Devaluation Of Women In India
Recently the media has brought attention to the violence against women in India. The public’s anger over the government’s negligence in the protection of women and in punishing those that commit the horrific crimes against them has shed light upon the treatment of women in India. In a lot of aspects women face endless discrimination and danger. Social and cultural trends in India have affected women for centuries; persisting dowry payments and other factors that hinder women in society have led to the discrimination against women. Although some laws have been passed in an effort to protect women, the government hasn’t taken enough responsibilities to enforce the laws or come up with a solution to keep women safe.
The recent gang rape cases have sparked an outrage across the globe, leaving people wondering about the justice system and the security of women in India. Moreover, the brutality with which the rapes are committed has furthered the anger and backlash, leading to several protests and more coverage of the events by the media. In December of 2012, a 23-year old woman was gang raped by six men and left to die after being thrown out of a moving bus. According to the New York Times, the woman’s “intestines were removed because of injuries caused by a metal rod used during the rape, in which she also suffered a major brain injury, cardiac arrest and infections in the lungs and abdomen” (Timmons). This case is what ignited the fire and started the movements and protests. Following this tragic event, more and more rape occurrences have been covered by the news, depicting the commonness of rape in India. The most recent case is that of the “kidnapping, rape and torture of a 5-year-old girl” (Harris). This appalling act has led to more angry protests demanding that the government take more action and protect women and their children. This regular occurrence of rape and violence depicts the devaluation of woman in Indian society.
Many cultural and social issues have caused the degradation of women in India to the point where women have little value in society. This is demonstrated not only by the rapes and violence committed against them, but also by the discrimination they face at every stage in their lives. They’re considered a burden from the moment they are born. Bound by dowry payments and socioeconomic factors favoring men, women face endless discrimination from their families as well as from society. When a woman gets married, her family has to pay a dowry, or a price to the groom and his family. Depending on the family’s social class, dowry payments can strain families financially. Most poor parents put all their earnings and savings in to their daughter’s dowry. Others borrow money to meet all the expenses, which “pushes many families into the trap of indebtedness on one hand, and social obligations, on the other” (Sekher and Hatti 127). Due to the distress inflicted by dowry payments, most families have feelings of resentments toward their daughters and girls are unwelcomed in most families.
The resentment towards women in India is often indicated by the subjection and violence they face not only from their families but also from their in-laws. If in-laws are not satisfied by the dowry payments or by the woman, they often domestically abuse and murder the woman. According to an article from the Indian Streams Research Journal “Indian Government Statistics for 1991-2001show a total of 6,347 Indian women killed by fire” due to dowry (Hagargi 2). Although laws such as The Dowry prohibition Act, 1961 have been enacted, not many people are aware of the existence of the law. This law is also not heavily enforced due to a conflicting law, the Hindu Marriage Act of 1995 which “states that marriage does not fall under secular law […] and must be preserved at any cost” (Hagargi 2). Therefore, many women often bear the violence and ill treatment from their in-laws without speaking up, afraid of shame and embarrassment from their communities.
As a result of the circumstances that make it unfavorable to have a girl in India, the births of girls are often prevented by sex selection, infanticide of girls, and female foeticide. This directly contributes to India’s “exceptionally low female-male ratio or sex ratio” (Gupta 706). Sex-determination tests have become widely used to serve the purpose of sex selection and female infanticide. The practice of female infanticide is most common in poor and rural areas. In these areas, infanticide is executed by “suffocating baby to death, feeding with paddy husk and starving the baby to death” (Sekher and Hatti 126). Although, the government has made efforts to stop the misuse of sex-determination tests after pressures from health and female organizations, the exploitation of sex-determination tests is still prevalent. Because women in India don’t contribute as much as the son to the parent’s wellbeing, “parent’s concerned with their own welfare and security find little value for their daughters” (Sekher and Hatti115). This factor contributes to the devaluation of women and the immense amount of female infanticide and female foeticide that occur in India.
Denial of education is another type of discrimination woman in India endure. There is a significant gap in male-female literacy rate. Most women are illiterate and there is low enrollment of females in schools. The illiteracy is “further aggravated by social constraints, which inhibit female literacy and educational development of women” (Gupta 704). A lot of girls are denied education especially “in rural areas [where] families are heavily dependent on the labour of the girl child” therefore most girls are forced with “the responsibilities of cooking, looking after younger children […] and carrying food to their parents at work” (Hagaragi 2). Education is key to human progress and development. According to an article in the International Research Refereed Journal “Education helps in generating awareness among women about their legal, social and economic rights, provisions and privileges to fight against all sorts of social discrimination” (Fayaz, Hussain and Khurshid 136). Efforts need to be made to ensure the education of women in India. Education can have significant effect on their social value, and it will also be a step towards ending the discrimination.
Due to the low education rate and other forms of social discrimination, women in India have little to no economic opportunities. Even those that are educated have difficulty finding employment and those that do face endless harassment at the workplace. However, because “women are habituated to experiencing gender discrimination and subordinate treatment in their family lives, […] and carry this mindset to the workplace” they don’t find discrimination at work unusual (Sahgal 146). One way to improve economic opportunities for woman is to educate them; this would “reduce gender bias […] by facilitating more employment and thus raising the economic value of daughters” (Mukherjee 16).
The prejudices against women India are a result of several social and cultural trends that have degraded the value of women in society. In every aspect of their lives, women face gender discrimination and intolerance. The government has made little effort to try to protect women or change society’s attitudes toward them. By enforcing the laws that are already set such as the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961 and amending laws such as the Hindu Marriage Act of 1995, the government can improve the security of women. Ensuring the education and employment of women can also lessen the discrimination and make women aware of their rights and freedoms. After the gang rape of the 23-year-old student that took the world by storm, international organizations such as the United Nations have interfered, pressuring India to improve the quality of living for women. Rashida Manjoo, a United Nation independent expert has criticized the new laws recently passed for “failing to address systematic gender inequalities in Indian Society” (“Opportunity lost”). Cultural factors that interfere with the basic rights of a person should be banned, the government in India has to take responsibility and start making extensive reforms to guarantee women their rights and freedoms.
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Harris, Gardiner. "For Rape Victims in India, Police Are Often Part of the Problem." The New York Times 22 Jan. 2013: n. pag. Print.
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"‘Opportunity Lost’ as New Anti-rape Laws in India Fail to Address Root Causes – UN Expert." UN News Centre 3 May 2013: n. pag. Print.
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Sekher, T. V., and Neelambar Hatti. "Disappearing daughters and intensification of gender bias: Evidences from two village studies in South India." Sociological Bulletin 59.1 (2010): 111-133. UNFPA. Web. Jan-Apr. 2010.
Timmons, Heather. "Woman Dies After a Gang Rape That Galvanized India." The New York Times 28 Dec. 2012: n. pag. Print.