The Census of India: Limitless Gender Bias

Posted on July 28, 2010 in Society

By Mamta:

In India homemakers are equated with beggars, prostitutes and prisoners. It might appear shocking to some but it is a gruesome reality. This has come to forefront when the Supreme Court asked Parliament to rethink the value of homemakers pointing out that even the Census of India officially categorises them as “economically non-productive workers” alongside beggars, prostitutes and prisoners. The court said this approach is ‘insensitive’, ‘callous’ and ‘indicative of strong gender bias against women’.

The observation has come on an appeal filed by Arun Agrawal whose 39 year old homemaker wife Renu died after their car met with an accident a few years ago. Arun sought a compensation of Rs 19.2 lakh from the insurance company for the death of his wife. The court said, “A wife or mother does not work by the clock. She is in constant attendance of the family throughout the day and night unless she is employed and is required to attend the employer’s work for particular hours. She takes care of all the requirements of husband and children including cooking of food, washing of clothes, etc. She teaches small children and provides invaluable guidance to them for their future life”.

It is really unfortunate that people still don’t consider the value of a homemaker. She compromises her career for the sake of her family. In our society, cooking food, looking after children and other household chores has often been considered as a moral duty of women. Since birth they are told that they have to look after their family and it’s their first and foremost responsibility. An aspiring woman is considered as ignorant, irresponsible and sometimes evil.

Women are still trapped in their traditional role as a homemaker. It is not that they voluntarily opt for this role. Our value system and patriarchal set up don’t let women to step out of their house. And even if they want to work the incidents of sexual harassment at workplace such as in women’s hockey team put obstacles in their way.

What could be said about our value system when even our laws are not favourable for women? The judge said, “Gender bias” is shockingly prevalent in the work of the Census – a statutory exercise blessed by Parliament in the form of the Census Act, 1948. The judgment said, “Monetary value of cooking for family members could be assessed in terms of what it would cost to hire a cook or to purchase ready cooked food or by assessing how much money could be earned if the food cooked for the family were to be sold in the locality”.

It is a very significant observation by the apex court. Indeed the time has come and women should get their due. At least women should get the recognition for their work.

The writer is a freelancer and a correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz.