Why do Indian women seem to be especially disadvantaged? ( For background, please read Part 1) https://theawarecitizen.com/2021/04/11/feminism-in-india/#more-515Perhaps it is because the Indians place great emphasis on appearances. This makes it harder to modify gender roles. An Indian man simply cannot be seen washing dishes or changing diapers. A woman who lets her husband brew a coffee for her on a sunday, or lets her baby cry itself to sleep or does not cater to her in-laws’ every need, is considered to be vile. It does not matter whether the woman has to spend 8 hours before a laptop at work or harvest crop in the sweltering heat. An ideal woman has to be beautiful, patient, soft-spoken, kind, respectful and dedicate her life to the service of her family, even to the point of losing her personality and self respect.
The Indian State does its bit by providing inadequate social support. For example, it has passed an amendment increasing the duration of maternity leave but puts the burden on the employer to cover for the expenditure. This resulted in the abmysal labour force participation rate to dip even lower, due to reluctance to hire women. It still does not recognise the reproductive rights of women by mandating a cumbersome approval process and outdated restrictions, forcing women to undergo illegal, unsafe abortions. The police frequently mediate domestic violence cases with the aim of compromise, like the family elders and not an institution of the State.
While things have changed quite a bit for urban women of higher socioeconomic status, the rest of India’s women face grave discrimination from cradle to coffin. They accept this with no qualms, without a clue about something called feminism, ignorant that equality is their right.
Entrenched gender roles also mean that men have to meet certain expectations. A man who does not put food on the table is mocked and ridiculed, same as a man who cries, who is attracted to other men, or who is not ‘masculine’.
Allowing women and men the freedom to look, dress, think, behave, express and act the way the want is what can bring about true equality. A girl shouldn’t be stopped from wanting to become a wrestler and a boy should not face obstacles to achieve his dream of becoming a beauty consultant. Freedom of choice is the essence of feminism.