Substantive Gender Equity; A perspective.

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It is easy in this century to be a man. But it is way too difficult to be a woman. You have to think like a man, act like a gentle lady, look like a young girl and work like a donkey. And worse is you don’t get paid for almost everything you do. Only thing that she gets at the end of the day is sense of relief that she could perform the roles. Nothing else! Sometimes not even a pat on the back. How inhuman? Hypocritical human beings!

Societies so far has discriminated women based on their sex being the inferior of the two. Therefore in every society we see even the professions are divided based on gender. If somebody says the surgeon in that lab is good, in our head it is a man. And if people say that nurse is rude, we visualize a woman. We are conditioned that way. But now people challenge these conventions.

People have started this movement against gender discrimination, since late nineties. Virginia Woolf in 1941 in her book “Room of one’s Own”, rues at the absence of books by women authors on the book shelves which are largely dominated by men often writing negatively about women.  

After the depression years some progress is made in the US in terms passing legislation's addressing women’s issues. But progress at the international level is made only in the later part of the century.

First conference on women was held in Mexico (1975), then in Copenhagen (1980), Nairobi (1985), and Beijing (1995). First convention was ratified and adopted in 1981 by 64 countries. This was the land mark “CEDAW (convention on elimination of discrimination against women). All these happened under the support of UN.

Since CEDAW and other activism propounded women issues in particular, it drew criticism saying that world is pitching women against men. Now this has changed as “gender equity” which is inclusive of all the genders. But under the garb of gender, world is still discussing women issues. Truly so!

The reality world over is women are repressed and almost treated as properties. Since I have a mom, sisters, wife and nieces, I acknowledge the fact that the situation is true but they deserve to be treated as at least equal human beings. Beyond biological differences almost everything is identical if we remove the chauvinistic male lens.

Someone remarked “equality may be right but no power on earth can make it real” but this is true only in a vision-less view. Some ventures take generations on end to complete but not impossible.

Sex is natural and Gender is socio-cultural. Sex is based on the genitals we were naturally born with but gender is the “blue and pink” that society has given. Sex cannot be changed to some extend (changed under circumstances) but gender can definitely change, since it is just in ideas.

I was always fond of “the place where we have started”. Basically everyone has different stories to tell because we have all started from different points. When we talk about equality we basically mean the finish line. There is no question on where we began. Since inequality stretches back millions of years into history, the rhetoric of same finish line is unfair. Therefore equality is not the right answer to bring the fabric our existence (women) at par with men.

For few generations world might have to help them reach the same starting line. And then we may talk about the same finish line the “equality”. For thousands of years women were marginalized as stepping stone for men folk. They were deprived of opportunities, not their innate inability.  We have given some space and they excelled.  Therefore, we can dare to dream a world where all men and women walk shoulder to shoulder without having to give a second thought.

To get there we have to break stereotypes, discard unfounded beliefs and remove unfair mental barriers. World needs to come together and give our women and girls more than equality “substantive equity”. If we get them on board then the road to humanity may be less troublesome and more merriment.

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But we need a lot of courage especially the men folk to internalize this fact. It could jeopardize our religious belief systems and traditions. Faith in some spiritual pursuits may be shaken. We might have to wage wars. But in the end we know that religion, culture, society, economics and politics are nothing but the ideologies of mankind. Therefore, it can be changed and changed for good and good of mankind.

It could definitely take generations to bring the best in our women but slow and steady will win the race where humanity wins. But audacity of hope must quell the timidity of doubt. It must be reminded that this journey must be painful but for me I take it as a sweet labor of love. I would start at home, will you???   


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