Syllabus: General Studies Essay Paper: SOCIAL ISSUES
GENDER EQUALITY AND PEACE : ARE THEY CONNECTED.
“All oppression creates state of war” – Simone De Beauvoir
Historically, humanity has observed and experienced the above quote since the dawn of civilisation on this essentially distinct Blue Planet. Today’s democracy is culmination of the multitude of wars, oppression and sacrifice of human beings. In the past, from cruel or savage rulers to generous emperors we have learnt that oppression is most disgusting experience for inquisitive intellect of man and this is why a meaningful solution was always sought to eliminate oppression of all kinds. However, we have indeed done tremendous task to reduce oppression to make our society more democratic and inclusive yet we have to go more beyond on this front to contain other existing oppression. One is Gender injustice or inequality, which is seen apparently experienced by women across the globe.
Due to lack of gender justice at family, social, political, economical and cultural level, the different regions of the world are still under the dark shadow of violence. The deep rooted patriarchal mindset in social relation shows a sense of dominance even in political affairs of any society. For example, when we look Indian society we find that women are kept always at the double standard position in their personal as well as social affairs. Whenever, women tries to go along with own choices, the patriarchal attitude has acted as catalyst to violence and conflict. In medieval time when Razia Sultan thought to rule, the opponents destabilised her regime and invited conflict in the region. In modern time, whenever a woman tries to break the barrier of caste system to find suitable match, her story ends with honor killing and societal tensions and intense conflict among hierarchically divided society.
Gender inequality is sprawling across many sectors and spheres that has often resulted in certain pitfalls. It is in this regard, that governments across the world are pressing upon the issue of gender equality. This idea is not just driven by some need to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) but has a great vision behind it- the vision of Peace. Peace, as we see it, is not just the absence of violence but also involves the presence of harmony with oneself and with the surroundings.
Gender and peace are closely linked. Peace is vital to promote gender equality, while gender inequality can also undermine peace and drive conflict and violence.
A relationship between gender equality and the resulting peace can be seen in different spheres. The 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act paved way for Panchayati Raj System with 33% reservation of seats for women. Subsequently, some of the states like Bihar went ahead and increased the limit to 50% seats. The result of this political gender equality can be seen in the downfall in Infant Mortality Rates and the Maternal Mortality Rates at local levels.
Here, it would be appropriate to ask that How DOES GENDER INEQUALITY breed violence. There are numerous latent factors, which give answer to this question.
First, Women are often treated with GLASS CEILING, PATRIARCHIAL BOUNDARY etc in economic activities and confined only to household works. When women are not part of economic activities, the sole duty of male members to earn money for maintaining standard of living. But due to growing mechanization and AI culture, man feels vulnerable to maintain own way of life which puts them into depression and low income. Brought up by patriarchal viewpoints, women even don’t have more skills to compensate income of own family. This finally leads to DOMESTIC VIOLENCE at family level.
Second, due to low women labour force participation in economic activities the state also fails to gain much from potential of women leading to loss of human capital. Because of it the GDP of a nation always facing challenges to invest more in social sectors like – health, education, social security etc. The overall result of low investment in social sector is translated into making citizen more vulnerable, poor and deprived which motivates people to indulge in violence directly or indirectly. Some choose way to be extremists (e.g. Naxals in India, terrorists in Islamic countries like ISIS, militant in J&K etc) while some choose way to adjust in organised crimes (e.g. human trafficking, drug abuse, illegal arms trade, poaching etc). Thus lack of income and rising aspiration of people are acting like a catalyst to violence at all level and here is main factor gender inequality in economic activities.
A research by Pew Research Foundation shows that maintaining gender equality at workplaces can result in better workforce management. Women are often said to possess better Emotional Intelligence manifested in forms of empathy and compassion. This becomes instrumental in reducing conflicts and developing social capital at workplaces.
Third, every year many national and international institutions like World Bank, IMF, NDB, ADB etc are allocating money to conflict ridden countries like Sudan, Pakistan, Syria etc. Nevertheless, the pace of violence did not seem to have receded yet. The interesting aspect of it that these counties are worst performers in women health since both MMR and IMR are quite higher. In India, the violence shows mightier presence in MMR and IMR regions.
Fourth, whenever we give women access to governance and place in decision-making body we head towards a COLLECTIVE POWER rather than DOMINATING POWER, which is arbitrary in nature and practice. The collective power ensures the stability and peace at social and political level by giving inclusive intake to all stakeholders.
Fifth, women has played significant role in making society more egalitarian and stable by raising their voices against discrimination, violence led system and deprivation. By showing own strength many women has carried forward those practices which make society more liberal and rational. We have example of Chipko Movement and Narmada Bachao Andolan. In all these movements, women leadership has tried to establish such system which must have equal eyes for all so that lesser conflict space between people and state or between one community and other community be left.
The emotional intelligence among women has been supplemented by the Intelligence Quotient because of the increasing awareness about society. Recent endeavors of Bumata Ranragini Brigade in securing entry of women in Shani Shignapur temple shows that how gender equality for a temple entry can reduce chaos in the society. The gender neutral temple entry has now reduced level of protests thereby ensuring peace.
The question of gender equality often sidelines the other two equally important stakeholders- the males and the transgenders. For the males, the increasing misuse of Section 498A (dowry demand) of Indian Penal Code and of Domestic Violence Act, 2005 by women has become a nightmare. Subsequent humiliation and embarrassment faced by males even in false case has become a cause for the reactionary approach which at times intensify the conflict of men with women.
Even in the case of transgender, though the NALSA judgment of Supreme Court recognized them as the ‘third gender’ entitled for equal rights, yet the implementation remains poor. The final result is that they have been reduced to beggars on street lights which accentuate their conflict with the drivers of vehicles. Opening doors of opportunity for them will surely allow them to move up the ladder of development ensure harmony in the society.
In many of the countries that have experienced revolutions during the Arab spring, increased opportunities for women’s political activism have been coupled with a backlash against women trying to claim their rights.
At the same time, it is to be remembered that gender equality is the not the only cause responsible for ensuring peace in the society. Even in the presence of gender equality, conflicts can occur because of the absence of other conducive factors. The continent of Africa represents a matriarchal society but the presence of civil wars and refugee crisis coupled with terrorism shows that peace is an elusive outcome. In 2008, the eight African countries with the highest maternal mortality ratios were experiencing or emerging from conflict. As well as causing death, injury and displacement, conflict destroys infrastructure, disrupts markets and social ties, diminishes the capacity of states, and diverts vital resources away from development.
The above mentioned factors are only minimal there are other factors which protects society from falling prey to violence. There is no doubt that once women is given adequate share in human affairs we would certainly head towards a collaborative society which guarantees to low level of violence and conflict. When Gandhi says about education he emphatically underlines that when a women is educated they educate entire generation. It is true that the most of the women are kept away from getting education due to either of sate inefficiency or of gender inequality. The lack of education aggravates the evil practices which end with negative implications leading to violence.
Education is key to make society free of violence as it ends deprivation and oppression. When women fails to enlighten against the injustice customs and culture fuelled by patriarchy, they ultimately conditioned to support the injustice. For example, the violence against newly married women for dowry is well supported by other lady members and similarly girls are often instructed by own mothers to behave like a good girl which is nothing but more to accept unjust system which would eventually led her to cycle of violence.
Indian Constitution provides for positive efforts to eliminate gender inequality. The Preamble to the Constitution talks about goals of achieving social, economic and political justice to everyone and to provide equality of status and of opportunity to all its citizens. Further, women have equal right to vote in our political system. Article 15 of the Constitution provides for prohibition of discrimination on grounds of sex also apart from other grounds such as religion, race, caste or place of birth and also authorizes the state to make any special provision for women and children. Moreover, the Directive Principles of State Policy also provides various provisions which are for the benefit of women and provides safeguards against gender discrimination. In terms of political empowerment, Constitutional Amendments have reserved for women one-third of the seats in grassroots democratic institutions at village and municipal level.
In this regard, the efforts need to be placed on two fronts- ensuring gender equality and achieving the conducive environment for peace. Imparting value education promoting sisterhood and brotherhood along with government schemes like ‘Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan’ and ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao can allow females to achieve better education. Gender sensitization camps and media campaigns for ensuring the implementation of existing programs like ‘Stand Up India’ and ‘Prevention of Sexual Harassment at Workplaces Act’ can improve their economic prospects. Correcting the gender biases in law and developing a spirit of cooperation for growth of all can be some other steps.
For achieving a conducive environment, institutions and economy needs improvement. Democratic institutions giving voice to everyone coupled with citizen-centric governance reforms like publishing a white paper to invite comments on policy and programs can allow government to meet aspirations of people and ensure harmony in the society. Economic growth needs to be made equitable and includive by adhering to bottom up approach so that vulnerable sections of society- differently abled, elderly and tribals do not feel alienated.
These reforms have the potential to rectify the existing gender biases in political, economic, social, technological and other spheres. Improved levels of peace allow the society to grow in a sustainable manner and ensure the participation of citizens for a better future. Efforts should be made to ensure that millions of women do not become a victim of gender equality and they are able to improve their conditions.
“Investing in women is not only the right thing to do. It is the smart thing to do. I am deeply convinced that, in women, the world has at its disposal, the most significant and yet largely untapped potential for development and peace” – says Ban Ki-moon, former Secretary-General of United Nations.
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