By Ishita Sehgal, a passout from Amity Law School, Noida
Time is to stop the comparison and embrace the uniqueness and to know how powerful the two sets come out to be if treated as equals. Women can be what be they want to be and not be the one perfectly crafted image by society what women should be like. Gender equality is not a women issue, it is and should be considered a human issue. In the 21st century, there is a need to neutralize and equify the differences between the sexes. They need to be brought to the same level. It’s high time that all see gender as a spectrum, instead of two sets of opposing ideals. Gender equality is very critical to development and peace in the nation. There have been various critical issues to address, whether it be clean drinking water, development or peace and security, gender equality is connected and tied to all these issues. 25 years ago, domestic violence was life, there were no laws against it, the situation was so bad that the man believed to have a right to exploit and indulge in harmful acts against any women. It is the responsibility of every human to achieve gender equality and engage themselves in promoting and educating on the equality of sexes. Over 125 countries have laws on gender equality and against gender discrimination, women are getting empowered to speak for themselves, and the tide is turning.
Laws are the essential first step and provide the means to a complaint where there is a violation. Laws bound state to take action, and when the state does not take action, they can be taken to international forums and be held accountable. Thus, it is very critical that the laws on gender equality be there, and treat men and women equally and protect them where they are not protected. Women face violence and discrimination almost every day, whether it be physical or sexual, regardless of country, age, background. Inequality and discrimination against women are the root cause of their dependency, vulnerability, and exploitation and with all these comes sexual violence and exploitation. Gender-based violence is the key to all the backwardness and harmful practices that men indulge in to act superior to women.
LEGAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL PROVISIONS FOR WOMEN IN INDIA
Bag of borrowings, The Indian constitution, in its Preamble, Fundamental Rights, Duties, and directive Principle not only grants equality but empowers the state to adopt measures of positive discrimination in favor of women. In 1993, India ratified various international conventions and human rights instruments to secure equal rights for women. The Indian constitution emphasis neutralizing the socio-economic, education, and political discrimination against women. Fundamental rights, Article 14 ensures equality before the law, Article 15 ensures state not to discriminate against any citizen on the ground of religion, race, sex, place of birth. Article 15(3) empowers the state to make any special provisions in favor of women and children, Article 16 provides with equal opportunities for all the citizens in seeking employment. Article 39(a) ensure the right to an adequate livelihood, and equal pay for equal work for both men and women enshrined under Article 39(d), Article 42, 46, 47, 51(a) all these provisions are incorporated to benefit and uplift the backward and destitute groups in the state.
The state has enacted legislative measures to uphold the constitutional mandate and to ensure equality. There are various enactments and provisions to address women’s safety and security. The laws provide provisions for the crime against women. Enactments as Dowry prohibition act, 1961, Protection of women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, and many more have been laid down. Various initiatives and commissions have been set up, National commission for women, Reservation for women in Local self-government, National policies for the advancement and development of women.
Do the constitutional provisions, the legislation, and the policies alone render gender equality? No. Only the citizens when come together and raise their voices when they stand united and start recognizing men and women as equals the equality between the sexes is achieved. The mentality of the people needs a change. The two sets are to be treated one, they come out to be more powerful and developed. Men and women are not ideals to be opposed. None is superior to the other. The society has to come into play and neutralize the gender equality issue.
The word “equality” arises when there is a state of one being inferior to the other. The women do not need equality, they need neutrality. A woman is as capable as men. The people should raise their voices else the policies and the laws are incapable of finding solutions. Gender equality does not mean that men and women will become the same, but men and women will have equal access to rights, opportunities, and equal responsibilities.
WOMEN’S BILL OF RIGHTS
The convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women, also known as women’s bill of rights declares that the states should act to eliminate all kinds of violations against women and ensure equal rights in education and access to information. The bill was to modify the social and cultural patterns that formed the stereotypical mindset of people believing women are inferior to men. The bill was to eliminate discrimination whether it be in the field of education, marriage, family, or access to health care. The ultimate goal is to bring men and women as equals.
VIOLENCE AND DISCRIMINATION WOMEN FACE
Women and girls face violence or discrimination every-day. 1 of 3 women faces sexual assault and sexual harassment whether it be at the workplace or on the roads, almost everywhere they go. Women workers face a lot of problems and harassment who work in night shifts, they are scared of traveling at night as they know they may come across molestation, harassment, or rape. Even though the laws, the policies and the constitution itself provides safety and security, women are still not safe. The sense of safety and security lacks. What are the laws and rights? The number of rape cases has been increasing. There isn’t a day, we do not hear about rape being committed. No women, no girl child, irrespective of age, race, religion, the background is safe. The laws are of no use if they cannot prevent such heinous crimes that have been committed against women. Women are not objects to be played with.
NEED FOR POLICIES AND VOICES TO BE UTTERED
There must be the policies and laws, but alone are unworthy of gender equality until people, the women themselves start taking initiative for themselves. The voices are to be raised. People surrounding women and girls, need to motivate them to support them to stand and speak up if they face any discrimination, inequality, and sexual harassment. Young children should be made aware of sexual abuse and their voices should not be suppressed. People need to act in a humanized manner and be more gender-sensitive. Women need to be self-reliant, be confident, and should know they are capable of everything.
Gender equality is a human right. Men and women are equals. The stereotypical mindset of people treating women as objects is not worthy of respect. The two sets are not ideals opposing each other. Gender equity is to have equal rights, responsibilities, and opportunities. There should be equal access to human resources. None is superior or inferior. The issue of gender equality is the root cause of all other problems and issues in the world. Thus, it is very critical that gender equality is there to maintain peace and security. The country and its citizens will only grow and develop when they treat all as equals. Women need not be what society wants it to be. Women have the right to be what they want to be.