'Gender discrimination in India worse than
Discrimination against women in India was higher than even the
poorest Sub-Saharan countries in Africa, said noted economist Prabhat Patnaik here Saturday.
There were only 94 women per 100 men in India while in Sub-Saharan
Africa, the ratio was 102 women per 100 men, he said
New Delhi: The
gruesome gang-rape and death of a 23-year-old girl in Delhi last
month has brought alive the issue of safety of women in public
places. But how safe are girls and women in their own homes?
For actual change to take place, experts say that "mindsets" need
to change at a much deeper level - before a girl is born - so that
she is not viewed as a burden and becomes a victim of violence or
Ruchira Gupta of Apne Aap, an NGO that works against the
trafficking of women, says that while it is a good thing that
people are talking about and measures are being taken for the
safety of women in public places, an equal emphasis should be
given on ensuring their safety in their own homes.
"Where should one feel the safest? In their home! But a girl faces
the threat of foeticide before she is born. If she is born, there
is a threat of infanticide, then malnourishment and lack of
education unlike her male siblings. Then she faces the threat of
child marriage; if she survives that there is the lurking threat
of dowry related problems and domestic violence," Gupta told IANS.
"If she survives them, there is the danger of maternal mortality
because of various reasons, like young age, malnourishment. And if
she becomes a widow, she faces the threat of being thrown out of
her own home. So a woman faces danger at many levels. The mindset
change therefore has to be at a much deeper level to ensure safety
of women," she added.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), violence
against women have been on the rise in India, with a marked
increase of more than seven percent between 2010 and 2011. Over
this period, there has been a 27 percent increase in dowry-related
torture and more than five percent rise in torture at the hands of
a woman's husband and relatives. Civil society members say that
the numbers are much higher since a large number of cases go
The primary reason why girls are discriminated against is because
they are viewed as an economic burden, says Ranjana Kumari,
director of Centre for Social Research.
"The value of a girl child and her productivity needs to be
realised in order to not view her as an economic burden. This is
what gives birth to the perception that because she has no value,
she can be controlled. And when she refuses to be controlled,
there is gender-specific violence, like dowry-related murder,
honour killing," Ranjana Kumari told IANS.
"The entire socialisation process has to be re-looked at," she
When one looks at domestic violence, while government estimates
put the number at 40 percent, NGOs working on the issue estimate
that a whopping 70 percent married women have experienced domestic
violence, and campaigns such as 'Bell Bajao', or 'Ring the bell'
to stop this have thus been put together.
Sociologist Palash Kulkarni attributes such gender violence to the
patriarchal mindset of the society. "Patriarchy is about the
social relations of power between men and women, the former being
the dominant one. So whenever the woman tries to assert her
opinion, the man feels threatened and gets violent. It could be
mental harassment, physical abuse or forced sex. Of course, not
all men are the same".
According to a UNICEF report, India has lost over 10 million girls
to abortions and infanticide since 2007 and there is a dramatic
decline in the sex ratio. As per the 2011 census, the child
sex-ratio has dipped to 917 females per 1,000 males, from 927 per
1,000 in 2001.
"This skewed sex ratio, especially in states like Haryana which
has one of the worst ratios in the country, has obviously resulted
in a dramatic fall in the number of women who can be married. With
fewer women to get married to, men are now "importing" brides from
states like West Bengal, Kerala and Assam; which is further
encouraging trafficking of women," Gupta told IANS.
What's more, these forced brides are then expected to bear a son -
keeping alive the vicious cycle.
"An important point to remember is that in issues pertaining to
women's safety, men should be made equal stakeholders. There is no
point saying 'Men will be men', and that 'Girls should behave in a
particular manner'. This way you are again putting all the onus on
the girl, and letting the man go without being accountable,"
opined Shirish Dey, an activist, in response to various political
leaders' and spiritual gurus' take that women are to be blamed for
violence on them because of what they wear or how they behave.
(Azera Rahman can be
contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)