Women have a right to live a fulfilling life – a life of physical and mental wellness where they are able to educate themselves and be financially independent with a job of their choice, become landowners, are able to exercise their right to vote, have equal pay as men and make their own choices on how their life should be.
However, reality presents a different picture. Many women in India still find education a luxury when it is supposed to be a basic right. They are often victims of domestic and sexual violence and this problem was exacerbated during the pandemic when people were forced to stay at home. In the professional world too, pay gaps exist with men being paid more than women. In terms of health, women find accessing healthcare difficult with women’s health not being given the same priority as men’s health.
While as a country India has enacted several laws against outdated practices like dowry, child marriage, etc. nothing will change unless people change their mindset. This does not apply to men alone; women too have to understand that they have a right to equality and should not undervalue themselves.
Below are just a few of the many issues that women face:
- India has laws against sex determination during pregnancy.
- Yet, the heartless practice of female feticide still exists wherein when the baby’s sex is found to be female, people decide to abort the baby.
- Aside from the fact that it is morally incorrect, this practice also puts the mother’s health at risk.
- Her physical health suffers when she has to abort and become pregnant once again in the hopes of the next baby being a boy.
- Her mental health too suffers from the pressure of being expected to provide the family with a male heir.
- Remedial measures against female feticide include monitoring implementation of laws and strict punishment.
- Spreading awareness against the practice is essential since unless we make people understand the consequences of female feticide, the practice will continue.
Education for Girls
According to the NFHS-5 (National Family Health Survey), 21,800 girls discontinued schooling between the period of 2019-2021. There are a number of reasons for this which include the following:
- Girls are needed at home to help with the house work.
- Girls are being married off much before the legal marriageable age.
- Some families are not happy with the security girls are given in school and prefer to keep them at home.
- Transportation barriers and absence of necessary infrastructure at school are some of the other reasons girls are pulled out of school.
It is essential to note that boys too drop out of school due to financial reasons, pressure to earn money, etc. but the number of boys who drop out is lesser than the number of girls as in general parents think educating boys is more important.
It is quite common for us to come across news articles titled “Girls Perform Better than Boys in the Board Exam”. This just goes to show that our girls have the potential to shine and contribute to the society both socially and economically when given the support they need. It is up to us to give them that support in their growing years.
The deep-rooted practice of dowry is prevalent across India in spite of the efforts taken by the Government to get rid of it. In this case, education has nothing to do with the practice of demanding and giving dowry – it is prevalent across all strata of society. People know that dowry practices are legally prohibited but they still do it. What are the reasons for this? There are many:
- In some cases, wealthy women belonging to a lower caste are married into a higher caste by offering huge amounts of dowry. This is to satisfy the family’s aspirations of raising their position in society.
- Grooms’ families use the boys’ educational qualifications to demand dowry as being “gifted” expensive items by the bride’s family is a way for them to show the society that they are respected and important.
- In some cases where the girl has so-called disadvantages like average looks, mediocre educational qualifications, etc., the girl’s family gives dowry as a compensation just to have the girl married and off their hands.
After marriage, the girls’ parents often wash their hands off their daughter leaving her with no support in case she is harassed for more dowry. Society too turns a blind eye towards the practice calling it tradition. Often, dowry goes unreported as it is considered “a family issue” and at times the police too advocate settling it within the family.
Educating our girls, making them financially independent and ensuring that they are self-confident is the only way to combat the dowry menace which claims thousands of women’s lives every year.
Gender Pay Gap
This is a global problem in which there is a difference in the amount men and women earn.
- This problem stems from the fact that men are thought to be leaders whereas women are considered for supportive roles.
- This narrows down the jobs for which women are considered suitable and also affects their pay.
- Studies have shown that well-qualified women too experience this wherein they are paid lesser than a man for the same skills.
- The fact that certain sectors are dominated by gender plays a role.
- For example, the construction sector has more men than women while hospitality and education have more women than men. Comparing the sectors, here too men are paid more when the amount of work they do is comparable to the work women do in another sector. This is because the work women do is undervalued by many.
Closing the gender pay gap requires policies to be implemented on equal pay for men and women for the same skills. Women need to be supported with child care and elder care services. Spreading awareness to change society’s impression that women’s work is dispensable is essential.
Gender Equality for a Happier Society
- Woman are not the only ones who suffer the consequences of gender discrimination. It affects men and children too.
- Men too feel the effects of gender discrimination when they perform jobs which the society has dictated should be performed by women.
- By making the man the sole breadwinner of the family, society places a lot of pressure on all men.
- This results in a lot of stress with men feeling that it is their responsibility to take care of everyone’s needs.
- When it comes to children, gender stereotyping prevents children from following their true calling should the society find it unacceptable.
- As a result, children grow up thinking some professions are taboo for a specific gender.
It is time we started moving towards a more tolerant society which allows people to choose what they want to do so that their lives are happy and fulfilling. Fighting gender discrimination is necessary for the well-being of the whole society.