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Discrimination from cradle to grave

Updated on June 13, 2015

Gender discrimination and violence against women are global phenomena as old as human history. Women's rights are the freedom and entitlement of women of human rights without discrimination or violation. Women's rights are rights inherent in nature and guaranteed by law. Therefore gender discrimination is contrary to fundamental human rights, equity, natural justice and good governance. Gender discrimination is not biologically determined but it is determined socially and the discrimination can be changed by the proper and perpetuate efforts. Denial of equality, rights and opportunity and suppress in any form on the basis of gender is gender discrimination

  • Sex selective abortion

Sons carry on the family name. They are also charged with the task of supporting their parents in old age. Parents live as extended families with their sons, daughter-in-laws, and grandchildren. Daughters, on the other hand, become part of their husband’s family after marriage. Identification of a woman is generally defined by her role within the family. She is identified as a daughter, daughter in law, mother, mother in law, wife etc and not as a person. Often the mother-in-laws, having been gone through the same discrimination and treatment by their in-laws, follow the same on their daughter-in-laws; thereby making them subject to dowry, violence, harassments etc. The distribution of work-roles in our families is based on sex called gender division of labour. While a woman’s place is primarily within the home and hence private, a man’s place of activity is mainly outside the home and hence public. The family is thus the first foundation of discrimination.

  • Female foeticide

Although sex selective abortion is a fairly recent phenomenon, its roots can be traced back to the age old practice of female foeticide. The institution of female foeticide arose due to deplorable situation of women in society, dowry system, hyper-gamy and sense of honour and pride. It is in the family that daughters and sons are socialized for playing unlike roles in the society. The allocation of role is not based on capability but on sex. Such a prototype of preparing daughters and sons for playing unlike roles is identified as gender-biased socialization. The problems of gender discrimination can be overcome only when the mind sets of the people starting from the grass root levels are improved. Only when the importance of girl-child, daughters, wives, mothers, and most significantly women are understood only then discrimination can be removed. According to some estimates, women represent 70 percent of the world’s poor.

  • Dowry

In developing countries, the birth of a girl causes great upheaval for poor families. When there is barely enough food to survive, any child puts a strain on a family's resources. But the monetary drain of a daughter feels even more severe, especially in regions where dowry is practiced. Dowry is goods and money a bride's family pays to the husband's family. Originally intended to help with marriage expenses, dowry came to be seen as payment to the groom's family for taking on the burden of another woman. In some countries, dowries are extravagant, costing years' worth of wages, and often throwing a woman's family into debt. The dowry practice makes the prospect of having a girl even more distasteful to poor families. It also puts young women in danger: A new bride is at the mercy of her in-laws. Gender discrimination is as old as humankind, and is part of many religious and cultural traditions. The Bible describes how God made the woman out of the man and charged her to always be submissive to the husband.

  • Domestic work, sexual harassment and violence

Like male or even above them female plays important role in the family and national development. But her contribution is not recognized by the male dominant society. Violence against women is the biggest human rights scandal of all time. Much of the violence and crime against women are rooted in the patriarchal society prevalent in the country. The cycle of violence won't be broken till violence against women is not punished. ‘While all men are not responsible for violence against women, all men must take responsibility to end it. Sexual Harassment is violation of one’s freedom and personal integrity. It can ruin a victim’s life. Historically, sexual harassment is seen as being perpetuated by men in possession of power (physical, political, and economic) against the women. It is seen as an outcome of a men dominating society. A nation has to ensure that women are valued and sheltered if the nation needs to flourish.

  • Trafficking

The illegal status of children trafficked across national borders and children of illegal migrants makes them more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, especially since they cannot attend school. Children of migrants, refugees, the internally displaced, asylum seekers and minority groups are not only more likely to be working. Where such vulnerable children work and their national counterparts do not, they are likely to receive discrimination in that country due to their lack of rights and skills compared to nationals, and have fewer chances as adults. What is to be ascertained is that Gender parity cannot be achieved only through assenting actions, until there is foremost transformation in both social notes and institutions. Women are the cornerstone of the family. Transforming the existing social discrimination adjacent to women must become apex priority and ought to happen concurrently with amplified direct action to swiftly perk up the social and economic status of women.

  • Occupational aspirations

The process of child socialization encourages girls and boys to internalize sex-typed expectations of others, which in turn shapes their occupational aspirations and preferences. Girls and boys are subject to differential gender socialization form birth. Boys tend to work more in environments away from parental control, or in jobs that are associated with men’s work, such as work outdoors or physical labour. Girls on the other hand tend to work in the domestic sphere, in what are perceived to be protected environments in or near the home, or in jobs that are associated with women’s roles, such as work demanding patience or attention to detail. These include domestic service, home-based manufacturing, family based agriculture and garment work. . If we eradicate gender discrimination, women will deliver all the potentials, skills, knowledge to develop the family, the nation and the whole world. Discrimination against women is deeply rooted in our society.

  • Religious beliefs, customs, and traditions:

The Bible describes how God made the woman out of the man and charged her to always be submissive to the husband. Hindu scriptures goes to the extent of describing a good wife as "a woman whose mind, speech, and body are kept in subjection, acquires high renown in this world, and, in the next, the same abode with her husband. Struggle for new laws, and its implementation is only made when these laws are made according to the customs. Religious laws and traditions still determine the lives of many people, particularly women. Even if women are formerly entitled to own land and resources, social and religious factors make many women refrain from this right in order not to cause distortions within the family. The preference for having sons permeates all social classes in India, which sets the standard for girls throughout their entire lives.

  • Low income, illiteracy and unemployment:

Gender discrimination is a persistent feature of all modern societies. Social scientists identify two types of sex segregation in the workplace – horizontal and vertical. Horizontal segregation represents the separation of women into non manual labour and men into manual labour sectors. Vertical segregation identifies the situation in which men are elevated into the best paid jobs and most desirable occupations in non-manual and manual labour sectors whereas women remain in lower paid positions with no job mobility. Women face persistent discrimination when they apply for credit for business or self-employment and are often determined as insecure, unsafe and low-wage work. The International Labour Organization estimates that the economic downturn could lead to 22 million more unemployed women in 2009, jeopardizing the gains made in the last few decades in women’s empowerment. All human beings, male and female, are born into a free world, and are expected to participate of freely, without any inhibition on grounds of sex.

  • Women empowerment

The way out of gender discrimination is women's empowerment. This involves the strengthening of the individual and collective abilities of women for positive action. Women's empowerment will lead to a balanced partnership of both sexes. This would involve the generation of awareness on the fallacies of gender stereotypes and the raising of consciousness against gender biases as acts of injustice. It can be done through all the agents of socialization starting from the family to the community, schools, churches, libraries, and government. In cardinal goals of democracy “of the people, by the people and for the people” cannot be accomplished if the female population remains out of political empowerment. Empowering women is the basic to the basics of human rights where she wants neither to beg for power nor search for power hierarchy to exercise power against others. On the contrary she demands to be accepted as human first of all; where she as a person in command of herself and for that necessarily all the resources physical, social, economical, political, cultural and spiritual to be equally accessible to her, are prerequisites for considering the whole question of empowerment.

  • Access to resources

The slogan “Women’s Rights are Human Rights” adopted at the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna in 1993 and the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women by the General Assembly the same year further demonstrate the increasing awareness and the attention being paid to the respect of the right of women. It is pertinent and timely to identify that the values placed on women and the girl child by the society has overbearing impact on their life and the human development. Women’s rights around the world are important indicators to understand global well-being. This ignorance makes it impossible for them to question the rationality of these beliefs and practices and consciously and unconsciously they endorse their perpetuation and ultimately the infringement of their economic and social and cultural rights. Any form of societal discrimination on ground of sex is antithesis to a society. Women’s representation in public life is very low. They continue to bear the major load of the household work. Her primary role is often viewed by the society as housewife. A nation or society, devoid of the participation of women cannot develop.

© 2015 Akshay Singh

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