“Gender equality is more than a goal in itself. It is a precondition for meeting the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development and building good governance.”
–Kofi A. Annan, 7th Secretary General of the United Nations
Ivanka Trump’s recent to India was widely celebrated by the media; most of it focused on how her visit would boost the entrepreneurial aspirations of the country. However, very few took the effort to take a close gander at what she said while addressing the gathering of top CEOs and businesspersons, hailing from across the length and breadth of the country. Throughout her speech, the recurring theme was the idea of equality and how equalities would enable individual freedoms. Added to this was the idea of gender equality as gaining popularity in and across the country, one that is notorious for its discriminatory tendencies.
Humanity is something that is expected to evolve over time. In fact, nothing in the universe is immune to changes; society is no exception. As the saying goes, the only thing constant is change. What was a taboo in the past may not be a taboo anymore; the taboos of the past may gradually evolve to become an accepted norm, or vice-versa. For instance, homosexuality was accepted as a part of social life in early Greek states like Salamis and Sparta. But under the influence of the Judeo-Christian traditions, homosexuality became a taboo over a period of time. This notion remained till the late 20th century. Even today, the acceptance of the so called ‘deviants’ into the ‘mainstream society’ is a matter of social debate. Thus, it could be said that changes are an integral part of social behavior. However, like in every other case, this idea too has several exceptions.
One area where we observe an anomaly is the case of the status enjoyed by the women in the society. Women have been treated as a subservient class, expected to act as tools in the hands of men. Be it at home or in the public realm, women were kept away from the decision-making process; women were expected to act according to the patriarchs and in line with their interests. This power structure is so rigid that even time has not been able to shake it. Indeed, this is one of the areas where society is evolving at a snail’s pace.
Women face a lot of discrimination in the contemporary world in the domain of labor force participation. Though the traditional notion of confining women within the four walls of the house is declining, it must be noted that women still face grave issues at the work place. This situation prevails in both organized and unorganized sector jobs. It is often accepted as a norm to have a wage differential between men and women, even when they are doing the same job with the same set of skills and abilities. This issue is one of the most discussed topics across the domain of gender rights and occupies the central theme of policy making. Though there has been significant progress in the developed world (at least in the form of legislation), developing nations still struggle to find a solution– legal or otherwise.
It is nearly impossible to imagine, if not to create, a society that has barely any form of inequalities. Where there are differences among the individuals, there would prevail inequalities in one or the other forms. However, the degree of these differences can be reduced if the reforms take place at a societal level. The best force to bring in social reform is the societal force, and no other factor can displace it role. What is needed is unwavering unity and an innate desire to overcome this atrocity from within the society. And until then, laws must suffice.
-Contributed by Jiss Palelil
Picture Credits: wordpress.com