Medieval mindset

India’s poor performance in ensuring equality between women and men has put it at the bottom of a global gender equity index. India stands at the 114th rung out of 134 nations, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index. Its ranking has in fact slipped by a rung over the past year. India ranks 125th with regard to provision of economic opportunities for women, 116th in the case of educational attainment and 128th in ensuring health and survival of women. It is only on the issue of women’s political empowerment that the country is higher up on the ladder — at the 25th rung. It does seem that reservation of seats for women in Panchayat Raj institutions has contributed to improved participation of women in the political arena. India’s low ranking on gender equity is not surprising given the deeply entrenched prejudice against women in the country. Indian women are discriminated against from the womb to the tomb. The survival of a female foetus is itself a miracle as female foeticide is widely practiced in this country. The girl child is less likely to be fed or sent to school. She is more likely to be married off early, less likely to inherit property. At the workplace, women get lower salaries for the same work and are more vulnerable to getting sacked.

Indian women have taken giant strides in education and employment. They do better than boys in exams and have stormed male bastions at work. There are women at the forefront of counter-insurgency operations and guarding the country’s borders today. They hold top posts in corporates and have thus shattered the glass ceiling. However, their achievements must be credited to their individual effort and perseverance. Rarely is it because society provided them the support. This has to change.

India’s attitude to women is full of paradoxes. We claim to worship women, yet have few qualms in aborting female foetuses or burning women who don’t satisfy dowry demands. We deify motherhood, yet deny pregnant women the nutrition and medical attention they need. We claim to be a modern nation, yet proudly flaunt our feudal and medieval mindsets vis-à-vis women. How can a country that continues to allow violence against women in the name of protecting honour qualify to be a modern country? India’s low ranking on the gender equity index is shameful. It is time we acted to ensure equality between the sexes.

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