Long Journey Towards Gender Equality

 

Shilpa Rani is a third-year undergraduate pursuing law from NUSRL, Ranchi.  She believes that having an idea is futile if it is not expressed to the world. She wants to give all her dreams a chance.

LONG JOURNEY TOWARDS GENDER EQUALITY

Even before the waves of feminism began, Mary Wollstonecraft proposed the idea of equality between men and women. Wollstonecraft was born in 1759, during a time when women did not receive education and were destined to be treated as inferior. Throughout her life she met many people, including many scholars who would help her to pursue her career as a writer and an activist for women. She wrote numerous books, including A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, which laid out early feminist thoughts on gender equality. In this book, she argued that women were equal to men in their intellectual and rational abilities and it was women’s lack of education that lead to her inferior position in society. This lack of education is a result of societal norms not natural ability. There are many notable individuals who have contributed to feminism and feminist theory throughout the waves of the feminist movement. These individuals were motivated by the inequalities and injustices women faced around the world. Their reasons for participating varied, but generally included a desire for economic, sexual, reproductive, property, and voting rights. The history of women can be divided into three strands. The first is that of Compensatory History which deals with instances when woman’s accomplishments are similar to those of men. For example it could be argued that the first woman to attend medical school can be similar to the first African American male to attend medical school. The second strand is Contribution History, which looks at the collective or individual work of women who have prevailed over a patriarchal society. As mentioned, women like Cleopatra and Queen Elizabeth would fall into this type of history. Contribution History also describes fights fought by women only; such as the fight for the right to vote in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries in the United States. The third approach is called Histories of Gender and describes instances when women and men cooperate with each other. Wars in which women have left their female duties and joined the fight along men equally would fall into Collaborative History. This happened during a battle in the Mexican revolution. Women have also disguised themselves as men in order to be taken seriously.

The radical feminist theories of patriarchy often are viewed as theories of ideology, analyzing the ways that male domination is fostered and perpetuated by culture, religion, and science, a well as socialization and psychic development. Many of the large-scale discussions of patriarchy have emphasized the role of male-dominated religions. With such deep rooted beliefs of male domination, it is really courageous to imagine a society where women would not be discriminated.

Though several programs were launched for the welfare and development of women no substantive progress was made in any case. In spite of enactment of several legislation aimed at improving education, health and political representation of women to bring their status at par with men, the position of women in our society has not undergone much change. The question which persists is whether women really progress in every society so that they need not to be reckoned as the second sex of the society. There is a dearth of studies which explore the relationship between women’s autonomy and sex preference or her marital instability or any influence of her own childhood experience with her reproductive behaviour and its linkage with the ultimate practice of active and passive elimination of females. Most of the women perceived non-availability of brides as the major repercussion of missing girls, followed by an increased rate of crime against women and polyandry.

The history of the movement for gender equality is, therefore, an intellectual, political, social and economic history of the changing relationship between men and women, rather than its often distorted representation as a ‘pro-woman’ movement. Women have historically been associated with inferiority in philosophical, medical and religious traditions. We have seen the rise of many movements which aim at promoting gender equality. Here, I would like to mention three major global movements initiated by three global organizations for bringing gender equality through education, economic support and technology. HeForShe is a UN initiative to promote gender equality around the world. Second is Sustainable Development Goals or the Global Goals for Sustainable Development, which aims at reducing poverty, inequality and climate change by 2030. This was launched in September 2015 at UN’s General Assembly. Third movement is The Girl Effect which aims at ending poverty by focusing on different aspects of girls’ life- education, health, economic security, safety, voice and rights.

Discrimination is seen in every sphere of life whether it is political, social, economical, cultural, or religious. Women are never included in decision making processes. Movements for their rights focus on this aspect at core. Inclusion of women in the decision making process is very necessary in order to deal with ground level discrimination on the basis of sex.

At higher levels too, discrimination is present because of the deep rooted concept of gender biases. In one bank, I witnessed an elderly person telling the manager that he should recheck the former’s paper because they were prepared by a woman employee. Such incidents prove that society does not trust the intellectual ability of a women. Movements need to focus on the importance as well as capability of women to deal with every situation in life. The perspective of society needs to change so as to improve the condition of women as well to secure their rights as human beings.

 

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