Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Friday, January 17th, 2020

Status of Gender Equality in Present Context


Status of Gender Equality in Present Context

Traditionally, the expected role performance of the female places them in a secondary position in the social structure and in the minds of men and women alike. All institutions–social, economic, political, religious and ideological have been dominated by men. Despite legislative steps prejudices, traditional attitudes and practices continue to perpetrate discrimination against women and actually no country in the world can claim to have fully achieved gender equality. Significantly enough national efforts and international movement got momentum in previous decades and agencies have started adopting measures for integrating women into the development process. The present position is a step forward but far from satisfactory or set goals in this sphere.
Basics of the concept
The term ‘Gender’ arose as an analytical tool for analysing the inequalities between the sexes due to the patriarchal institutional structures. It started with assessing gender role and gender analysis, gender needs, gender interests and perspectives. At present the entire world community and the developing nations like India in particular, is focussing its attention as matters relating to gender discrimination which led to societal imbalances. The realisation of the necessity of bringing to the limelight the issues of gender, gender equality, gender inequality has been primarily due to the fact that women constitute one of the crucial segments of the human population and it is widely accepted that without the active participation of women all developmental programmes remain fruitless. Women’s special status and women’s debilitated status stem from a common ideology, from a belief in an essentialist, biological and psychological incapacity which spans not only assessment of physical capability but also mental capacity.  Be they philosophers, religious preachers, political leaders, social reformers or scientists, they all justified inferior status of women in society. The natural differentiation between man and woman does not imply inequalities. Yet, natural and social differentiations have been manipulated through creation of systems of stratification and pattern of inequality.
Effects of social conditions
The notion of society in this regard needs to be understood in terms of social conditions which specified the women to particular types of works and assigns that provided them lower status than that of men. Her lower status in comparison to men is generally irrationally legitimatised on the basis of her child–bearing capacity, distinct physical attributes and a built which is shorter in height than man and in certain sense her vulnerability. In fact the social structure was itself so arranged and patterned that its consequences led to inequality between genders. In a patriarchal society, the institutional patterns of residence, inheritance and lineage, patrilocal, patrilineal and patriarchal family structure, all represent and justify inequality between genders. There is a direct relationship between marital residence and male dominance. Researches reveal that non – male based residence gives women more freedom of choice in mate selection, more protection from a potentially abusive husband and more freedom to end an unsatisfactory marriage. Altogether economic, legal, social and cultural beliefs generated a social definition and self image of women in a society.
Apart from these, religion as an institution, has been one of the most pervasive and persistent factor in defining women’s role and her status. Ruether identifies religion as ‘Undoubtedly, the single most important shaper and enforcer of the image and role of women in society. The transcendental source–which is omnipotent and sacred–acquires extremely powerful instrumentality of legitimacy for various pronouncements affecting the status of women directly and indirectly. In behavioural and institutional forms, it governs the entire life cycle and every day life of women in most of the societies.’ Likewise, in monotheistic religions, a woman can never have her full sexual identity affirmed as being in the image and likeness of God, whereas this experience is freely available to every man in the existing culture. The overall milieu of values creates conditions in which women work, behave and live in a particular way and it also creates a psyche and self–image which leads to development of self–perceived as inferior to men. Further it leads to formation of belief systems regarding women and also assigns them specific roles and defines the code of their behaviour pattern both within family and outside.   
Inequality as a social curse
Basically, the gender inequality itself existed in the structure of division of work into public and private domains which leads to: I. Non–recognition of the work related to women in family–child–rearing and other domestic functioning. II. Certain economic activities undertaken by her in fields, economic activities related to handicraft etc; are not recognised as her economic contribution both by the society and for a long time by planners and officials. III. Creation of such values and institutions which make her work within family and deprive her of all such activities which are outside home and socially recognised. Commonly there are two distinct features of gender role of women. First, her role as a woman and second her status as a woman and unfortunately women suffer from dual deprivations: one that of being a woman and the other, of being a woman of a lower caste or class. Thus, women are never viewed as persons on their own rights. Moreover women don’t view themselves as autonomous being due to their cultural socialisation. Because of their marginalisation in society women hardly exist as a public phenomenon.
The issue of gender equality is closely related to law, equality and justice and its denial has led discrimination of women in almost all fields of human activity. Social equality and social justice is one of the most prized ideals of contemporary society but social inequality and injustice has been a feature of every known society – past and present. Different forms of atrocities are linked to one another and are manifestations of gender ideology. ‘The world which has always belonged to the men is still in their hands, the institutions and the values of the patriarchal civilization still survive in larger part.  In the  circumstances the status and role of women and related issues, have attracted the attention of the academicians, political thinkers and social scientists both in developing as well as developed countries, because of the widely accepted truth that a society built on the inequality of men and women involves wastage of human resources which no country can afford. It is unanimously accepted fact that gender equality could be realised only by making women economically, socially and politically empowered.

Dr. Rajkumar Singh is Professor and Head of P.G.Department of Political Science, BNMU, West Campus, P.G. Centre, Saharsa-852201. Bihar, India. Email- rajkumarsinghpg@yahoo.com

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