Gender inequality in socio-political scenario across the globe and in India
Gender inequality is the concept or idea that women and men are not equal. Gender inequality refers to the unequal treatment or perceptions of different individuals that usually arises due to their gender. It can be due to the differences in gender roles or characteristics. Gender inequality stems from distinctions that are either socially constructed or are empirically grounded.
Many cultures, religions and societies across the world view woman as inferior or subordinate to men and discriminate against them in various ways from female children not been given education, healthcare, nutritious food, job opportunities, inequality in wages, political representation and it reaches such extremes that the girl child is killed- infanticide/feticide etc.
Gender discrimination is deep rooted in history, tradition, religion, culture, and society. Gender inequality is a highly discriminating stigma and leads to detrimental levels of women’s psychology of their worth and dignity to themselves and to society.
Even in the most developed of countries like the USA women are discriminated against and the feminist movement 1980. While the female sex constitutes slightly more than 50% of the population, only 14 of the total 200 governments, or 7%, are headed by women. In India, reform movements before and after independence has helped women to gain some power in politics also. After independence they have achieved an unprecedented political breakthrough with the reservation of seats for them in panchayats and other public bodies.
It is heartening to note that Indian women were among the earliest to get their political rights (right to vote) without any political movement like in die United States and many Western countries. They were among the foremost to take active part in politics even in pre-independence times.
Indian women have a distinction to become UNO Secretary (Vijay laxmi Pandit), Prime Minister (Indira Gandhi), Chief Minister (Sucheta Kriplani, Jayalalitha, Uma Bharati, Mayawati and Vasundhara Raje) and even President (Pratibha Patil).
By becoming Pradhan or a ward member in a Gram Panchayat or any other civic body, or a member of State Assembly or Parliament, it augments respect within the family as well as in the community at large besides increasing their self-esteem, confidence and decision-making ability.
If we take the women’s participation in politics as one of the measurements of their emancipation, we find at present their number is very low in comparison to men in State Assemblies and Parliament. It is about 11 per cent only (26 women in upper house—Rajya Sabha consisting of 245 members and 59 women in lower house—Lok Sabha consisting of 543 members. There are only 8 women ministers out of total 75 in the government of Dr Manmohan Singh).
In Sweden 45 per cent seats are occupied by women in parliament. So far as the administration is concerned, there are only 592 women IAS officers out of 4,671 officers. The demand for special concessions and privileges along with the reservation of posts in assemblies and parliament (the bill is pending for the last more than ten years) and other civic institutions are a few steps towards women empowerment in India.
Women have started writing and reading what other women have written. During the last two decades the writings of many women writers (such as Arundhati Roy) have been acclaimed by the institutions of international repute. There are many women in the field of journalism which was previously dominated by men. Now, she blogs and networks using it for the freedom denied so far to voice her angst, express outrage and disapproval, fulfill the need for acceptance and approval.
In spite of many gains, much remains to be done to improve the status of women in India. The female work participation rate in India is only 26 per cent whereas it is 46 per cent in China. Some 34 (2011) out of every 100 women are illiterate as compared to only 13 in China.
Female feticide accounts for an estimated half-a-million missing female births in India every year, lowering the female sex ratio to a dismal 914:1000 (2011). It is worst since independence. According to the report of UNICEF, India ranks at 115 out of 162 countries in matters of gender development.
Though the above changes signify positive gains from the point of view of equality for women, but the reality is beset with many problems and tensions. The observation about the gains in equality applies only on a meager number of Indian educated women living in urban areas.
Many studies conducted in India and elsewhere (in so-called developed countries) revealed that equal sharing of housework is still a nightmare for women. Working wives find that housework and care of children is still largely their task, quite unequally wives shared with husband as on an average working wives/mothers are compelled to work at least 14 hours a day and even more. The weekend is less a time for rest and more to catch up on unfinished and pending tasks of the household.
The status of women in a society cannot be secured by her economic power alone as is generally supposed. It depends on culture also. As a micro study reports that ‘women’s participation in the job market is more intensive when they come from poor and very poor households.
Women’s income in particular becomes a means to survival of the poor people.’ Does this crucial income of poor women enhance their status? The study further reports. They are empowered as far as earnings are concerned but not with respect to spending the earnings.