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March 18, 2012

Power Imbalance

Female empowerment without female equality is a meaningless bag of hot air.Until and unless we recognise the importance of equal and fundamental rights to all the members of the society,the concepts of freedom,justice and egalitarianism go for a toss into the trash can.






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Let's get a load of some figures.Fair warning,it might seem like an overdose of numbers,but without proper data,it is difficult to drill in the truth.
  • India, with a population of 1210 million, is the world’s second most populous country. Of that number, more than 60 percent of women are chronically poor.
  • Our glorious country is one of the few countries where males significantly outnumber females, and this imbalance has increased over time. In 1901, the sex ratio was 971 females to 1000 males. In 2011,the figure shrunk to 940 .
  • India’s maternal mortality rates in rural areas are among the world’s highest.
  •  According to UNICEF, Indian accounts for 19 percent of all lives births and 27 percent of all maternal deaths. 
  • And this might come as a wake-up call,but the sad truth is-out of the 15 million baby girls born in India each year, nearly 25 percent will not live to see their 15th birthday.18 percent more girls than boys die before their fifth birthday.
And you were wondering why there were so few girls around?

From primitive agrarian societies to the contemporary information age, the role of women has changed drastically. The role of a typical home-maker was itself an overwhelming responsibility.It still is.The woman is expected to cater to all the requirements of the households including the rearing and upbringing of children.But human life is in a state of constant flux,subjected to socio-economic and psycho-cultural pressures. The three-pronged Renaissance of Industrialization, Modernization and Globalization has fundamentally altered the role and responsibilities of women.Additional responsibilities,additional roles,as well as the concept of female liberty have been delivered to woman as a package deal which society is still trying to come to terms with.

The scene isn't totally bleak.There has been relatively increasing economic participation from females in past one decade. The educational and occupational demographics have also changed and widened with women entering the domains, which till a decade back was an all-male playing field. India has the world’s largest number of professionally qualified women. India has more working women than any other country in the world. This group includes female workers at all levels of skill, from surgeons and airline pilots to bus conductors and manual laborers. India has more women nationally certified as doctors, surgeons, scientists, and professors than the United States. Over the past decade, India has had five international beauty queens. And yet, on average, women in India are socially, politically, economically, and even demographically weaker than men.Change has taken place,true.But women's rights and freedom still face insurmountable challenges even today.

Women's rights isn't just a thing to talk about.You have to grant her the rights which will safeguard her privileges. You have to respect her basic fundamental rights of speech, freedom and decision-making.You have to respect her right for education and employment. And you have to grant her the POWER and OPPORTUNITY to exercise these rights.Respect her choices,respect her individuality,respect her decisions.

It's all nice and all to be sitting in the 21st century and claiming that our culture has a value-system which is envied by even the progressive Western cultures.But what exactly do these values teach us?Following are some excerpts from the “Laws of Manu” (Manusmriti or Manava-dharmasastra). It is the first and the most important law book (Dharmasastra) of Hinduism.It dates back to the B.C. era.So yeah,it is ancient,but its message is still blindly followed by many even today.
  •  by a young girl, by a young woman, or even by an aged one, nothing must be done independently, even in her own house.
  • In childhood a female must be subject to her father, in youth to her husband, when her lord is dead to her sons; a woman must never be independent.
  •  She must not seek to separate herself from her father, husband, or sons; by leaving them she would make both (her own and her husband’s) families contemptible.
  •  She must always be cheerful, clever in (the management of her) household affairs, careful in cleaning her utensils, and economical in expenditure.
The funny thing is-the Indian constitution grants women equal rights with men,at least in letter, but strong patriarchal dogmas persist, with women’s lives shaped by customs that are ancient and are rendered inappropriate in a modern context. You and I can still it in action-in many Indian families, a daughter is viewed as a liability, and she is programmed to believe that she is inferior and subordinate to men. Sons are idolized and celebrated.

Let's take a stock of the problems the Indian Woman grapples with even today.
Maternal Mortality Ratio is 212,which means per 100,000 live births,212 mothers succumb to death during the course of pregnancy.You might wonder why.One reason behind India’s high maternal mortality rate is the reluctance to seek medical care for pregnancy – it is viewed as a temporary condition which will magically take care of itself. Even a woman who has had difficulties with previous pregnancies is usually treated with home remedies for crazy reasons: taking the wife to the doctor is the mother-in-law's or the husband's call to make; money; and fear that the treatment may be more harmful than the ailment.Inadequate prenatal care, delivery in unsafe conditions with inadequate facilities, and insufficient postnatal care-a woman in a rural area has to literally negotiate a land-mine zone to deliver a baby and live to tell about it.

Literacy wise,this is what census has to say-
  • According to census held in 2001, the percentage of female literacy in the country is 54%.
  • The literacy rate in the country has increased from 18% in 1951 to 65% as per 2001 census. 
  • The female literacy rate has also increased from 8% in 1951 to 54%.
Despite these improvements,India still has the largest population of non-school-going working girls.Sixty-one percent of girls are not enrolled in school. Of those who are enrolled, 59 percent drop out before completing grade five.Sad, but true. Compared to a male literacy rate of 82%, the female one cuts a sorry figure at 65%.

Sad,but true.

Male violence against women is a timeless,global phenomenon. Fear of violence is a pervasive factor in the lives of most women. It spreads its ugly tentacles into almost every sphere of activity related to them. Fear of violence is a cause of women’s lack of participation in activities beyond the home, as well as inside it.In India, the problem of violence against women is a result of a long standing power imbalance between men and women. Men have control over access to property and resources. All these lay a fertile soil for female exploitation–physically, mentally, and commercially. Within the home, women and girls may be subjected to physical and sexual abuse as punishment or as culturally justified assaults. These acts shape their attitude to life, and their expectations of themselves.
In recent years, there has been an alarming rise in atrocities against women in India.
  • Every 26 minutes a woman is molested.
  • Every 34 minutes a rape takes place. 
  • And every 93 minutes a woman is burnt to death over dowry.
  • In Delhi in 2007, there were 587 reported cases of rape. 
  • Of the people arrested in rape cases, 340 were neighbors, 94 were friends and 62 were relatives. Only in ten cases, the accused were strangers.
  • One-quarter of the reported rapes involve girls under the age of 16 but the vast majority are never reported. Although the penalty is severe, convictions are rare.
Female infanticide is quite common in Haryana and Punjab because there is a preference for sons because male children carry on the family lineage. The education of sons is also considered much more important. In these two states, the sex ratio is lower than the national average.Punjab scores a measly 893 and Haryana a measlier 877,compared to the national score of 940.

The Indian Woman has to contend with child marriage,dowry,the stigma associated with divorce,and her rights to inheritance are screwed by society in a lot of instances.In the recent past, India’s abysmal gender inequality statistics seem to have taken a turn for the worse. New data shows the country's Gender Inequality Index (GII) worsened between 2008 and 2011, and India now ranks 129 out of 146 countries on the GII, better only than Afghanistan in south Asia.

Evidently,economic independence is one of the most crucial factors contributing to female empowerment.In a country like ours,stregthening women is a gradual and intricate process.It is hard,I am not denying that there are major obstacles to surmount here.A lot of beliefs and perceptions have to be changed. From ancient eras, it has been culturally infused into the minds of the people that women are inferior to men. It is not easy to change the stubborn attitude of the people. In rural India, women have inadequate access to education, health facilities, healthy diet etc.
Thankfully,there are positive trends.In India gradually the percentage of working women is rising. They are slowly extricating themselves from the quagmire of being labelled as a financial liability.
Entrepreneurship and self-employment are other things which can be considered for women emancipation.Entrepreneur women can positively contribute to attain the goal of women empowerment.It offers a lot of benefits-flexibility to play with your own resources,the liberty to frame your own decisions and most importantly,the scope to provide job opportunities for many other deserving women.I cannot stress this enough,because let's face it-India doesn't really afford too many employment opportunities.Self-employment can go a long way in alleviating that issue.
Small-scale industries are another option worth looking at.The small-scale industries sector plays a vital role in the growth of the country. It contributes almost 40% of the gross industrial value added in the Indian economy.It has been estimated that 100,000 rupees of investment in fixed assets in the small-scale sector generates employment for four persons. women can be given training in a specific field like making homemade papads or pickles, handicrafts and many such things and can start their own small enterprise.

Of course,it would be highly unfair to the government,if I say that nothing has been done to improve the lot of women in our country.Laws have been enacted to protect married women,to prevent child marriage,to prevent bigamy,to punish men for domestic violence,and the government has also enacted several welfare schemes for women.But there is a dire need for more mobilization of resources to protect the interests of women.We don't live in a perfect world.A solution to a problem often gives rise to several new problems.But we have to hold on and keep trying.The ideals of liberty and freedom will be doomed if we don't.

P.S.I would like to convey my appreciation for the gesture Stayfree India is undertaking in its efforts to promote ideas for a better ,"irritation" free world.For details,please visit this link:http://facebook.com/sftimetochange
I always held an admiration for the way the Stayfree brand has upheld the rights and liberties of a woman to seek and pursue her well-being and personal welfare.This post is meant to be an entry for the Indiblogger contest organised by Stayfree India.For more details,please visit this link:IndiBlogger StayFree Contest.


Reactions:

9 comments:

  1. Heck lot of information!
    A change lots of us want to see and we keep waiting eagerly but seldom do we know, what to do about the same.
    Nicely put up.
    All the best for the contest and lot more wishes for the cause.
    High time we realize.
    I feel glad when the post is written itself by a guy at the other side!
    Best of luck, again:)

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  2. ok..now that was an extremelyyy well researched post! yes, we are trying but this is just a beginning and the road is sooo long. plus, the hurdles of our own minds and barriers around make it quite a difficult task.
    Women need upliftment and people should realize it at any cost. good luck for the contest:)

    sarah

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  3. Very very informative! I knew last night this was going to be your next post!! :D

    You've not only given a new look to your blog, but also to the theme of it! Liked it! :)

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  4. This is a a horribly heavy read and being honest, I skimmed through most of it, but honestly, things like Dharmashastra can go for a toss in the waste bin. They don't let a woman be fucking independent IN THIS CENTURY when they talk of liberalization et al with so much gutso? You know what, I read a report of Americans where men advocating rights of women had been caught in cases of infidelity, rape, domestic violence and some of which they were still involved in. Fuck the hypocrisy, man :S And when you talk of hypocrisy, ofcourse our dear pyaara India cannot be forgotten. :S
    This is statistically amazing. I'm stealing most of it for my prospective debates :)

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  5. @Kinara I ain't winning any competition..That's for sure..Serendipity will win it...THanks anyways..

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  6. @Sarah Thanks for your wishes..I read your post too..I appreciate your initiatives...Well done...:-)

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  7. A new theme, aha? I like it :D Do you plan on becoming some racer or something now or what? :P

    It's sad. Women are discriminated. And the place is not safe for them. This topic will go on forever!
    You're good when it comes upto describing women, writing about them :D I've told this to you before, eh?

    Great post !

    ReplyDelete