How Pervasive is Gender Discrimination in India
Note: This is not a pan-India case. It mostly differs from family to family, most of the families have come into the developed era with the access to technology, liberalisation, and globalisation of the world at large. However, some parts of India, actually, it’s not a geographical thing, so let’s say, some families in India -- it could be in rural areas or even in a thriving metropolitan city -- still live in the dark; untouched by the progressive mindset. Stooped in their own ignorance, they continue to believe things that they deem real and true.
Come to think of it, gender discrimination is prevalent across the world. But the sign of a developed country is that it would accord the same amount of equality and respect to anyone, irrespective, not despite, of one’s gender. On the other hand, women in India have either been revered and worshiped as Goddesses, (being sat on a pedestal and viewed as chaste is no fun, it comes with a whole different kind of pressure), or been treated with contempt, as a second-class citizen just because of their gender.
Even though as I mentioned in the opening note, things are changing, and changing at a rapid pace in India, still, there are a lot many day-to-day incidents that makes one wonder and question the mindset of people who don’t view equality as a birthright. Years of patriarchal culture and traditions don’t get challenged and upturned within a day. It’s a gradual progress, but we are getting there.
Many Indians still prefer to have a male child because he is primarily seen as someone who’d continue their lineage, with his offspring in the future. It is also because of the joint family structure in India, where old parents tend to live with their boy after he gets married. So, in a way, a male child is often seen as their retirement fund. So then it comes as no surprise that he is always given preference while growing up. If the boy and the girl both score the same marks and get admission to a college that’s a bit pricey, without a doubt, it would be the boy who would get to continue his education … because retirement fund.
But I am sure that the roots of gender discrimination go way deeper than what am making it seem as. It’s not just about money or practicality. It’s social, it’s mental, it’s ingrained. Repeatedly. Via movies, tv shows, and popular culture. It’s that primal, baseless feeling, “Hey, I am BETTER than you.” This is what’s pervasive across genders. Thanks to feminism, it might have been mitigated a bit, but still, you can see this mindset coming into light every time a man commits sexual violence on a woman -- known or unknown. It’s never just about sex or violence -- it’s more about power. Feeling that power, expressing it, and acting upon it -- just because they could.
Many times marital rape is disregarded in India because the ‘respectable’ judges sitting on the bench think that forced sex between husband and wife is not a criminal offence. This power imbalance is continued when the woman gets pregnant. A few decades ago, many people would do a sonography only for the reason of having it aborted if it was a girl. It skewed the gender ratio so much in India that now it’s illegal to have a sonography in India, even if you just wanted to know the sex of your baby without any other ulterior motives, it’s not an option.
One more reason why people prefer having sons over daughters is because of India’s malicious out-dated practice of Dowry. It meant that at the time of marriage, a bride’s father would have to accommodate all the demands from the groom’s family. It could be anything as silly as having to welcome them with rose water to something as exorbitant as a flat, a car, a job, and so on. Many times cash and a lot of gold jewelry are also exchanged making the arranged marriage a transaction, where the groom got the girl plus a bit of her family wealth. So a poor father who didn’t have the money or access to wealth will consider a newborn daughter, even though she’s just a day old right now, as a burden. Because he’ll think to himself, “How will I get her married?”
With the access to education increasing in India, women have become self-sufficient and parents (I mean, society at large) have been acknowledging this slight shift in gender imbalance towards equality. You can become a part of this new wave of gender equality in India by contributing to a girl child’s education.