OAS Mains-2019 Daily Answer Writing-15/04/2020

Paper:   General Studies Paper-I

Section:  Current National Issues and Topics of social relevance

Topic:  Gender Inequality

Question 1

Recently BJD declared 33% reservation of women in Election. Do you think only political reservation of women truly empower women? Give your views.

Sample Answer

India was one of the earliest states in the world that saw female head of the state. Currently also females occupy important positions in cabinet in defense and foreign portfolio. Yet these inspiring examples are handful in relation to current share of females in Indian population which is around 49%.

According to the Economic Survey 2018, prevailing cultural attitudes regarding gender roles, domestic responsibilities, female illiteracy, lack of confidence or finances and the threat of violence, are just some of the obstacles women face Domestic work and rearing children are still tasks primarily performed only by women. There is a huge stigma associated with women who choose to work, and even more for women who choose to join politics.

Thus low representation of women in the legislature can be traced to the patriarchal structure of Indian politics. In addition to this lack of reservation for women in parliament and state assemblies is due to unwillingness among political parties to give tickets to women, a general lack of awareness of electoral politics among women and the lack of family support.

Lack of Consensus: Lapse of Women reservation bill and its pending since last one decade has shown that politicians have failed to agree to 33% reservation as there is also debate among regional and national political parties over the percentage of reservation.

Why representation Matters: In 1994, India ratified the 73rd and the 74th amendments to the Indian Constitution, granting women 1/3 reservation in rural and urban democratic bodies. Women leaders of panchayat (village councils) often serve as positive role models for many girls. Women sarpanchs accounted for 43 per cent of total gram panchayats (GPs) across the country, exhibiting active leadership of women in local government.

Economic development and women empowerment: Some of the most economically advanced countries like USA grapple with skewed gender ratio in Parliament. It does not reach global gender average of 24% of lower house seats by women. On the other hand in Rwanda around two third of its seats are held by women, it is the highest female representation in parliament. Countries like  Bolivia and Cuba also have more women in parliament than men. This shows that level of economic development does not necessarily promise women a place in legislatures as some advanced societies too can be plagued by gender bias and political unwillingness. Even when women enter they are often given junior roles, and usually restricted to “soft issue” portfolios, such as social affairs and family. Thus what truly makes a difference is that gender quotas are sincerely implemented. As happened with reservation at village bodies and municipalities through 73rd and 74th amendment act. It was seen that women panchayat leaders are more likely to invest in priorities for women because they understand and share these priorities. States like Odisha and Bihar 19 other states, have increased this reservation to 50% from 33%. Thus Political empowerment can be the first step towards a more inclusive and equal society

Women are emerging as a strong political force in Indian democracy with this they must have bigger voice in decision making. However this has to start with gender sensitization at school and college level. Discriminatory attitude and gender stereotyping is the result of many years of social conditioning which can be broken with inspiring examples and political support.

Globally, some women are beating the odds to rise to high political office. Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, the longest serving female head of government. Nancy Pelosi has become the most powerful women in American politics. New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has proved that motherhood is no barrier to the top job, becoming the second leader in history to give birth while in office.

Way Forward

Women reservation bill or issues related to women political participation should not just be confined to time of elections. It should be in fact part of political discourse throughout.

Lack of confidence and finance among women should be addressed to encourage more participation from them.

Bottoms up approach can help in removing entry barriers for women. Political parties should nominate more women in their internal working committee and field more women candidates during elections.

While women contribute about 50% to Indian population. 33% is an under representation in legislatures. Efforts must be made to push for percentage that adequately represents the dreams and aspirations of women.

Question 2

Give reasons for gender discrimination in corporate sector. Suggest some remedial measures.

Sample Answer

Gender-based discrimination is any unequal treatment based on gender and refers to a situation wherein a person is denied opportunity solely on the basis of their gender. Women population constitutes almost half (48.18%) of the country’s population. Women play a very important role in country’s development yet the women population in India is characterized by low literacy rate (65.46%) and female labour participation rate (FLPR) of 25.51%. Studies, also, show that only two-thirds of women graduates are employed. A very few companies have women at the helm and even fewer women-led start-ups are being promoted and funded.

Reasons for the discrimination:

General factors:

  1. Most of the women (about 94%) work in unorganized sector where the wages tend to be very low.
  2. Lack of knowledge, awareness and illiteracy among the rural women who make the majority of the female workforce. Due to these reasons they’re confined to low-paying low-skilled jobs.
  3. Physically women are considered weaker than male and seen as unsuitable for longer work hours resulting in their reduced wage rate.
  4. Male workers improve their productivity by undergoing on-job trainings; women due to familial priorities like child care, are unable to do so.
  5. Women’s careers are cut-short due to the domestic responsibilities which fall upon their shoulders much more than men.

Societal factors:

  1. Patriarchal mindset and deep-seated patriarchy which seeks to confine women to the domestic sphere and the four walls of the household only.
  2. Prejudice and stereotypical attitude towards women by not considering them as equals which leads to biases against women in various areas like work assessment, job assignment, etc.
  3. Socialisation process which has entrenched the patriarchy deeply into the minds of people including the women.
  4. Seeing women as an object of male satisfaction rather than an equal participant in the economy.
  5. Seeking to maintain the age-old gendered power roles in the society which favour the males over females.

Other factors:

Religion, history, media, socialisation process, etc. are also responsible for perpetuation of discriminating mindset against women.

How to improve the situation?

Policy intervention:

  1. Better implementation of Companies Act, 2013 to bring in more independent women corporates on board and increasing their strength with time to 35%.
  2. Better implementation of laws like Sexual Harassment at Workplace (prevention, prohibition and redressal) Act, 2013 for maintaining a safe environment for women to work in.
  3. More legislations to bring parity in the workforce such as labour reform, Maternal Benefits, Equal pay, female quota, etc.
  4. Push to Self Help Groups (SHGs), women entrepreneurship, financial and digital literacy among females, etc. to give them decision-making power and working towards women empowerment.
  5. Stringent infrastructure rules for providing basic facility for decent workplace like toilets and restrooms.

By Challenging social attitude:

The attitudinal issue associated with patriarchy can only be tackled with the socialisation process in which education plays a major role. Education increases the awareness among the population regarding their rights and gives them opportunity for becoming economically independent which increases their status in society, their confidence, and gives them voice. For example, in urban areas women are getting education and thus are becoming more and more aware of their rights and thus the disparity has, somehow, shown a declining trend. But the literacy rate and awareness is low among rural women.

The importance of change-agents and role models, also, become important to break the notional problems surrounding the working women.

The role of media including social media, in promoting the positive stories about the working women giving impetus to the womenfolk is also very crucial. Social media also provides a voice to the women which was hitherto not available to her. The recent movements like #Timesup and #Metoo have shown the decisive role social media can play in garnering support and solidarity for the causes of women.

Thus, increasing participation levels of women in the various arenas, like paid labour market activities which bridges the hiatus in the crucial sphere of economic involvement, is important for improving the overall status of women in society.

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