Gender inequality in India
Sexism in India refers to preferential treatment arising out of prejudice based on one gender or sex in India. Discrimination and violence against women is prevalent, and sexual harassment at the workplace and lack of education continue to be identified as major problems. Some men’s advocacy groups have complained that the government discriminates against men through the use of overly aggressive laws designed to protect women, and by other socio-economic methods that favour females, such as lower taxes and higher benefits. These benefits are argued to be necessary to redress the historic and continuing wealth imbalance between the genders. The constitution of India contains a clause guaranteeing the right of equality and freedom from sexual discrimination. Gender Inequality
The devaluation of women and social domination of men still continues to prevail in India. Women are usually viewed as dowry burdens, the weaker gender, and worthy of a lower social status compared to men. This has led to social and economic problems.
One of the main concerns is that the declining sex ratio, which was brought to attention in 2001, as the sex ratio hit as low as 927 to 1000 men. Other issues can include abuse of women’s human rights and unequal opportunities given in education, employments or the rights to be born.
The key factor driving gender inequality is the preference for boys. This is because boys are deemed to be 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. Not only that, they are also believed to have a higher economic utility as they can provide additional labor in agriculture. Another factor is that of religious practices, which can only be performed by males for their parents’ afterlife. All these factors make sons more attractive. Moreover, expensive dowry of daughters further discourages parents from having daughters. Thus, a combination of factors has shaped the imbalanced view of sexes.
Discrimination against girls
Discrimination against female children has been a topic of debate. It has been a subject of concern and sociological significance. This subject raises the cultural aspects about the role of a female child in society, what her human rights are as a human being and a number of sensitive issues. This issue is important because there is nearly universal consensus on the need for gender equality. Gender based discrimination against female children is pervasive across the world. It is seen in all the strata of society and manifests in various forms. As per the literature, the female child has been treated inferior to male child, and this is deeply engraved in her mind. Some argue that due to this inferior treatment, the females fail to understand their rights. This is more predominant in India as well as other lesser developed countries. Sex selection before birth and neglect of the female child after birth, in childhood and, during the [teenage] years, has resulted in males outnumbering females in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and South Korea. In North America and Europe the sex ratio of the population is 105 women per 100 men; in India, China and South Korea, the ratio is 94 women per 100 men. Women have a biological advantage over men for longevity and survival; however, in spite of this there are more men than women.
Violence against women
The Thomas Reuters Foundation survey says that India is the fourth most dangerous place in the world for women to live in. women belonging to any class, caste or creed and religion can be victims of acid throwing, a cruel form of violence and disfigurement, a premeditated crime intended to kill or maim the woman permanently and act as a lesson to ‘put her in her place’. Domestic violence against women in India is a big problem. For example, a paper published in the International Journal of Criminology and Sociological Theory shows that in 2007, there were 20,737 reported case of rape, 8,093 cases of death due to dowry, and 10,950 cases of sexual harassment with total crime of 185,312 A U.N. Population Fund report claimed that up to 70 percent of married women aged 15–49 in India are victims of beatings or coerced sex.
“Eve teasing” is a euphemism in India and Pakistan for sexual harassment or molestation of women by men. This phenomenon has resulted in various assaults against women. Half of the total number of crimes against women reported in 1990 related to molestation and harassment at the workplace. Many activists blame the rising incidents of sexual harassment against women on the influence of “Western culture”. In 1987, The ‘Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act’ was passed to prohibit indecent representation of women through advertisements or in publications, writings, paintings, figures or in any other manner. In 1997, in a landmark judgement, the Supreme Court of India took a strong stand against sexual harassment of women in the workplace. The Court also laid down detailed guidelines for prevention and redressing of grievances. The National Commission for Women subsequently elaborated these guidelines into a Code of Conduct for employers. The Indian Parliament is considering The Protection of Women against Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill, 2010, which would add protections for female workers in most workplaces. It was passed by the Lok Sabha(the lower house of the Indian Parliament) on 3 September 2012. As of September 2012, it has not been passed by the Rajya Sabha (the upper house of the Indian Parliament
Selective abortion and female infanticide
The number of girls born and surviving in India is significantly less compared with the number of boys, due to the disproportionate numbers of female fetuses being aborted and baby girls deliberately neglected and left to die . Compared to the normal ratio of births, 950 girls for every 1000 boys, most states of India, especially Haryana, Mumbai and even overseas Indians, have much lower sex ratios. It can be as low as 830 girls to 1000 boys. With increasing misuse and affordability of fetus sex-determining devices, such as ultrasound scan, the rate of female feticide is rising sharply in India. Female infanticide (killing of girl infants) is still prevalent in some rural areas. The government and activist groups seek to raise the status of girls and combat female infanticide. According to the United Nations, it is estimated that as many as 2000 girls are illegally
aborted every day and approximately as many as an expected 15 million girls were not born over the last decade. India has a low sex ratio, the chief reason being that many women die before reaching adulthood. Tribal societies in India have a better sex ratio than all other caste groups. This is in spite of the fact that tribal communities have far lower levels of income, literacy and health facilities . Experts suggest that the low sex ratio in India can be attributed to female infanticides and sex-selective abortions among more urban populations. Gender selection and selective abortion were banned in India under Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostics Technique Act, in 1994, but the use of ultrasound scanning for gender selection continues. Other institutionl efforts, such as advertisements calling female feticides a sin by the Health Ministry of India and annual Girl-child day, can be observed to raise status of girls and to combat female infanticide. But, it did not appear to have much effect in the rate of female foeticide. Female foeticide will decrease the population of female and further skew the sex ratio of India. This will lead to problems like marriage squeeze and lower replacement rate. In addition, it can also cause greater abuse against women and higher crime rate. It will have negative effects on the economy, such as lower female participation rate and inefficient allocation of labour due to gender discrimination
In 1961, the Government of India passed the Dowry Prohibition Act, making the dowry demands in wedding arrangements illegal. However, many cases of dowry-related domestic violence, suicides and murders have still been reported. In 1985, the Dowry Prohibition (maintenance of lists of presents to the bride and bridegroom) rules were framed. According to these rules, a signed list of presents given at the time of the marriage to the bride and the bridegroom should be maintained. The list should contain a brief description of each present, its approximate value, the name of whoever has given the present and his/her relationship to the person. However, such rules are hardly enforced. A 1997 report claimed that at least 5,000 women die each year because of dowry deaths, and at least a dozen die each day in ‘kitchen fires’ thought to be intentional. The term for this is “bride burning” and is criticized within India itself. Amongst the urban educated, such dowry abuse has reduced dramatically Education Though it is gradually rising, the female literacy rate in India is lower than the male literacy rate. According to Census of India 2011, literacy rate of females is 65.46% compared to males which is 82.14%. Compared to boys, far fewer girls are enrolled in the schools, and many of them drop out. According to the National Sample Survey Data of 1997, only the states of Kerala andMizoram have approached universal female literacy rates.
According to majority of the scholars, the major factor behind the improved social and economic status of women in Kerala is literacy Under Non-Formal Education programme, about 40% of the centers in states and 10% of the centers in UTs are exclusively reserved for females. As of 2000, about 0.3 million NFE centers were catering to about 7.42 million children, out of which about 0.12 million were exclusively for girls. Certain state level engineering, medical and other colleges have reserved 30% of their seats for females. In rural India girls continue to be less educated than the boys. According to a 1998 report by U.S. Department of Commerce, the chief barrier to female education in India are inadequate school facilities (such as sanitary facilities), shortage of female teachers and gender bias in curriculum (majority of the female characters being depicted as weak and helpless vs. strong, adventurous, and intelligent men with high prestige jobs) The Prime Minister of India and the Planning Commission also vetoed a proposal to set up an Indian Institute of Technology exclusively for females. Although India had witnessed substantial improvements in female literacy and enrolment rate since the 1990s, the quality of education for female remains to be heavily compromised as the country continues to hold greater value for male than female. According to the Gender Gap Index 2011 released by the World Economic forum (WEF), India was ranked 113 out of 135 countries polled. This trend is very noticeable in states like Rajasthan, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh. This represents a poor distribution of resources and opportunities amongst the male and female. Other measures such as attendance rate and Gender Equality in Education Index (GEEI) are also developed to further capture the quality of education. In order for India to reach GEEI score of 95% by 2015 under the Millennium Development Goals, it has to triple its rate of improvement. Women are not allowed to have combat roles in the armed forces. According to a study carried out on this issue, a recommendation was made that female officers be excluded from induction in close combat arms, where chances of physical contact with the enemy are high. The study also held that a permanent commission could not be granted to female officers since they have neither been trained for command nor have they been given the responsibility so far.