Sexism in India Term Paper
India is one of the world’s prominent economic hubs. The country has abundant resources and great potential of prosperity for her citizenry. Unfortunately, it happens to be lowly ranked in the empowerment of women as observed in its employment and educational data among others. Moreover, the trend does not seem to be improving. The number of women joining educational institutions and India’s workforce does not appear to increase like in other developed economies. Even those who have university degrees find it challenging to acquire employment. In India, the girl child does not have a strong voice as compared to their male counterparts. The burden of being a woman in India has been around for some time now. The situation is dire such that economic inequalities exist, and it calls for a thorough investigation.
This paper seeks to examine these disparities, focusing on women’s labor participation and wages, access to credit, and property rights in comparison to the males. It also assesses the current occupational inequalities and provides insights on entrepreneurship, education, and the scientific profession. Furthermore, the discussion explores the educational, health, and survival inequalities as well as the reasons contributing to the situation. Undoubtedly, the sexist attitude has contributed immensely to the gender inequalities dominant in the Indian society. Therefore, a paradigm shift is necessary to shape perceptions, inform, educate, enlighten, and warn to expose the disproportions and realize a sustainably equal society where both Indian men and women have opportunities and compete fairly and favorably for them.
In November 2016, India was ranked the second most unequal country in the world. The disparity in the distribution of wealth among the Indian population is phenomenal. The economic inequalities affect the areas of labor participation and wages, access to credit, and property rights.
Labor Participation and Wages. Women do not have similar opportunities as men. Even after completing their higher education, the Indian women are not assured of jobs. When they get such jobs, their wages are not comparable to those of the male counterparts. They earn 20% less what the men receive and it is clear that gender plays a fundamental role in determining the wages (The Economic Times). According to The Economic Times, the Indian men had a median gross salary of Rs 231 per hour compared to the women whose hourly median gross was Rs. 184.8. These figures represented a substantial gender gap of 20%. The pay gap even widens as one grows in their career and gains more experience and years of employment. The employed female Indians, therefore, have to do similar jobs as men with comparable qualifications, knowledge, and skills but get paid much less than what the men get. On a positive note, however, the labor participation of women has been steadily increasing since the 1990s (Dutta and Mandal 23). There is hope that the situation will one day get better for women. Nevertheless, most of the women workers still work in agricultural farms with poor working conditions and their circumstances remain dire.
Access to Credit. Significant inequalities in access to credit facilities seem to persist in India. Notably, the legal framework is favorable for women to apply for credit facilities from banks and microfinance institutions. However, due to their low purchasing power and low wages for the few who are lucky to get jobs, women usually lack the required collaterals for loans. Also, their property ownership capacity is low, and banks do not give grants. They want to be sure that an individual can repay the loan before issuing the credit facility. They conduct thorough scrutiny to assess one’s eligibility for the credit. Sadly, for most Indian women, they cannot meet the requirements and standards set by the banks (Dutta and Mandal 24). On the other hand, men have these opportunities effortlessly. They have adequate financial capabilities to assure the financial institutions of their creditworthiness.
Property Rights. Under the Indian legal framework, the women have equal rights to own property. They are also granted inheritance rights similar to the men. Despite these responsive and good laws, the practice is different as they only have these rights on paper. They are severely disadvantaged as men own approximately 70% of the Indian land (Dutta and Mandal 23). Women are also not keen about seeking legal protection on the ownership of property. The 2005 Hindu Succession Act, which allowed females to inherit ancestral lands in equal proportions with men, has not been faithfully enforced. The situation is even worse in Northern India where the men hardly allow the females to make use of the laws to own land. Additionally, property ownership is closely linked to the individuals’ purchasing power especially the acquired property (Dutta and Mandal 23). Women generally have low purchasing power due to low wages and poor labor participation. Therefore, they cannot match men in the ownership of property.
Occupational inequality refers to unequal workplace treatment of individuals by sexuality, gender, weight, race, accent, and ethnicity. This paper’s focus is on gender-based occupational inequality. The treatment that women are accorded in different places of work in India is entirely different from men. Men command more respect and have higher positions compared to women in many Indian organizations. In this study, the occupational inequalities are viewed from the perspectives of entrepreneurship, teaching, and scientific professions.
Entrepreneurship. Despite the many attempts and changes in legislation to encourage women to participate in businesses and enhance their entrepreneurial skills and abilities, great disparities remain. Women account for less than 10% of business owners in India (Dutta and Mandal 22). Men own the vast majority of businesses. Women have entrepreneurial minds just like men, and they have a lot of untapped potentials and knowledge in business. However, the prevailing circumstances do not allow them to try new things. They have not put much of their creativity and innovativeness to use. The dominant Indian culture is receptive to men’s power of innovation and imagination. Men are perceived to have a monopoly over business ideas. Also, many women may have brilliant and excellent business ideas. However, they lack the required capital to start businesses. They are often demoralized and do not have the required motivation to apply their innovative ideas and entrepreneurial skills.
Approximately half of India’s population consists of females, but just about 7% of them consider entrepreneurship as an occupation (Das et al. 43). The lack of adequate access to the credit facilities is one of the major barriers to women’s ability to start businesses. Additionally, most Indian women lack the legally accepted designated spaces for business. They are vulnerable to gender-based violence with most of the rape and defilement victims being women and young boys (Das et al. 43). These situations are mainly attributed to their physical disadvantages compared to the men. Some of the businesses in India also require intense physical activity, thereby discouraging women’s participation. Another significant factor leading to low women’s entrepreneurial capacity is the role specialization between men and women. Traditionally, women were expected to perform light duties such as selling flowers and fruits at the Indian temples. They were also supposed to take care of their homes and children thus the childbearing responsibility was another burden for them. Consequently, their career development and entrepreneurial ventures have been limited.
Teaching. The progress that the Indian women have made in their contribution to the teaching profession is immense. In the mid-20th century, the teaching profession had only 25% of women while the rest were males. In 2008, more than 40% of the teachers were females. Female teachers also had low educational qualifications in comparison to the male counterparts (Das et al. 43). A significant number of them are trained teachers who have the requisite knowledge and skills having studied and built their educational careers over time. The experiences of female teachers at their various places of work are different from men’s. Since most Indian female teachers have some other duties including bringing up their kids and ensuring a comfortable environment for their husbands, they sometimes find it challenging to balance between work and domestic duties. While at their workstations, men still hold much of the managerial responsibilities. Many heads of schools and colleges are men despite the significant efforts made by the female teachers.
Female teachers sometimes lack the required opportunities for professional development as compared to the males. Therefore, they often stagnate in their positions for a long time. It is always prudent to improve the teacher’s knowledge and skills by offering life-long learning and development opportunities. The female Indian teachers do not have such prospects. They do not have their tuition fees and related expenses reimbursed. These factors may lead to low morale on their part. Indian female teachers are likely to embrace professional growth and development eagerly if assured of reimbursement of expenses incurred while at the higher learning institutions. Another issue facing female teachers at work is their safety. In some instances, they do not feel safe and secure enough. Rape cases have been reported in some schools where, for some, female teachers are the victims. In other cases, they face disrespect and disdain from male teachers and students. Some schools do not have the resource officers to provide teachers with adequate protection as they undertake their duties. The female teachers frequently suffer the most when the schools are attacked by malicious individuals who may rape and leave them helpless and disadvantaged.
Scientific Professions. There exists a significant disparity between men and women pursuing and working in scientific professions. There are generally more men in the technical disciplines compared to the females. A myriad of factors may have contributed to this situation. For far too long, women have faced severe discrimination in the field of science. While the situation is improving, the women’s participation in science and technology remains low in India. Even those who have landed lucrative opportunities in such scientific institutions face discriminations from the males. The hiring practices in the scientific fields are the greatest undoing to the female folks. The technical fields are traditionally male-dominated, leaving women with little or no spaces. Interview committees, during hiring, are not impartial since they get to the panel with discriminatory attitudes against candidates based on their gender. These practices are generally in favor of men, leaving the females with no choice other than abandoning their ambitions to pursue science and technology.
Few Indian women have weathered the storm to become engineers, doctors, architects, and pilots among other technical professionals. Many of them are perceived to have the low technical capacity to handle the pressure that comes with science-related fields. The circumstances are so dire that some women even believe that it is impossible for them to compete favorably with their male counterparts. It is no wonder that men have made many scientific inventions. More so, men have made most of the scientific breakthroughs in medicine. However, this does not imply that women have average or lower brain capacity than men. The difference arises from the sexist attitudes that the Indian society has had about its girls from a tender age. The girls grow up believing that they are less capable than men and thus find it difficult to compete honestly.
The Indian women face severe inequities in education. Girls do not have as many educational opportunities as the boys. Of interest to this discussion are schooling and secondary education and how the Indian woman faces discrimination in these spheres.
Schooling. Similar to many British colonies, the education system in India was derived from the British after its independence in 1947. The system afforded the people education from an early age where they would start with primary education, moving into secondary education, and finally attending university. Unfortunately, it was marred by discrimination of the learners based on, not only one’s gender but also their religion and caste. Therefore, the National Policy on Education (NPE) in the country sought to address the issue. The NPE has since then implemented reforms twice. The first was in 1986 and later in 1992, which they referred to as the Program of Action (Das et al. 71). In the reforms, the emphasis was on the need for equality for all that wanted to obtain education regardless of their social backgrounds or gender.
When the country gained its independence, the illiteracy rate was high and was estimated at eighty-five percent. However, this has since improved as the increased number of people enrolled soon after independence. Throughout the years, fewer girls than boys have registered in the learning institutions, and most end up dropping out for different reasons. The drop rate before the end of primary education completion was observed to be higher among girls. Following a Census conducted in 2001, the literacy percentage of the males was at eighty-two percent compared to that of the females which was at sixty-five percent (Lalhriatpuii 17). This number reflects such a significant margin.
The government has then embarked on finding ways of improving the general enrollment rates of children to schools in a bid to reduce the level of illiteracy in the country. By 2001, there had been an increase of up to sixty-five percent and this has been a great achievement and the progress has continued over the years (Lalhriatpuii 17). Even though this percentage shows a significant decrease in the illiteracy rates in the country, challenges on the value of education for girls and boys persist. In most cases, while the boys are sent away to the best private schools that the parents can afford for good education, the girls are sent to public schools near their village. Also, various observers have seen there is a substantial difference between children from affluent and low-income families. Therefore, whereas considerable progress has been made in the past decades, the country still struggles with the diverse educational opportunities between girls and boys among others.
Secondary Education. While the National Policy of Education has declared equal education for all, this equity is yet to be achieved, especially for the young Indian girls. Often, the girls find themselves incapable of achieving the higher levels of education that they sometimes dream of. This status is particularly common among the girls who come from underprivileged families. Most of their lives are spent in the traditional home attending to duties assigned to them as a result of their gender. The lives of the girls have been stereotypically adopted in a way that steers them away from being better people in the society as compared to their male counterparts (Lalhriatpuii 17). According to a recent study, out of the total percentage of the drop-outs from secondary schools, the highest number was the girls. Many of them left school to be married as, at that age, they were considered ripe to be with husbands.
Inequalities in the education sector are majorly attributed to this concept of sexism that has been part of the Indian society for many decades. As with many ideas that people grow up with, sexism and its stereotypical gender roles are deeply entrenched in the minds of the Indians. The young girls and boys are constantly reminded of their various roles in the community and, as they grow up, these become deeply ingrained in their subconscious mind. Consequently, young girls grow up believing that their place is solely in the house, taking care of the husbands and children.
Health and Survival Inequalities
Sex-selective Abortion. The practice of sex-selective abortion is considered a common practice in India. In many occasions, the pregnancy is terminated when the unborn baby is determined to be a girl because boys are preferred to girls. Unlike in many other countries, in India, girls are required to pay a dowry to the man. The practice usually has enormous financial implications for the girls’ families. It is one reason among the many others that girls’ fetuses have been increasingly terminated. In the last past two decades, an equivalent to ten million female children have been aborted and thus denied an opportunity to live. Therefore, the implications are that this primitive act of sex-selective abortion has tremendously impacted the population of females. Reports also have it that this practice is most prevalent among women who come from poverty-stricken communities (Lalhriatpuii 19). In many instances, the abortion is carried out without the consent of the woman. The women are then left with no other option but to do as told since they might not be capable of caring for the child themselves. Also, the sex-selective abortion is done usually after the firstborn is a girl. Even though the practice has been forbidden and was officially outlawed in 1994, people still engage in the act illegally. The government needs to create more awareness to ensure people stop this system to ensure that girls get a proper education as an appropriate measure to curb this outdated custom.
Health. Sexism also has various impacts on the health of women in India. The ability of women to access proper healthcare is restricted as compared to the males. The limitations in accessing healthcare among women are because, for instance, traditionally women are prohibited from going to hospitals by themselves. Also, due to their low status in the community and compared to their husbands, they cannot prevent themselves from contracting sexually transmitted diseases like HIV if the husband is unfaithful (Sarkar 27). It is unimaginable for the women to discuss such issues of safe sex with their husbands. The situation has caused frustrations among the women. Hence, it is no surprise that some studies have observed that the suicide rate is relatively high among women in some parts of the country.
Gender-based Violence. Violence against women is a problem that is witnessed in many countries all over the world and India is no exception. The most common has been domestic violence where women are physically harmed, harassed, and mistreated in their homes. The violence is also psychological, and while physical violence is evident, the psychological aggression is equally severe and impactful as it can and often leads to dire effects such as death.
The long tradition of discrimination against women by men that commonly emerges in the form of patriarchy is among the reasons that violence is meted against girls and women by their male partners. Consequently, women are seen as tools for men to use for their pleasure, which has led to many women and girls becoming victims of rape as they are sexually humiliated and exploited by the men. This condition is demonstrated by the increased reports on the rape of women as well as brutal murders usually carried out at home. True indicates that even law enforcement personnel who are meant to protect all citizens have been perpetrators of rape as witnessed in southern India after the 2004 Tsunami (171). The dowry system in which the women are accorded the task of paying the dowry to the man has also escalated the violence against women (Vlassoff 56). The system has further made it harder for the practice to end, thwarting the efforts being applied to arrest this challenge. It lowers the dignity of women in their eyes and those of men, undermining their self-esteem. These issues of gender-based violence largely influence the nation’s ability to progress socially, economically, and politically.
Reasons for Gender Inequality
Gender inequality is indeed a global issue as it is witnessed among almost all societies. It refers to the biased treatment of individuals by being male or female. In recent times, gender inequality has mainly involved mistreating women in the society while esteeming the males. It has its origins in the story of the evolution of the human society, and that has been perpetuated since then. It is mainly related to the concepts of gender which imply the behaviors that are socially learned by individuals as they grow up. These behaviors are linked to the sex of the individual, which is a biological difference of being either female or male (Roett, Paz, and Kahn 19). They then culminate in what is referred to as gender roles. Since the roles depend on one’s biological sex, the individuals are usually assigned these roles soon as they are born. Each group is socialized into their roles from an early age by family as well as the larger society.
Often, the gender roles are assigned with some attitude attached to them which then lead to gender inequalities between the women and men in the society. Even though the gender roles often vary from one society to another, discrimination against women is observed in almost all the societies. The inequality is seen in issues of power, prestige, and even status between the men and women. The impacts of gender inequality are not only present in the domestic space but also in public such as in the workplace among many others.
Patriarchal Society. In India, gender inequality has its roots deeply entrenched in the people’s traditional ways of life. Therefore, patriarchy is one of the practices that has promoted inequality of the sexes. The patriarchal structure has encouraged the domination and exploitation of the women by men. The inequity is because it considers men as the custodians of power and authority in the society while the women are subjugated. Religion has been used as an excuse to support this unfair act of oppression against the women. As a result, women often find themselves powerless, with no room to express their opinions and concerns. Their viewpoints are considered insignificant, both at home and at the workplace (Blau et al.). In India, this has led to high illiteracy among the women as parents do not consider it worthwhile to spend their resources on educating the women. Instead, the men are taken to good schools as they are regarded highly. In India, this is also observed when the dowry is paid to the man’s family, as the family of the girl then gives away their wealth.
Son Preference. As reiterated in the discussion, the male children are preferred to the female in the Indian community. Considering the roles given to the males by the society, the males would be of more significance to the family than the female (Vlassoff 45). They are meant to inherit their fathers’ property, and they receive dowry in the marriage from the girls’ family.
Discrimination against Females. The rate at which the female fetuses are selectively aborted is proof of the rampant discrimination against girls. The parents immediately viewed those who are lucky to see the light of day as a burden to the family. She is usually treated as a lesser being compared to the boys in the same family. The girls are not even fed well, a situation that becomes worse in families where food is a scarce commodity. In such cases, the boys are adequately fed as the girls languish in malnutrition. Generally, the health of the girls is not taken seriously. Additionally, they are mostly not allowed to go to school. As soon as they become teenagers, they are married off at an early age (Hong 36). The discrimination then continues into a marriage where there are a set of expectations for the woman. The women are supposed to give birth to boys while their place remains in the kitchen, cooking and washing dishes as they care for the husband and children. Even when they are fortunate enough to acquire education, they remain inferior to the men. Therefore, attempts to solve this issue have borne little fruits if any.
The Indian woman has had a rough journey in her search for equality. She has found it difficult to compete fairly with the men. The sexist attitudes in the Indian culture are deep-rooted and, for a long time, the girls have been considered as second-class citizens with different opportunities from the men. While improvements have been made and the girl now has a voice, she remains a silent being in the management of the country’s affairs. She may have found a voice, but it is not loud enough to give her enough space to assert her views and make her presence felt. In different spheres of life, the girl child still faces extensive discrimination. In the workforce, education, science, technology, leadership, and management of the country’s affairs and many other disciplines, women remain inferior. The Indian society has been mostly patriarchal, making it difficult for the women to participate in many issues of nation-building. Regrettably, they have even come to believe that they are unequal to their male counterparts. These inequalities should be addressed to create a society that recognizes the efforts of women and welcomes their contributions. The society’s perceptions of the women should change to be more accommodative and responsive.
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