The Questions I Must Ask After Seeing India’s Dismal Gender Equality Rank

Posted by Neha Singh in Feminism
January 9, 2018

“The hand that rocks the cradle, the procreator, the mother of tomorrow; a woman who shapes the destiny of civilization. such is the tragic irony of fate that a beautiful creation such as a girl child is today one of the gravest concerns facing humanity” – unknown

I read this heartbreaking quote some three or four years ago, and it kind of stuck with me for obvious reasons. Heartbreaking that it is, it is also an eye-opener in the real sense.

I was busy in my daily chores when the “Global Gender Gap Report, 2017” caught my attention. And it is unfortunate that instead of the quote, “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world“, the first thing that came to my mind was the above mentioned quote.

So, the World Economic Forum(WEF) releases this report based on the progress towards four dimensions:
  • Economic participation
  • Opportunity
  • Educational attainment
  • Health and survival, and
  • Political empowerment

India ranks 108th in the index. I know! I know! Some of my friends said , “Come on Neha, ever since the first index was conducted, the overall global gender gap has actually widened.” So, it is natural. “Oh! These rankings don’t really depict a clear picture.” To which I replied, “Is it a good position to be even in a gloomy picture? And if you insist it does not depict the real picture, then why were we so positive about the improvement in the “ease of doing business” index prepared by the World Bank?”

Well, what if I tell you, Bangladesh ranks 47? What if I tell you, China ranks 100? What if I tell you, there’s a country which has been the world’s most gender-equal country for nine years? Yes! I am talking about Iceland. Do we always need to look for examples like these? Are we not capable of becoming an example ourselves?

Yes! Now you would say, but that’s a scandinavian country, their problems are different. Societies are different. Excuses! I tell you.

But wait, what if I tell you, India ranks 108th out of 144 countries? What if i tell you, we are way behind a country like Bangladesh who got its independece as late as 1971? What if I tell you, India slipped by 10 notches since the time WEF started measuring the gap? What if I tell you, this report also reveals that on an average, 66% of women’s work in India is unpaid, compared to 12% of men? What if I tell you, India ranks 136th out of 144 countries when it comes to women’s economic participation?

Too many questions, right? And before you call me a pessimist or a feminist or these questions, a rhetoric, let me feel safe by calling myself a realist. So, here is a real assumption mentioned below:

The World Economic Forum also mentioned,“At the current rate of progress, the global gender gap will take 100 years to bridge, compared to 83 last year.”

Besides, arguments and rebuttals,we, the women of India need to ask questions. We need to stand up for ourselves. We should learn how to assert our identities. We must stand by other women. We, the women, should learn to be ambitious. That’s the least we need to do for now. It’s a long journey, and we the women, must seek the support of our male counterparts. But are they ready?

Would you still call this a rhetoric? Aren’t we allowed to exercise our rights? Are we asking for too much? I always thought – “We the people of India…” in our Preamble, included women too.

We the women, the ‘procreators’, should stand up for ourselves now. And before some people come up with arguments such as, “Oh! There are enough seats reserved for women.” “Oh! I have ‘allowed’ my wife/daughter to work/study” etc, we need to give ourselves a chance!

First things first, yes, a lot of women are setting career goals for the rest of us – but, was it an easy journey for her? Did you (irrespective of your gender) try and make things easier for her? Did you ever support and appreciate her difficult choices?

Secondly, if you think, you ‘permitted/allowed’ her to pursue her career, you have all my sympathies. I totally pardon you for your ignorance to acknowledge her legal, basic and fundamental rights. Her right to choose a career, right to lead a meaningful life, right to earn a livelihood, right to education, right to freedom of profession or trade, etc. So, when you boast about your liberal mindset by saying things like, you ‘allowed/permitted’ her to pursue a career or education, you actually disrespect the will of the people as a whole.

Thirdly, the women who sit in their comfortable homes and say, “I don’t need to work because my husband/father is earning a hefty amount” or something like, “Oh! She’s being too ambitious now.”

Ladies, please be a little more sensitive while making such statements. It is always good to have privileges, but at the same time, don’t be so ignorant. We are a society where, for millions of girls out there, to be able to exercise something as basic as their human rights also counts as privilege. The lines are so blurred that we often think of our rights as our privileges. We call ourselves ‘lucky’ to be able to exercise the most basic of rights. Not working or being productive, should totally be your call but please, stop shaming someone who does not think like you. Also, being ‘ambitious’ is absolutely okay!

 All I am trying to say is that let’s be a little more compassionate every day and we’ll get there. Let’s make the best use of our energies in the best possible way. Let’s practice and preach gender parity. After all, it is not about male vs female. It’s about us, as one single unit – society. So, let everyone have their share, equitably.