Why is that when we as human beings, breathe the same air, walk on the same ground, and need the same necessities to survive, yet women are treated in a manner that is a far cry from the term equality, treated contradicting for something as minuscule as gender?
Discrimination based on gender, towards women, has been a social issue in India for ages. Being born as a female in Indian society, one has to face gender discrimination at all levels. Whether it is at home or in the workplace or the aspect of education, health, protection, and/or participation. Women have been set to the mindset of being the inferior half of society. It is because of this mindset that has been set for ages that women are deprived of the opportunities for their possible freedom, success, or even individuality.
In India, stereotypical mindsets towards either sex have existed for generations and also affect the lives of both sexes. Although the constitution of India grants males and female’s freedom and equal rights, gender differences persist.
Kirthiga Reddy, Head of Facebook India, once said, “I strongly believe that the first step towards women empowerment is education. The right education will ensure that women are more competent and confident in taking up bigger challenges and raising the bar in any field.”
Gender-wise literacy rates in India showcase the wide gap that exists between men and women. According to 2019’s data, India's female literacy has gone up but still 22 percentage points behind the world average. One of the main reasons behind parents unwilling to spend on girl’s education is the mindset that educating women is of no value as in the future they will only serve their husbands and in-laws.
India will not fully develop unless both genders are equally supported to reach their full potential. The lack of education and workplace inequality for women is another factor which is the cause of lack of participation in the workforce, thus hindering the country’s development. Many studies have also concluded that female education has a significant impact on the development of future generations as they usually have a more direct role to play in their child’s education than their father. Society’s unacceptance of female education is what’s obstructing the progress of the betterment of our nation. India needs to step up and work towards gender equality, because not only is it affecting the harsh outcomes that women have to face but the economic status of the country.
But even before a girl can learn the prospect of education, they’re neglected out of shame for being of inferior gender. A new study has found that an estimated 239,000 girls under the age of five die in India each year due to neglect linked to gender discrimination. The figure, which amounts to 2.4 million deaths a decade, does not include pre-natal mortality rates. The report suggests most of the deaths are at least partly due to unwanted female childbearing in a society that has a preference for sons.
Even in the present, a son’s birth is celebrated with the most outgoing of preparations whereas a girl’s birth is mostly never celebrated in that manner in India. The root of so many innocent deaths of girls in India alone is due to the low mindset that a son is an asset, someone who will be able to provide financially and economically for his parents; whereas a girl is seen as a liability, someone to be married off to when deemed old enough along with the pressure and burden of dowry.
Women seem to go through discrimination their whole life, if not with their birth, then when as girls when their menstrual cycle begins. Studies indicate that most girls do not have consistent access to good-quality menstrual hygiene products with 88% of women and girls in India using homemade alternatives, such as old cloth, rags, hay, sand, or ash. Along with the mindset of sanitary facilities being a mere convenience instead of a necessity, the taboos and stereotypes that force and lead women to be ashamed or even double think the need for sanitary napkins. Some of these include staying indoors, skip school, not allowed to a certain area of the house, or not allowed into the house at all under the idea of them being unclean when it is a process that leads to the option of a beautiful life being born.
Women go through so much discrimination in India just because of mindsets, stereotypes, and the toxic masculinity that most men possess. Around 50% of women in India have been slapped, kicked, beaten, and perceive violence as a normal part of their marriage. Some articles suggest that 75% of battered women in India have tried to commit suicide due to the conditions women have to go through. These are only some parts of the subtopics of women discrimination, and this alone proves what a dire state we are in and how much we need to improve. For that, we need to take action and come up with suitable and effective solutions.
To ensure that gender equality is a truth not just an aim in the next 5 years or so, we need to start educating children and rural areas, if gender equality isn’t treated as a norm, there might be a possible backlash and none of the initiatives would work as well as planned. Along with that, encouraging more female role models and leaders including figures in the government can go a long way by raising educational and career aspirations for both parents and children, along with causing a shift and bringing women to a more equal approach in their homes and society.
There have to be continuous efforts towards breaking myths and stereotypes around gender and ensuring the accountability to implement various schemes, policies, laws, constitutional guarantees, and international commitments. Key partners that are gender experts and can be considered can be the Ministry of Women and Child Development, especially its leadership of the Beti Bachao Beti Padao Programme along with UN organizations. Increasing the value of girls alone can bring benefits such as ending child marriage, increasing access to education, and eliminating gender discrimination as a long-term goal.
When you restrict women just because of her gender, all of the other possibilities come into question, because women are not just defined by the minuscule characteristic of their gender, they are defined as a friend, as a mother, as a daughter, as a sister, as an aunt, and as a wife. But if she were allowed the same opportunities as the rest, she could be defined as that and so much more, as a teacher, as a future president, as a scientist, as a discoverer, and many more unimaginable things that haven’t come into existence yet. So at least with the betterment of our country in mind and the trapped women who are under the illusion that women are less and meant to be stepped on, we all need to take a huge step forward in gender equality and not remain ignorant.