BENGALURU: Gender inequality and discrimination continues to exist in our society, though our religious belief put women at the pedestal of a goddess. We still fail to recognize her as human being first. Discrimination based on an individual’s gender or sex, often affects both men and women.
In 2011, Donna Kassman, a former KPMG senior manager filed a 350 million dollar suit against the company for practicing discriminatory pay and promotion policies. The firm failed to investigate and resolve complaints of discrimination and harassment.The preamble of Indian constitution speaks about achieving social, economic and political justice to everyone and to provide equal status and opportunity to all the citizens. Article 15 of the constitution prohibits discrimination on grounds of sex, religion, race, caste and place of birth. However the reality is different. Women are still treated as second-class citizens.
Gender inequality comes from the belief that one gender is superior to another. Such beliefs lead to various stereotypes like a woman is supposed to cook and do housework while men must work and so on. Discrimination further legitimizes traditional stereotypes, beliefs and practices. This reflects in the unfair treatment of women, which is often based on prejudice, ignorance, patriarchal social system and unjust structures. Discrimination in any sphere of life is abominable and unacceptable in the society.
Today women have shown their power and potency in almost all fields of human engagement. For instance, Nirupama Rao is the Indian Foreign officer and former Indian Ambassador to the United states, prior to that she served two years as the Foreign Secretary of India. Kiran Bedi is a retired police officer who joined the Indian Police Service in 1972. Medha Patkar is a social activist and reformer turned politician who is best recognized as the founder member of Narmada Bachao Andolan.
Indra Krishnamuthy Nooyi who is the current Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer of PepsiCo is ranked among the 100 most powerful woman. While speaking to the Great Lakes Institue of Management Students in Chennai, She said “Every one of you has the advantage and opportunity of the much more liberal, modern India with many more professional female role models. I think the future is especially bright for women. Don’t let anything hold you back”.
According to the International Society of Women Airline Pilots (ISA) 2014, there are 4,000 women out of 130,000 airline pilots. Among 3,500 pilots employed by the British Airways 200 are women. Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook said, “I look forward to the day when half our homes are run by men and half of our companies and institutions are run by women. When that happens, It won’t just mean happier women and families; it will mean more successful business and better lives for us all.”
Despite such huge success women have registered in every field of human activity, there still remains gender discrimination and bias. Because they are women, they fail to be recruited for jobs when they can very well perform like any man. They are paid less than their counterparts for performing the same job. In the advertisement market they are used as commodities for selling products rather than persons with dignity and rights. Media portrays women as the ‘weaker sex’ while in truth they are the ‘complimentary sex’.
Gender discrimination like harassment can cause great emotional and psychological trauma to the victim. It includes violence or inappropriate behavior, making sexist comment or making women feel inferior or incapable of doing certain jobs because of their gender.
In the Army women were deprived of permanent commission. They were qualified for only a short service with a tenure of up to 14 years, which made them ineligible for pension and they found it difficult to get work after their retirement. Women who filed petition against this, argued that they have also received the same training as their male counter parts and have same experience as men do. The only reason that they could not go further is that they were women. Now according the latest ruling, women will be able to work until the age of 54 as their counterparts.
For a girl, discrimination starts from the moment she is conceived in the womb of her mother. The parents, including the mother, hope and pray for a boy child. In many countries and societies they perform the sex determination test to determine the sex of the baby and abort it if the baby is girl. In other cases, when the doctor says, ‘it’s a girl’ their countenance falls as if the most terrible tragedy has struck them. Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Bihar are the worst place for women. Uttar Pradesh has the largest number of girls married between 10-19 years of age. According to the Registration survey 2014 and National Crime Records Bureau, there are 38,467 crimes registered against women in UP, followed by West Bengal and Rajasthan. When it comes to crime rate, Delhi has the highest rate(69.6) followed by Assam and Rajasthan. India reports 26 crimes against women every hour.
“In most parts of the world when a girl is born, her wings are clipped so that she is not able to fly,” says ZiauddinYousafzai, the father of the Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai. A girl child is considered an unwelcome entry to their families and so she is treated with bias even in her own home. While a boy gets all the privileges, a girl is supposed to be submissive, and slavishly obedient. Male children are given the opportunities to study and become what they want to, but girls are supposed to confine themselves to serving others by doing the household duties. According to sociologist Sylvia Walby, patriarchy is “a system of social structure and practices in which men dominate, oppress and exploit women”. In a patriarchal society, girls enjoy less privileges and rights because they are considered to be a burden and not an asset. Gender discrimination is prohibited by law and a woman has every right to take action when she feels discriminated because of gender, age or marital status.
The mass molestation of women during New Year Eve celebrations in the heart of the city, Bengaluru is still a shock to the people. The first step to put an end to sexual violence and discrimination begins with speaking about it openly. As a woman one needs to be confident and show that you have zero tolerance for sexist or discriminatory behavior. The more one tolerates, the more difficult it will become to confront the situation.
The stark and shameful reality calls for a change of our cultural and societal values. Gender equality is not a woman’s issue, but it is a human issue. It affects us all. The UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, Nicole Kidman’s words should become a reality in every part of the world, “Imagine a bold plan for a world without discrimination, in which women and men are equal partners in shaping their societies and lives. Let’s picture it!”