India is the second-largest mobile user in the world, and it is expected to reach 829 million mobile users by 2022, but the women of India take a very small corner of this number, i.e. 17.4% (keeping aside, those women mobile users whose SIM is registered in the name of a male guardian).
According to the Kantar IMRB ICUBE report, the internet user base in India has exceeded 500 million, of which only 30% of women account for access to the internet. Even though Reliance Jio has made it pretty much consumable, India is still facing a non-equilibrium growth—now the most important question, is this not a modern inequality? No doubt, it is! Because, according to the Kerala high court judgment in Faheem Shareen vs. the State of Kerala, the right to internet access is a fundamental right.
Before moving ahead to explain why this discriminatory situation arises, one thing which is more interesting to note is that ‘the cure is in the disease only’. So before indulging in “why” and “what”, it is more imperative to know how it is impacting every single cell of the organs of a socio-economic system, especially women.
Recently, an ample number of state governments introduced women safety applications; like ‘Sakhi‘ app in Jharkhand, ‘Dayitva’ by Haryana government and so on. What about those women who do not have a smartphone to use this application, in fact, what about that 82.3 % of women who do not have mobile phones either—isn’t it a half-hearted or discriminatory initiative in itself?
Now, the next question is in relation to the logjam in daily life (like online banking, admission in schools/college, job application for competitive exams) so where do women stand, and why do they have to be dependent on others?
The National Commission for Women has collaborated with the state governments for an initiative, in which 60,000 students would have to be trained and recruited to promote digital literacy in an online safety program. Will this really create any change?
How is it that we are too poor to provide mobile phone or internet access to more than 30% of women, but we have enough to provide it to 83% male mobile users? The Government has launched a lot of apps for the safety and literacy of women and some uncounted portals like Shagun, Shmadhan, Dristi. So, no, we cannot completely blame the government. As I already said, the cure is in the disease itself. A lot of other factors, like poor infrastructure, poverty, etc. are to be blamed.
It is the patriarchal mentality which doesn’t want to provide internet access to women, which places bans on wearing jeans and ultimately, restricts women from using mobile phones. This banality has become so common that we hardly care about it and have grown used to its impact. 95% of women in America use mobiles phones. In the United Kingdom, the use of mobile phones between the sexes is almost equal.
The argument that has become common in India is that “it is for women’s security”. According to a report by the National Crime Record Bureau, 86% of rapes are committed by close family members such as fathers, brothers and uncles, as well as neighbours, employers, co-workers and friends. So, if the insecurity lies in your own home, which security are you talking about? Every field has crime, the crime needs to be fought and prevented, but this is not how you do it. If domestic violence and dowry killing are so prevalent in India, does it mean that they should avoid marrying their daughters?
Everything trickles down to ignorance. Trying to alienate women and preventing their liberty is just a form of modern discrimination.