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Gender inequality in socio-political scenario across the globe and in India
Gender has been a major discriminatory factor for a long time and women have been suppressed and constantly made to feel inferior and exploited. They make up a large section of society (about half) but have been systematically subjugated to abuse and ill treatment weakening their social, economic, political status and rendering them unable to be free and on equal term/standing of men.
Throughout history due to many social norms and perceptions and the role of women in household has led to the misconception that women are only fit to take care of the house and childcare. Religions, cultures, traditions also reflect this ideology and across various countries and societies women are treated as secondary/second class citizens or are objectified and denied basic right that a man gets.
This has further strengthened and led to patriarchal societies were men are dominant and even if women are well educated, qualified and working are discriminated and paid less (though this is the best case scenario). However reality is far more grave/dire and female children are seen as a burden and killed (feticide/ infanticide), denied access to education, health care, nutritious food and made to look after the household and children.
Though in recent times it is slowly changing and women are slowly through a lot of struggle and hardships coming forward and taking up leadership roles and representing themselves and displaying their abilities and competing with men on equal footing. But there is still a long way to go before women are truly equal and not discriminated based on their gender.
Taking a few examples of some countries we can see the disparity and plight of women and their struggles to achieve equality in social, economic and political fields. USA which is the most developed country and progressive society till date has still not had a single female President (even though the feminist movement started here long back in the 1980’s) while India a developing country and the largest democracy not only had a female President (Pratibha Patil) but also a Prime Minister (Indira Gandhi) and several Chief Ministers (Sucheta Kriplani, Jayalalitha, Uma Bharati, Mayawati and Vasundhara Raje) as well.
Indian women also were given the right to vote (fraternity) after we got our freedom from British rule and there is also a 33% reservation of seats for women in parliament (both Rajya Shaba and Lok Sabah) and state legislative assemblies. There is reservation or job quota of 35% for women and 50% seat reservations in local self government or Panchayati raj system.
Other countries like Sweden which is known as the first feminist government has 45% seats filled by women and aims for complete equality and representation of women in politics. Sweden is a gender-egalitarian leader and other than provision of education and healthcare to women has a great welfare policy of maternal leave to both parents which entitles them to share 480 days, or around 16 months, of paid parental leave when a child is born or adopted.
In India we have the Right to Education act which guarantees education and makes it compulsory for all children of ages 5-14 years to go to school. This ensures that women get educated and know of their rights and improve their lives. To boost enrollment and retain students there is the mid day meal scheme which not only provides nutritious food but also an incentive for parents to send their children to school.
We have various legislations and rules in India to protect and empower women to achieve and contribute to society. Some of them are as follows
The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006
It came into effect in 2007 and prevents underage/child marriage with the minimum marriageable age currently set at 18 years of age for the bride and 21 years of age for the groom.
Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961
Giving of dowry or asking is penalized and punishable by law, both the party (bride) that give and party (groom) that takes will be liable to pay a fine and imprisonment along with the family.
Maternity Benefit Act, 1861
It provides leave with pay for women during pregnancy and to take care of their children and guarantee of returning to the job after the prescribed term.
Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013
It ensures that women in the workplace are not abused or face any harassment be it mental or physical.
Indecent Representation of Women (Prevention) Act, 1986
This prevents any sexual or inappropriate writing, publication that can demean or hurt the modesty of women in any way. These documents or publications can be confesticated and the author/publisher penalized with imprisonment and fines.
Equal Remuneration Act, 1976
This act guarantees equal pay for equal work and irrespective of gender, age, religion worker should be paid properly based on his qualification, skills and the work he does.
National Commission for Women Act, 1990
The National Commission for Women (NCW) is a statutory body of the Government of India, established in January 1992. The NCW represents the rights of women in India and provides a voice for their issues and concerns. The National Commission for Women Act aims to improve the status of women and worked for their economic empowerment.
All of these provide for women empowerment and along with proper education and health care women can stand up to oppression and be on equal footing with men. More and more women are being educated and the perception about them has changed from being just passive supporters (homemakers) to active leaders (CEO’s of MNC’s, sports women, political leaders, activists etc.) and role models in their respective fields. With more women taking active part in politics many of their issues and problems are being explored and practical new and innovative solutions to solve many of these problems and issues are being found. Though there is lots of scope for improvement women have a voice and can represent themselves in this patriarchal society and deal with the issues and problems pertaining to them and face these issues and solve them.

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