India’s deep seated cultural norms, an obstacle to gender equality & Development

Chittorgarh Form Village Lifestyle. Photo credit: Christine Delginiesse

Discrimination against women and girls is a Pervasive and long-running phenomenon that characterizes Indian society at every level.

India’s progress towards gender equality, by rankings such as the Gender Development Index has been rather disappointing, despite fairly rapid rates of economic growth.

A recent survey shows, in the past decade, while Indian GP has grown by around 6%, there has been a large decline in female labor force participation, from 34% to 27%. The male-female wage gap has been stagnant at 50%, same survey also indicates a 27% gender gap in white collar jobs.

Some of the inherent cultures that exacerbate gender inequalities include; Khatna/(Female Genital Mutilation) inheritance through male descendants and patrilocality (married couples living with their husbands parents), a culturally ingrained parental preference of sons stemming from their importance as caregivers in old age, the dowry system, involving a cash or in kind payment from the brides family to the grooms at the time of marriage is an institution that disempowers women. It does often result in dowry related violence against women by their husbands and in-laws if the dowry is considered insufficient or as a way to demand more payments.

Crimes against women such as rape, dowry deaths and honor killings are common in India. These trends are disturbing as a natural prediction would be that with growth comes education and prosperity. The chief barriers to realizing gender equality in India are deep seated cultural norms. Despite the millions of dollars poured into development in India, significant change is yet to come about, particularly in regards to Indian culture. When Empowerent conflicts with Indian culture, it’s not well received. It is well into 21st century, it’s deep rooted tradition has slowed its pace on others.

Monumental Taj Mahal, India photo credit: Chrsitine Delginiesse

For india to mantain its position as a global leader, more concerted efforts at local and national level, and by private sector are needed to bring women to parity with men

While  increasing representation of women in the public spheres, it is important and can be particularly attained through some of affirmative action. An attitudinal shift is essential for women to be considered as equal within their homes and in broader society. Men also need to realize that women can work without sacrificing their families and their responsibilities in the home. There is an urgent need to disrupt the  system of cultural norms inindia that keep women surbodinate.

Educating Indian children from an early age about the importance of gender equality could be a meaningful start in that direction!


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