We live in a country where people worship our Goddesses for the three most essential things in life i.e. Goddess Saraswati for Wisdom, Godess Laxmi for Money and Goddess Shakti for Strength. Ironically though, when the time comes to empower women in life or just give them the opportunity to achieve all of this on their own, people tend to take a step back. And when I say people, I mean men AND women themselves.
Women have been on the receiving end of continuous sexism and misogyny since ages. It's been only over 35 years since the concept of Women Empowerment was introduced to the world in 1985. After all these years of being treated like second class citizens, women were finally deemed worthy of having equal rights. However, it would be unfair to say that India was alien to the concept of women empowerment before 1985 as we found our first woman educator in the form of Savitribai Phule much back in 1848. She along with her husband Jyotirao Phule fought incessantly for the rights of women in India. India also elected its First Woman Prime Minister in the year 1966, which was much prior to the movement and still very early in the years of independence. This really seems like an achievement in itself as the most developed countries like USA are yet to elect a woman as their President. They chose Trump over Hillary Clinton. It can’t get more sexist than this!
All of this gives us immense hope about the future of women in our country, but still, there are things that we need to address right away.
Women make over 48% of the population in India but amongst them, the women seeking work to achieve financial independence is just 21%, much lower than the global average of 47%.
The Government has taken various measures and introduced different schemes like Beti Bachao Beti Padhao for the empowerement of women in India but their condition continues to look fragile and fraught. The under representation of women across all sectors is a cause of concern for the country especially when concepts like feminism are looked down upon in effect of being anti men. Toxic masculinity is fine by them but feminism is anti men.
Most men claim that women have an unfair advantage in everything just because they are women. They think women get things easy be it a relationship or a job. So, let's see how easy it gets for a woman seeking a government job.
Starting with the positions in highest order, let's talk about the representation of women in Judiciary.
Our country has only one female judge in the Supreme Court currently, i.e Justice Indira Banerjee out of 34 judges in total. There has never been a Woman Chief Justice of India. And the number in High Courts is also too less to save face. Out of 1079 Judges, the number of women is just 82 which makes less than 8%. Now this is unfair as you keep calling women judgmental all the time and when they want their skills to be put into use, you deny that too?
Well, as we move on to the representation of women in Parliament, there's a significant increase as compared to the Judiciary but in general, the situation isn't just below par but simply disappointing. We have only 14.3% of women in the Lok Sabha. Imagine, only 14.3% women representing 48% of the population in front of 85.7% men. The number in Rajya Sabha is even worse with just 10% women leaders. Another point that should be noted is that time and again, the women leaders in the Upper House have demanded 33% reservation for women in the Parliament but men, taking advantage of their majority, keep defeating the motion.
The situation isn't any different in the state assemblies as West Bengal, by electing highest number of women leaders amongst all states, stayed at 13% while the percentage dropped to 7, 8 and 5% in Maharashtra, UP and Kerala respectively. The number is especially shocking for Kerala as more than 75% women are literate and cast their vote in every election. So, a survey was conducted in the state asking people why they didn't vote for the women leaders. Their answer, though disheartening, wasn't surprising. Not just men but most women also believed that for a woman, her family comes first so she would be torn between family and work. Therefore they prefer voting for the male candidates. The women leaders in Kerala have proved their worth by leading significant changes like fighting for the rights of tribals and demanding higher wages for tea plantation workers but they continue to remain inefficient in the eyes of the voters. What do they do to prove their worth? Make it rain coconuts from the sky for you?
Now moving on to the Police forces, despite 33% reservation, only 7.28% women made it to the forces. The law is, at least 3 women sub inspectors and 10 women constables should be present at every police station. However, the implementation, like in any other law failed the system. It was also found out that amongst the women working in police forces, most were told to do paper work while men took the on field duty. It was also reported that 48% women didn't get any week day off and 22% had no separate toilet for them. All they are asking for is a week day off and a separate toilet. That’s how low their expectations are from us in general and we are as incompetent as the government.
In CRPF and CISF, the representation further declined to 2.8%
The situation in Indian Administrative Services isn’t too great either but comparatively better as women made 17% of the IAS officers. In Indian Foreign and Indian Forest services, women made only 8 and 4% of the employees respectively. The Indian Economic and Statistical Services have significantly larger women workforce with 30 and 24% females respectively. Surprisingly, when it comes to dealing with numbers at home, it’s men who want to take charge.
In STEM fields, (i.e. Science Technology Engineering and Medical) it was found out that 43% women graduated from colleges but only 14% jobs were occupied by them including government and private jobs. Instead of core field jobs, women are pushed into academics. As if dealing with kids at home wasn’t enough.
In Indian railways as well, the women made only 7% of the total employees.
The number of working women also varies drastically between states as Meghalaya saw 50% of it's women population at work while Bihar saw less than 5%. Imagine being called a poor state and still not letting almost half of your population work. Male ego at it’s best!
These statistics speak volumes about the fact that women are treated differently in our society and that difference clearly isn't for the good. What could be the probable reasons behind this phenomenon? How are we contributing to it? Let's see.
Patriarchy is one of the biggest reasons for gender inequality in any space. Many a times, inequality at work places is due to inequality at homes. While working men only have to take care of their professional life, most women have to balance both work and family. Along with their job they also have to raise kids and do house chores too. This is why a lot of women sacrifice their work life after having babies as it becomes almost impossible for them to manage both. Sometimes they are forced to do so by the man or his family.
Lesser women have access to education than men. The literacy in women has significantly increased over the years but it is still very less as compared to men. In rural areas girls are pulled out of school after 5th or 8th standard to take care of their younger siblings or help in house chores. It was also reported that some girls pulled out of school as they hit puberty because their parents thought it was unsafe for them to walk alone to the school. Lack of sanitation was also one of the reasons.
There are certain prejudices about certain jobs due to which women remain under represented in them. For instance, lesser women are encouraged to go in the armed forces or police force etc because there is this prejudice of women being physically fragile. Now, do you know how much child birth hurts? She pushes a whole person out of her, I am sure she can pull some triggers too.
Another major reason is harassment at work place. The #metoo movement exposed the reality of certain industries but the truth is women in all sectors might not share their experience but exploitation exists in all kinds of jobs be it government or private. Therefore, it becomes really hard for some women to cope up with some encounters leading them to quit the job.
It has been found out in many cases that when a man gets transferred, a woman has to take a transfer too or leave her job. A lot of women have gone through this scenario which affects their career immensely. This is also the reason why there are lesser women in higher positions. Most women remain in Group C and D jobs.
Lack of bodily autonomy is another harsh reality of a woman's life. Unplanned pregnancies or pregnancies that are forced upon women also lead to them having to quit their jobs as in many places, women rarely have access to birth control.
Malnutrition in women and lack of proper healthcare services is much more common in India for women as compared to men. Over 33% of women are malnourished and over 50% are anemic. The condition is much more distressing in rural areas as women there are so weak that some of them even die of diseases like diarrhea as their body can't cope up with the weakness. Also, it was found out in a survey that women are less likely to get medical attention when ill than men. So basically double work on lesser nourishment is what women have to deal with when working.
Finally, lack of motivation. Men are always seen as the bread winner in Indian households, taking all the responsibility of the finances while women take care of the family. Women are taught to prioritize their family since childhood which sometimes takes away their attention from their careers. In such cases, women tend to study but they aren't motivated enough to work if their spouses are earning well further decreasing the representation of women in jobs.
What can be done?
33% reservation for women can be a step forward. More number of women leaders can help in bringing up more women issues in the Parliament and more Women Judges in High Courts and Supreme Courts can help in reforming and dealing with cases related to women with more empathy. Increase in the number of women in police stations can help women in filing complaints in cases of cruelty.
Making education more accessible to the girls and providing them with a safer environment with proper separate toilets and sanitation facilities is a must.
As men, sharing the work load at home and involving her in the decision making process especially in decisions of family planning is important.
As a parent, allowing girls to choose their profession and not demoralizing them to pursue male dominated fields like Security and Defence.
Making workplaces more secure for women and as a woman, reporting cases of harassment is of utmost importance.
And last but not the least, as a woman, stand for yourself and for other women. Motivate young girls and other women to become financially independent. Make it a necessity and not a choice.
So, this was me trying to rationalize the chaos around almost half of our population. Sleep on it before you take offence as it might haunt you later that I made sense.