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  • Writer's pictureThe White Punjabi Bride

Why Is Sexism So Embedded In Indian Society?

Women Working

Gender inequality in India is a multifaceted issue that concerns both men and women alike. Some gender equality measures in place have put men at a disadvantage. However as a whole, it is women who are disadvantaged in several ways.

A key factor that has driven gender inequality in India is the preference for sons, as they were traditionally deemed more useful than girls. Having sons was viewed as an additional status for the family. This is because many professions in those days were only performed by males such as religious practices, labour and agriculture. Moreover the prospect of family's losing their daughter to her husband's family along with the expensive dowry further discouraged parents from having daughters. Sex selective abortions are still prevalent in today's society with parents opting to abort pregnancy should they have a daughter.

Despite the progress made with Women's Activists Groups, women are still at a disadvantage to men. This also includes gender equality in the workforce. Women are not allowed to have combat roles in the armed forces. As with much of the world there is still a pay gap between the genders with men earning more than women. Women have equal rights under the law to own property and receive equal inheritance rights, but in practice, this is rarely so. Whilst there are laws in place very few women seek legal redress. This is due to the cultural practice of the eldest son given the exclusive rights to inherit the family name and properties. This impacts women obtaining credit from financiers. Whilst credit can be obtained equally by men and women, usually women simply don't have the collateral to do so.

Whilst statistically rape and domestic violence are quite low compared to other countries, dowry related and honour killings are still highly prevalent. Honour killings occur typically when a woman does not conform to gender expectations however men can also be victims albeit not often. Usually they occur for reasons such as refusing to enter into an arranged marriage, being in a relationship that the family disapprove of, not wearing appropriate attire, being a victim of rape, having any sexual relationships outside of marriage. It is believed that the woman has brought shame and humiliation to her family by doing so. Another family member will then execute the woman to bring back the family honour and status in their community. In communities that believe in honour killings, the ruling to be executed is typically carried out via a family council or elders of a village. A significant feature of honour killings is the importance of the reputation of the family in the community and the stigma associated with losing social status. A honour killing is deemed to be the only way to ensure that their social status is upheld in the community. The woman on whom the suspicion has fallen is not given an opportunity to defend herself, and family members have no socially acceptable alternative but to remove the stain on their honour by executing them.

Although women have been at a disadvantage, Indian laws favour women. As such there are laws in place designed to protect women although they are deemed to be highly aggressive and unfair towards men. By law an adulterous man can be jailed however an adulterous woman cannot. Molestation towards men is not recognised by law. Indian laws essentially state that a man is guilty until proven innocent. This has only encouraged the negative attitude towards men socially who are always by default considered to be the culprit of any sexual crime. Even if it was a woman who committed the crime against a man. Recently a short film was created to promote awareness of this negative attitude towards men. It depicts a young male standing on a crowded bus. He stands behind a young female. The bus suddenly comes to a halt and he bumps into the back of this young female. He apologises and she simply glares at him. The second time this happens he again apologises however she slaps him in the face. She has assumed he was acting in a sexual manner towards her rather than the obvious that the bus came to a sudden stop. The passengers seated in the bus all glare at him as they all too assume the same. So the young male moves in front of this young woman. The bus again comes to a sudden halt as it approaches traffic. She bumps into the back of him so he then behaves in the same manner as her, slapping her in the face. Again all the passengers glare at him for hitting a woman. (You can view the short film below.) This is the social norm, by default a man will always be seen as the culprit despite the obvious.

It is a combination of these factors and cultural beliefs that has shaped the imbalanced view of both women and men in today's society.

What is your take on gender inequality in India?

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