Indra Nooyi, the former Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo., has been selected as one of the directors of the International Cricket Council (ICC). India has a shining list of successful women achievers like Kiran Majumdar Shaw (Chairman and MD, BIOCON), Chitra Ramakrishna (Joint MD, National Stock Exchange), Chanda Kocher (MD, CEO, ICICI Bank), Krithiga Reddy (Head, Facebook India) and many more.
The true picture
But does this reflect the ground reality? On the other side of the spectrum, we have Nirbhaya of Delhi and the brutally raped tribal women of Kushmandi. Statistics of domestic violence with women as victims is on the rise. The 2012 National Crime Records Bureau report of India states a reported crime rate of 46 per 100,000, rape rate of 2 per 100,000, dowry homicide rate of 0.7 per 100,000 and the rate of domestic cruelty by husband or his relatives as 5.9 per 100,000. Girl students and women workers are sexually harassed and molested and cases of female foeticide are still plenty. The malady is deep-rooted. Indian culture seems to be harbouring a great hypocrisy – worshipping ‘Devi’, equating the women with a Goddess and at the same time treating her as a servile object.
Veteran teacher of Kolkata, Nanda Chakravarty, says in this context, “From my experience as a teacher I found gender discrimination is a ground reality. I taught in a government girls’ school where education was provided free. In most of the cases, it was found that girls who had brothers were studying in expensive English medium schools. Till date, in the case of girls ‘don’ts’ surpass the ‘dos’. Yet, we hear women are often described as Goddesses. This is blatant hypocrisy.”
The hands that are folded passionately to worship deities, beat the wives at home, disturb women and girls publicly, killing their trust and innocence part-by-part.
Dehumanising a human
The constitutional pledge towards equality appears farcical in the context of the average Indian women. She is in reality still viewed in relation to a male – as a daughter, wife and mother. In this frame, where is an identity of an individual human being?
The dual concept of women as an elevated ‘Devi’ and a submissive gentle being is the smack of hypocrisy. Once a ‘Devi’, she is signifier of purity, which is in reality equated with sexual purity, that is, virginity. And hence she is no longer a human being of flesh with her natural desires and aspirations. Any deviation from the common societal expectations is the epithet of a fallen woman and she becomes an object of ridicule.
Devis, not eye-candy
Commodification of women is seen all around. Isn’t it astonishing, women are subjects of worship and the same women are treated as vulnerable commodities.
In 2017 some of internationally famous Indian male academics were truly unmasked for harassing girl students. India needs many more girls and women to come forward to unmask the truth of this kind.
Unfortunately the women in our country, themselves, because of centuries’ long convention have come to subscribe to some discriminatory notions. She seems to suffer from the ‘hostage syndrome’. Domination is thus ensured. The male-female equation stands like that of the coloniser – the colonised, the dominant power holding master – the powerless subordinate subaltern. The patriarchal construct is still operational.
Deprivation of natural right to education
India celebrated the success of the woman astronaut Kalpana Chawla, the Indian media highlights the success of Indra Nooyi, but most of the girls in our country are not supported to pursue higher studies even if they strive for that. They are humiliated if they are experts among books instead being experts in the domestic works. It is ironic that even in the 21st century government has to introduce distinct programmes like ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ and ‘Kanyasri’. A large gender gap emerges in India as the Census 2011 shows the male literacy rate to be 82.14% while for females it is 65.46%. Shouldn’t the girl child have the natural right to education?
Employment level inequality
The workforce parti cipa tion rate of females in rural
sector was 26.1 in 2009-10 (NSS 64th Round) while that for males was 54.7. In Urban sector, it was 13.8 for females and 54.3 for males. Among the states/union territories, workforce participation rate of females in rural sector was the highest in Himachal Pradesh at 46.8% and in
urban sector it was the highest in Mizoram at 28.8%.
Unequal pay for equal work
For the year 2013, the gender pay gap in India was estimated to be 24.81% [“Gender Pay Gap in the Formal Sector : 20016-2013 (September, 2013)” – Wage Indicator Data Report]. Further, while SEWA (the Self Employed Women’s Association) recently found that the average wage of women workers was `1815 while the average wage for men was `3842.
Nutrition level inequality
Compared with boys, girls had lower consumption of fresh milk by 14% (95% CI: 79% to 94%, p = 0.001) and breast milk by 21% (95% CI: 70% to 90%, p<0.000) [Source: NCBI]. The overall average nutritional status of
adolescents is 62.3% for boys and 53.3% for girls [Source: IOSR
Journal of Dental and Medical Sciences (IOSR-JDMS)]. Still in 2018, Women’s nutritional status is always much lower than that of males in India.
But still they smile
But amidst all these social pressures, women of India are putting positive notes in every field of life, by taking head on the societal disrespect as a challenge. In spite of societal bias on Indian women to get married and to have children, the numbers of professionally successful Indian women have been increasing day by day. The success of Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) of ISRO, is the biggest example of that. All sari clad Indian women of this mission are the inspirations to their next generations. Flying Officer Avani Chaturvedi made all women of India proud by becoming the first woman pilot of the Indian Air Force to complete a solo flight on a MiG-21 Bison fighter aircraft. She was declared as the first combat pilot along with two of her cohort, Mohana Singh, and Bhawana Kanth. They proved that women can touch the sky if they are given proper opportunity.
Supporting the real life Goddesses
A survey by AVTAR Group-India and Working Mother Media reveals that Accenture, Cummins India, Deloitte India, EY India, Hindustan Unilever Limited, IBM India, ICICI Bank, Intel Technology India, Mindtree Technologies, Morgan Stanley, People, are the top 10 companies for working women in India. Other sectors and companies also can implement policies to plug the women-talents-draining, following the examples of these 10 companies. And that will be great beneficial to our economy too.
There are laws for women regarding child marriage, sexual harassment of women, divorces, equal remuneration etc. But very few are aware of them and if they are aware, they are not supported or guided properly. Indian women need more measures and awareness to get support of these laws to fight against injustice in their life, as they are the fortune of our nation.
May the tone of worship reflects in real life
I truly hope, the respect with which goddesses are worshipped all over my country, reflects in every aspect of the lives of women of my mother land. If that happens, then only the true significance of goddess-worshipping makes sense.
These lines from “The Phenomenal Woman” by Maya Angelou vibrates meaningfully here,
“Cause I’m a woman