“Gender Equality is Still a Myth Even in the Twenty-First Century.”
“Have we not all one father? Hath not one god created us?”
In spite of prosperity, globalization and education, we have failed to eliminate violence against women. Indians worship the woman as a goddess, regard her as a mother, love her as a wife, and consider her most affectionately as a daughter, but still commit violence against her. As per the statistics available, every third minute, a case of violence against women is registered in India. Every day 25 cases of rapes and 30 cases of dowry related violence are reported. All these atrocities against women have cast a stigma of shame on the fair name of our nation.
“His Lordship may compel us to be equal upstairs, but there will never be equality in the servant’s hall.”
– J. M. Barrie
India has laws to prevent violence against women, there are even women police to keep a check on such atrocities. Seminars and symposiums are held frequently to make recommendations against gender injustice. However, on the ground level, nothing seems to be working. Women are not allowed to enter temples in Kerala. There are incidents of stripping of women in Nandigram and Guwahati. These occurrences are not reflective of a developing economy and a civilized society, but a decadent society which is not bothered about human dignity.
“No two leaves were alike, and yet there was no antagonism between them or between the branches on which they grew.”
– Mahatma Gandhi
It will be a long time before any of us can wipe away from our memory, images of hapless girls being manhandled in the Mangalore pub; and they are probably scarred for life. Ashok Gehlot, the Congress Chief Minister of Rajasthan, disapproves of “boys and girls holding hands in public”. The Shiv Sena is violently anti-Valentine day. Recent attacks on women in Bangalore have evoked only shocking inaction and blatant lies of denial from the police. Marrying a Dalit woman is anathema and can lead to death in certain regions. There are also social evils also due to which Indian women suffer from discrimination, deprivation, and the denial of their human rights based on their gender, caste and community.
In many societies, violence against women is an everyday occurrence and sometimes even considered “normal”. Violence against women is an extreme manifestation of gender inequality and ranges from domestic abuse, sexual harassment, stoning, forced sterilization, dowry deaths, trafficking to denial of their inheritance and education. Women are grossly under-represented in the decision-making and face discrimination in the home, in the religious arena and in the workplace. Throughout the world, women and girls often face systematic discrimination in legal, political, social, economic and cultural settings.
It is indeed a matter of concern, that even after 50 years of independence, women continue to live an underprivileged existence, more like second-class citizens. We may have done way with Sati and Pardah systems, but evils like dowry and female infanticide continue to thrive in our society.
Pope Benedict XVI has decried chauvinism and the “serious and relentless” exploitation and violence being waged against the world’s women. Faced with such “serious and relentless phenomena, the commitment of Christians seems all the more urgent, so that everywhere they become promoters of a culture that recognizes the dignity that belongs to women in law and reality,” he said.
In the current local and global context, International Women’s Day 2009 calls for a new world order that clearly identifies the roots of the current problems women and our families face around the world. It is not sufficient to take up cudgels against immediate local issues which are only symptoms of the underlying causes that have created such an anti-woman mindset. What is needed is an end to patriarchy and misogyny in terms of family relations, societal and political institutions, culture and the media. The multiple oppressions generated by patriarchy and capitalism have brought us to where we are today – a world of ongoing oppression, severe economic insecurity, exploitation and marginalization of women. Nothing less than a completely different order, a new world order can bring about a change for a better world.
With the increase in literacy and awakening among women, this gap is bound to lessen, but the divide is so great, that it seems nature also wills it this way. Thus instead of competing, it would be better if they complement each other and lead a wholesome life, respecting each other’s rights and liberty.