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October 11, 2023 @ 7:30 am - 11:30 pm


The present trend

The Global Gender Gap Report of the World Economic Forum concludes that it will take 131 years to close the global gender gap; it is 149 years in populous South Asian countries including India.

India’s Performance in the Global Gender Gap Report 2023

India’s Rank

  • India has shown notable improvement in gender equality, moving up from the 135th position in the previous year to the 127th position out of 146 countries in the Global Gender Gap Report 2023.
  • India has witnessed an increase of 1.4 percentage points and has climbed 8 positions since the last edition of the report.
    • This advancement signifies a partial recovery towards achieving gender parity levels similar to those observed in 2020.

As of the report, India has closed 64.3% of the overall gender gap, reflecting the progress made in various aspects of gender equality.

Reservation the solution

Reservation is the most effective form of affirmative action and equity is the first step to equality. women are not inferior to men. Incompetencies, even if they arise, are short term, and are removed soon after opportunity for skill building is made available.

What the critics of Reservation contest

The basic premise of advocates against reservation is that it will bring down competence. Statistics however show that women perform much better than men in academics, more women graduate from colleges than men, and more women enter the workforce than men.

In contrast to this trend, the number of women sharply spirals downwards in leadership positions not because of their incompetence, but because of the hegemony of men.

A fresh start

The Constitution (One Hundred Twenty-Eighth Amendment) Bill, 2023, popularly known as the Women’s Reservation Bill, 2023 is indeed a ground-breaking event.

Global trends exhibit a sharp reduction in the age of political leaders. But can a common Indian woman, just by her commitment and ambition, dream of becoming the Prime Minister of India at the age of 37 — like Jacinda Ardern, the former Prime Minister of New Zealand?

Women only in Supportive and Emotional roles

Across the world, women are appreciated by society in supportive and emotional roles, but very seldom in leadership roles. The world hates and denigrates ambitious women.

Disguised Leadership for Women

Women who have assumed leadership roles did not get there by sheer industry, competence and intelligence. They were allowed only for the convenience of men who were disqualified from assuming these positions, or, if it served some political agenda.

Historical evidence also shows that most women who make it to leadership positions have a mix of privileges — of higher education, the support of influential mentors or families, or belong to upper classes or castes.

The case of Indira Gandhi

Even Indira Gandhi, who had the highest elitist advantage and was politically active from an early age, was not fielded as the Prime Minister on Jawaharlal Nehru’s death in 1964 and had to wait till Shastri’s death in 1966 to assume the prime ministerial role.

Rajiv Gandhi, on the other hand, by virtue of being the son, and even though not politically active earlier, was immediately fielded after Mrs Gandhi’s assassination.

The question thus is whether an Indian woman clipped of nepotistic advantages can be in a top leadership position in good time.

Women not supporting the other women

The deepest cut is that the handful of privileged women who assume leadership are not supportive or empathetic to the aspirations of those women who do not even have access to basic needs such as nutrition, education and financial independence.

They reel under the misconception that they have become leaders by virtue of their own efforts and sacrifices, ignoring the personal advantages they possess.

Historical References

During the Round Table Conference held in the 1930s in London, a letter was written on November 16, 1931 by Sarojini Naidu and Begum Jahanara Shahnawaz demanded neither discriminatory nor favourable treatment on the basis of gender in legislative representation, thereby rejecting reservation.

Incidentally, Sarojini Naidu had the advantage of being educated at the King’s College London and Cambridge with a scholarship from the Nizam of Hyderabad.

Begum Jahanara Shahnawaz, a Muslim League member, on the other hand advocated, along with Radhabai Subbarayan, a minuscule five per cent reservation for women.

While Begum Jahanara Shahnawaz studied at Queen Mary’s College, Lahore, Radhabai Subbarayan had the privilege of attending Somerville College, Oxford. Both the women were from elite backgrounds, affluent families and upper classes.

Regressive views are a hurdle

Thus, the biggest block is the regressive views on gender equality held by men and women. This has been seen even in otherwise progressive men as seen when C. Rajagopalachari opposed Radhabai Subbarayan’s choice to fight from a general seat.

Why do women have to wait so long to close the gender gap?

The present Bill is the first step towards actualising gender parity. One only wishes that its implementation would be based on a readjustment of seats on the basis of the 1991 Census, as it is done in the case of Scheduled Caste seats by the Delimitation Commission, rather than waiting for the delimitation exercise pegged on the next Census, whenever it is held.

It is time to quickly set right historical wrongs. Women want change. Society needs change. And there is no reason why it should be late.

Mains Questions

  1. The biggest block in the progress of women is the regressive views on gender equality held by men and women? Comment (150 words) 10 Marks


October 11, 2023
7:30 am - 11:30 pm
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