Gender equality: Stand united to bring change

Men must take charge to change the position of women in the society. They should join hands with women and lead the condemnation of any abuse or violence against women.

A student signs a poster to raise the issue of violence against women on the occasion of International Women's Day at the University of Jammu. (Photo: PTI)

Breaking the shackles of patriarchal system has been a battle women have been fighting since more than a decade. While there are voices heard and concerns raised, it’s yet to witness any desired results. It wouldn’t be exaggerating to say that the women in traditional days received much more freedom, liberty and respect. Take a look at the Hindu mythology; female goddesses are the epitome of power — defence (Maa Kaali), education (Saraswati) and finance and prosperity (Lakshmi). Unfortunately in spite of the mortals having these facets, the condition of a majority of women in our country today is far from being equal to men in various aspects.

With the passing time, along with globalisation, modern India seems to be changing drastically where now women are regarded as the fairer sex or the weaker sex. The number of incidents of gangrape, acid attack and other kinds of violence against women are happening in every part of India. Every woman related news is extensively discussed and debated but still the topic of women empowerment just becomes more of a fashion and less of substantial news.

Education is one of the most important steps towards women empowerment. The effort to achieve equal opportunity in every sector including economic and social status is a farfetched dream even in the 21st century. The low rate of education among women in India is one of the main reasons which hurdles the social, demographic, political and economic development of India. Women education is the only way that can bring improvement in their circumstance.

Even when it comes to choosing a profession, women are still not allowed to choose a career of their choice. There is always some kind of pre-conceived notion attached. Women should always do a kind of dignified job which includes not working till late night, wearing covered attire, not going for any parties or business trips. Whether a woman is working or not, the household chores is the duty of a woman, while nobody cares if the same is expected from a man or not. The issue of gender disparity in work is also not something that we can avoid. Research shows that women are paid less than men in 90 per cent of the sectors. According to these reports the main reason for the gender pay gap is due to the preferences of male employees than female employees due to parenthood responsibility and other engagement into various house related work. We need to create a strong message that clearly states equal opportunities for both men and women who are key contributors in the job.

Indian society with its patriarchal system along with religious caste rigidities has relegated women to marginalised and disadvantaged positions with little say in economic, social and political decisions of life with few exceptions of few strong women who stood up to societal discriminations and disabilities. Women empowerment is the progression towards treating women with same status with that of men in various fields of the society. In India, it is still a distant dream.

The 21st century has brought in a new trail and great hopes for women, where striking changes in role of a woman has been seen in last few decades. All these times women were only playing the roles of wives and mothers but now with the changing time, they are not under the shadow of husbands, fathers or sons anymore. With the new entity, women are now establishing their new individual identity. In spite of such progressive approach unfortunately it is now that women are under constantly under the scrutiny and feels more insecure than our predecessor.

Well, there is one day in the year celebrated as International Women’s Day. While I don’t understand the logic behind a day dedicated to women, it would be a good thought if men celebrate this day more than the women and this year we did see few men including celebrities come out and talk about the women who have influenced their lives. These initiatives can certainly bring a radical change to in the mindset of the society. Women celebrating women’s day seldom bring any change; there is no point in converting the converted.

I believe that men must take charge to change the position of women in the society. It is about time the men realise the strength of the women and not the weakness. Men should join hands with women and lead the condemnation of any abuse or violence against women. Men need to shame men. I believe that this should be incorporated everywhere. Instead of taking videos on their mobile when a woman is harassed on the road, and then putting up a moral posts on social networking sites they should actually go and help them.

Most recently, Amitabh Bachchan took a brilliant step towards gender equality by dividing his assets equally between his son and daughter. Despite all the laws towards gender equality, daughters are written out of the will most of the time as she is considered part of her husband’s family lineage.

The recent case of CBFC not approving the movie Lipstick Under My Burkha is an example of hypocritical patriarchal Indian society which does not allow a woman to have control over her fantasies. I have not watched the movie, but all I can comprehend is the movie revolves around the protagonist ladies and their fantasy above life. All cultural excuses that the Censor Board gave signify nothing. A movie is a work of art and it has full liberty to express the view of the art-maker. These kinds of incidents are still a result of how Indian women are portrayed in the society.

Also, the recent news about political upheaval in the educational institutes are responsible for the socio-cultural development of our country. Education must be devoid of any religion. Once you bring religion into it, education takes a backseat, and is lost in the humdrum of what is happening. Whether it is a Hindu, Muslim or Christian or anyone, I think education is the basic foundation for any child. These kind of marches etc are used by politicians for their own benefit, specially for the election in that particular area. They forget the larger interest of the community and the country. Women voicing their opinion are toned down with cheap trolls and rape threats. Women are just mere numbers in the protest rallies and are overpowered by men surrounding them. The choice of languages is very restricted. The character of a woman is always in question whenever she tries to do something that is not ordinary for the patriarchal society. Women should not be just mere numbers anymore but should be a voice without being judged.

Men and women have to come together to change the world and stop gender inequality. It is not something that would change overnight; people have to change their perceptions. The only way words take the meaning is through actions; we have to stand together to change the world and make it a better place to live.

The writer, a Padma Shri awardee, is well recognised in the country’s medical and research community. Currently, she is medical director of Milann.