discrimination and injustice against daughters in every field, especially in education. Because of economic reasons and also because the women or girls are needed at home to help with chores and siblings, girls have a higher risk of being withdrawn from the school. Some other reasons for girls being withdrawn from school are that the families need to protect their so-called purity and some parents do not want their daughters to travel a long way to school, particularly in rural areas. A woman’s life can greatly be improved if she has the education to increase her status in society and at home and also by increasing the opportunity of financial self- sufficiency. To improve women’s lives, it is necessary to understand why this gender discrimination prevails and why it substantiates the immediate need for policymakers to take education and literacy initiatives, especially for women.
Causes of inequality
Birth – The traditional system or values of our Indian society forces to continue the gender biases against men and women which results in the continuation of a strong preference for male children over the female. Female infanticide and sex-selective abortion is adopted which strongly reflects the low status of Indian women in the so-called society. Healthcare – Due to this biased mentality we can observe various trends in healthcare like high mortality rates, adolescent fertility rate, life expectancy for females, etc. in our country. Property rights – In-spite of having equal rights, equality has never been well implemented. Practically, land and property rights are weakly enforced, with customary laws widely practiced in rural areas. Women do not own property under their own names and usually do not have any inheritance rights to obtain a share of parental property.
Occupational inequalities – The discrimination against women has resulted in the gender wage differentials. For example, Indian women on average earn 64% of what their male counterparts earn for the same occupation and level of qualification. This has caused to the lack of autonomy and authority for women. In terms of hiring practices, the interview committees of institutions always asked female applicants how they would balance their family with work, and why they were applying for a position rather than being a homemaker. The biased hiring practices in favour of men also pursued due to beliefs that women would be less committed to work after marriage. Women are also previously not allowed to have combat roles in the armed forces. Although changes are appearing and women are playing important roles in the army and the former defense minister is also female.
Educational inequalities – Due to the biased values and mentality in rural India girls are continued to be less educated than boys. Also, the transition from primary to secondary education shows an increase in the disparity gap, as a higher percentage of females compared to males to drop out from their educational journey after the age of twelve. The educational backwardness of girls has been a major cause of gender inequality in India. Educating a girl child is still viewed as a bad investment because she is bound to get married and leave her paternal home one day. There are various barriers to girls’ education that appear especially in developing countries like India. Some of these include school fees; strong cultural norms favoring boys’ education when a family has limited resources; inadequate sanitation facilities in schools such as lack of private and separate latrines; and negative classroom environments, where girls may face violence, exploitation or corporal punishment. Therefore the causes of gender inequality are interdependent and interconnected.
Dowry – Dowry which is a cursed custom, is the payment in cash or some kind of gifts given to the bridegroom’s family along with the bride. This practice is widespread in our country within every class and religion. This system results to gender inequalities by influencing the narrow-minded thoughts that girls are a burden on families. Such perceptions check the resources invested by parents in the education of the girls. This custom has resulted in the death and suffering of many women and girls.
Marriage laws – Equal rights have been given to men and women within marriage under Indian law. But unfortunately, due to the biased values, this right has not been fully given to the women still now also. The legal minimum age for marriage is 18 for women and 21 for men but still, sometimes child marriage is evident which is one of the detriments to the empowerment of women in the society
Son preference – A major key factor that drives the gender inequality is the preference for sons, as they are thought more useful than girls. Boys are given the exclusive rights to inherit the family name and properties and they are viewed as additional status for their family. Another factor is that of religious practices, which can only be performed by males for their parents’ afterlife. All of these factors make sons more desirable. Moreover, the prospect of parents ‘losing’ daughters to the husband’s family and expensive dowry of daughters further discourages parents from having daughters. All these mentalities and traditional values result in gender inequalities.
Suggestions To Change These Values Which Causes Gender Inequality
We should at least try to create a world where the girl child is celebrated for what she is – where she has access to equal opportunities to study, to grow and to prosper as her male counterpart. A world where the birth of a girl child is celebrated with equal pomp and festivity as that of a boy child. Some of the suggestions to change the traditional values regarding gender biases are as follows -• Education that helps create attitudinal shifts towards gender bias and activities to spread awareness.• Continuous efforts towards breaking myths and stereotypes around gender.• Ensuring State accountability to implement various schemes, policies, laws, constitutional guarantees, and international commitments.• Institutionalizing gender-sensitive processes within various systems such as law and programs.• Encouraging community ownership in preventing violations based on gender discrimination.· Different types of programs like gender sensitization, family awareness, campaigning with empowered girls should be given priority.
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