When I graduate from university, I can expect to go on to a job where I earn 14% less than the man working next to me (according to the Financial Times), who will be more likely to gain the promotion that we both go for then be judged on the amount of make-up I wear or the length of my skirt. Yet although equality still eludes us even today in Britain despite the progress made over the last century, a girl my age in India probably would not even have had any education up to the stage I have reached, never mind the future opportunities that I can look forward to. There has to be great change in the area of equality made in third world countries like India which are not as fully advanced as Britain.
This is not a futile hope. In the last century, things have dramatically changed for women in the UK. In the past a women’s main job was to take care of her children and they were generally not allowed to put forward any of their own ideas about political issues. However, things have now transformed dramatically. Women now have the same rights as men which make society far more equal than in the past. Nevertheless, to prove that they were worthy equals of men, they had to campaign for almost half a century. In order to get the vote in 1918, Suffragists used peaceful campaigns as a way of getting change for women. However in today’s society, there are still issues regarding the pay gap in Britain. It would seem that men are still being paid more than women in the same job. ‘This Morning’ presenter Holly Willoughby has recently been offered a £200,000 wage increase after finding out that her co-host, Phillip Schofield had been paid significantly more for the past decade. This is outrageous that both hosts have been carrying out the same job for so many years but it would seem that because of gender, it had meant that Holly would be paid considerably less.
In Indian society, a great change needs to happen just as it did in Britain a century ago. Hopefully through peaceful methods this can occur, even though barbaric violence is being carried out on women. In certain parts of India, women are terrified to leave their houses due to the risk of being assaulted or raped. A survey of 3000 people by the International Centre for Research on Women showed that females lived in constant fear of being kidnapped, raped, assaulted and even killed. Shamefully, this often occurs during the day and in public but no eye-witnesses seem to be doing anything about it. One particular story involved a 23-year-old woman who was sitting innocently on the bus with her fiancé. She was approached by a gang who then raped her in front of everyone on the bus including her partner. It is outrageous that not only would someone be raped but also for people to witness this on a public mode of transportation and do nothing about it. The incident was publicised around the world and received huge media coverage but it was only after this that the Indian government decided to try and make it safer for young girls and women living in towns and cities through harsher punishments for perpetrators. This meant that females in India were offered a glimmer of hope if they were, or were afraid of becoming a victim of sexual violence, they would now see justice as their attackers would face the consequences of their actions.
Even though, there are currently laws on the statute book, there is a lack of will to enforce them. An example of this is when women report an account of rape or domestic violence but the police ignore it. A new law was introduced in 2005 in India which was put in place to prevent domestic violence, but because this law has not been enforced, men simply disregard this. Similarly, the conviction rate for rapes has fallen at an alarming rate over the past 40 years. The conviction rates for rape cases was almost 45% in 1973 but by 2011 had fallen to just over 26%. In order to improve this, the Indian government have to have the will to enforce the laws as they stand, otherwise there is no hope for women in India to achieve the equality they truly deserve. Many of whom that are convicted of these crimes, tend to make the argument that it was the victim who had ‘provoked’ the accused and therefore believed that it was the victim’s fault (women). Since the majority of the courts in India are male dominated, this has meant that men convicted of these crimes have either been given a light punishment or have been cleared of all charges and have not received any form of punishment at all. This does not protect women’s rights and also means that at this point, it will be a long wait until women will be given the equality that they are more than worthy of.
Regrettably this is doubtful. Unfortunately this is a consequence of a patriarchal society where women can’t demand change as they are in a minority in positions of power. The government should act more punitively in terms of longer prison sentences. In reality, the situation is becoming worse for women and the government are becoming much more lenient towards men.
This leniency is extended to the household. Domestic abuse is so common in India that it’s considered to be a part of life. In 2013, the number of women who experienced domestic violence and reported it was an incredible 118, 866, four times the amount of women in Britain. A further 33,707 females were raped within their own household. This highlights the inequalities but also the distress and torture that women still have to put up with on a regular basis. A woman who is married is actually regarded as belonging to her husband which emphasizes the gender differences and her place in society. This undoubtedly needs to change as a woman should be free to make her own choices in life and not be treated like a slave within her own household.
However, astonishing social change through mass movement is possible in India as exemplified through the work of Mahatma Ghandi. Perhaps Indian women could bring a similar change to modern society, something which would have met with his approval. In 1921 he said: “Of all the evils for which man has made himself responsible, none is so degrading, so shocking or so brutal as his abuse of the better half of humanity; the female sex (not the weaker sex).”