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Gender issues are always a hot topic. A stereotypical worldview of the Left-liberals is that: ‘women are the deprived lot; they are always at the receiving end in the patriarchal world. Hence women perennially suffer and should fight for gender justice. Most women in India and other parts of the world are in sync with this opinion. In the world’s most progressive nation i.e. the U.S, it is said that Hillary Clinton was defeated in 2016 as a presidential candidate due to gender bias. However, Indira Gandhi ruled India for sixteen long years. Contiguous Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka have had or have women as rulers. Apart from that Indian culture and scriptures give pre-eminence to women and say in no uncertain terms that women must be respected in all circumstances. Women activists in India (albeit legitimately) concentrate on cases of abuse and discrimination and bring violations to the notice of the public. Their use of ready-made definitions such as patriarchy for a society which is organised largely in men’s interest; gender-bias, gender-blind, discrimination, women-targeted statements indicating implicit misogyny and other androcentric terms show that they are copy-cats of the West. No one is saying there are no real causes for concern but chanting, day in and day out patriarchy, discrimination, misogyny, etc. Will it bring any justice to women? Of course, the privileged elite has the leisure and pleasure of airing views and fighting the ills they perceive. That being said, they are making these slogans anodyne and their fight is further dividing society.
While women-rights activists brought some positive changes in the lives of women through legislation, they are also brain-washing women at the bottom with hyperactive thought processes. They claim that for ages women have been “confined to the kitchen” to imply that unlike men they are not free to go out and undertake some intellectual or professional work-related pursuits. All over the world, work-family policies reflect the binary of caregiving women and working men. It is commonplace. Moreover, India has a strong family system in which women play a pivotal role. Most women in India (barring a small social elite and isolated individual cases) do the traditionally assigned job of cooking and looking after the house. This is not menial work. Most enjoy cooking for their family to ensure their health and well-being. After all, that is derivational happiness to them. In fact, given the changing dynamics of the society, when women’s participation has increased in the ‘outside’ work-force, men naturally have had to share in the housework, including in the kitchen. However, the fast-food delivery outlets are replacing traditional healthy cooking, as brain-washed sections of society are seeking easy alternatives to homekeeping and creating new problems as a result of unsound lifestyles.
Now, since educated women are coming out to work, the new slogan is: women are discriminated against in the workplace. They are coming from a glass ceiling and cannot attain the highest positions. Though this complaint has some merit, there are some other deeper reasons. The first and foremost is — the educated and securely employed woman gets married quite easily in Indian society nowadays. The moment she gets married she is not a free individual. She has the burden of child-bearing and child-rearing. Of course care of in-laws is often an added responsibility. Therefore, the hurdles for a woman, being born as such, are greater. Realizing the fact, the Indian Constitution has categorized them among weaker sections. To help in their uplift the government has increased maternity and child-care leave. In contrast, a married man is free to pursue his pursuits as before. He has kept his status quo ante.
The women’s rights activists usually agree that the family is the backbone of Indian society. However, as in the West, they would like nowadays girls to assert their freedom and rights for or against marriage as an institution, the choice of being single or married, the choice to have children or not, etc. Though these freedoms are per se not bad, taken to an extreme they cause ill effects in society. Ageing and dwindling populations are a cause for concern in many nations. Hence, portraying women as generic victims of the social system has its ill-effects. Such kind of social stratification India can ill afford. The schemata followed by the western countries on gender issues cannot be applied to the country wholesale. In any case, women activists of all shades in India tend to generalise issues such as sexual violence, property, dowry and other social ills.
Actually, the women from the poorer sections are the sufferers. The poor labouring class woman has no maternity or child-care leave. She toils carrying her child on her back. She needs more support. The Chief Ministers of many states and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in particular are providing the needed help. The poor women’s essential needs for cooking gas and drinking water are met by the P.M’s Ujjwala Yojana and Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM). Once they can cook without choking from the smoke, and get water without spending time and energy to bring it from far-off places, they will be able to spare the accrued free time to aspire for higher goals. What is being done by the Government at the Centre is concrete work on the ground instead of empty sloganeering.