Written by Tushita Paul
Perhaps right from the beginning of humanity, when Adam and Eve ate the fruit from the tree of Good and Evil, and the curse as applied to the woman involved two main areas: She would experience increased pain in childbearing and would be in a new relationship with her husband in which he is said to rule over her.
To rule over her, to treat her as a object, to establish control over her and make her decisions. That is how long back we can go if we start tracing gender inequality.
No matter what religion, what faith one follows, women have been subjugated throughout.
Right from Kunti, the Virgin Mary, Gaya- the Goddess Mother Earth, Aphrodite- the goddess of love and Beauty, also the patron of prostituting, to the Queen of Sheba, the Empress Theodora, Cleopatra, the Mona Lisa, the suffragette, Marlin Monroe, our very own Indira Gandhi, we've come a long way. Yet despite half a millennium of tremendous progress, the gender disparity still stands tall and indestructible like a thick concrete wall between both the genders.
As for India, we as a country first need to acknowledge that there is a problem, only then we can take the next step forward of actually addressing this issue at a level that will create an impact. Through an aerial perspective, it might feel like urban and metropolitan cities are well off, and it’s just the rural sector that’s lacking. While it is true that in rural India, the concept of gender equality might be alien and they are still carrying with them the passed down stereotypes and patriarchal mindsets, what is rather unfortunate is that, urban population recognises the magnitude of the problem and yet chooses to be ignorant.
On one hand in rural India, women are confined within the four walls of the house, expected to handle the household chores and cook, where they remain deprived of the basic right of education and where they are married off as soon as they start bleeding. On the other end, we have the cities, where women are told to stop working as soon as they enter motherhood, where opportunities are snatched from them and given to their male counterparts, where the wage gap persists, gender inequality is as prevalent as
For rural India, one thing that could make an ultimate difference is access to free and compulsory education to every young boy and girl. Authorities of such educational institutions should make sure no girl drops out of school when she starts menstruating or because the family feels that its unnecessary to educate girls. The patriarchal mentality needs to be challenged and altered. Talking to their parents and making them believe that, education can and will provide a much brighter future for their kids, which will eventually improve the family’s standard to living.
If we covet to achieve gender equality, things need to be done right from childhood.
Instead of teaching our boys not to hit girls, asking them to not cry like girls, we should teach them to respect, to treat fellow human beings with equality. Boys should not be asked to protect girls, girls should not be told that they need to be protected, both should be taught to stand up for each other, by each other, no matter what.
At home, parents should not define roles. Neither for themselves, nor for their children. It’s the upbringing that makes all the difference, shapes their personalities and broadens their outlook. Each and every member of the family must assist, whether it be cleaning the house, cooking meals or buying groceries. Parents must ensure they involve their kids with them, to teach them basic life skills and to make them aware that every job is imperative irrespective of who is doing it, and needs to be equally respected.
Work places should give equal opportunities and shun pay disparity altogether. Women should not be seen as a liability to the company if they are getting married, or having kids, because men aren’t while in the same situation. Both the genders should be allowed maternity leave when they need it. The government rather than passing stringent punishment for crimes against women, should take measures to prevent such crimes in the first place. There are laws, against dowry, female infanticide, child marriage, yet all these are still transpiring in various parts of the country.
There is “Right to Education” which describes the modalities of the importance of free and compulsory education for children between 6 and 14 in India, and yet girls are left out. The government can keep formulating laws but its of no avail unless the execution is done right. Implementation is the key for the efforts taken by the central authorities to actually benefit the society and act as a catalyst in eradicating the gender inequality fever.
In India, achieving gender equality will not be easy or something that can be achieved over a span of 10 years. In the best case scenario, if the government makes sure everything goes right as planned, we might reach our goal, but to bring about a change in the overall attitude and the stigma around gender roles, to make people comprehend and to make the masses actually admit that yes, there is an issue, will take time, patience and incessant efforts.
I firmly believe, we as a nation have progressed a lot, women and girls are being uplifted and empowered and circumstances are undoubtedly changing, yet we cannot deny that we have “miles to go before we sleep”.
I would like to conclude by quoting one of the strongest women, and someone I personally look up to:
“No country can ever truly flourish if it stifles the potential of its women and deprives itself of the contributing of half of its citizens.” -Michelle Obama