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Gender Matters by Vikram Sheoran - 1w ago

With the vision that the world has of Denmark, it comes as a surprise that only one is six Danes consider themselves to be ‘feminists’. This was announced as a result of a poll conducted by YouGov-Cambridge Globalism Project of more than 25,000 people in 23 major countries, targeting Denmark as one of the candidates because of its narrow gender pay gap, equal employment rights, and universal nursery care.

In a global survey of attitudes of gender, equal rights for both men and women and the importance and wide-spread reach of the #MeToo movement to come out and encourage women to share their voice and stories of harassment, that Denmark is one of the least feminist countries in the world.

This project was conducted three years after the country’s equality minister and member of the party Venstre, Karen Ellemann, said she did not consider herself to be a feminist. The project also found that only two out of five Danes supported the #MeToo movement and only 4% of men and 8% of women questioned in the survey had a ‘favorable’ view of the #MeToo movement. Some even raised challenges like they believed #MeToo would make men feel constrained in their relationships with women. Sara Phil was noted saying “I think some men are afraid of talking to women at work, in case they get accused of something.”

When asked further questions, the responses ranged from “I don’t want to be equal in all senses” to “I’m not marching in the streets”. They also discovered that the women would rather prefer to be wolf-whistled and cat-called, instead of being called feminists. Helene was stated saying “I don’t mind it so long as it’s done in a nice way. I see it as a compliment, actually.”

Rikke Andreassen, Professor of Communication Studies at Roskilde University also came on record for The Guardian and proclaimed that Danes are known to be okay with low-level, non-intended, I-didn’t-mean-it-in-any-other-way-but-for-fun kind of sexual harassment; saying “We have had a culture where what you say isn’t racist or sexist if you don’t intend it to be. You can grab a woman, but so long as you did it because it was ‘fun’, then culturally we tend to think it’s not that bad.”

This raises huge concerns for the female citizens of Denmark, especially the ones who consider #MeToo to be favorable, as harassment behavior is propagated and creating a safe-space for women is considered as a hindrance by its citizens.

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Gender Matters by Akanksha Ahluwalia - 2w ago

As today and tomorrow the United Nations promotes time of remembrance and reconciliation for those who lost their lives during the Second World War, we want to shed light on the role that women play during war. Since the scale of the Second World War gave birth to massive global conflict and the scale was unprecedented, both the superpowers decided to mobilize women into the folds of the world war. While The Soviet Union took a utilitarian role and decided to recruit women directly into their armed forces unit, The United States elected to not use women as officers because of the wide-spread patriarchal ideology that would not tolerate women as officers, but appointed them as administrative officers, nurses, truck drivers, mechanics and electricians.

With the limitations in roles and the rampant xenophobia and advent of war, discrimination and limitations were widespread. Women were expected to perform at the standard of men, were paid one-third of what a male employee earned, they underwent the same military training, lived in the same conditions as men and were still not allowed to participate in front-line combat. The limitation can be seen in the fact that female officers were not awarded medals for bravery because they were given to officers for “active operations against enemy in the field”. Despite this, women were eager to volunteer and leave behind their restrictive backgrounds.

During the war, approximately 487,000 women volunteered for women’s services. By 1941, the demand for men to be relieved off their jobs and take on more active roles at the battlefield expanded the call for women services. With the advent of war, there was an urgent need for women to leave the assembly, which was seen as undemanding work and therefore attributed to the female workers only, and enter the workplace as factory labour.

So today, we remember the women who entered into designated male sectors by raging against rampant patriarchy and highlighting that the propagation of gender equality could not only have saved lives which were lost, but also save the economy that took a huge hit after the second world war.

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“In our country, those who help save the homes, lands and livelihoods of the poorest, those who speak not just of responsibilities but of rights, those who raise their voices against corruption, they are safeguarding the same Constitution. But now, those who demand rights are being locked away.” Naseeruddin Shah, Actor

Since the United Nations is celebrating World Press Freedom Day today, we wanted to look at what ‘freedom of speech’ and ‘freedom of press’ means to each one of us here in India. To start at the beginning, freedom of speech holds a special place in the hearts of Indian citizens because we were denied this right for 200 years and got it back in 1947. The importance of freedom of speech and expression can be easily highlighted by the fact that the preamble of constitution ensures that all citizens possess the right to liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship.

On the one hand, the right to freedom of speech and expression in India is absolute in Article 19 but, on the other hand, we see that the government and its policies are allowed to limit this freedom of expression according to the constitution “in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State.”

The scariest and the most prevalent form of hindering this right to freedom of speech is censorship and its companion: physical intimidation. Not only has Indian media started catering to the political party agenda, openly and widely, even through their presence of various social media platforms, they have also turned journalists into potential targets of defamation, heresy, physical violence or bankruptcy.

Because of the widespread censorship leaking into the media, the voices of women are doubly invisible. The voices of women in our country are silenced at home and then they are silenced in developing spaces of media and technology as well. This double censorship allows no space for complaints of sexual harassment as seen in the outburst of the #MeToo movement, unsafe work environments, the fear of not-being taken seriously because journalism has always been a male-dominated profession and to a see a female on the field was still bizarre for the general Indian audience, mental and physical health care management plans that led to the widespread period-leave debate and whether it was anti-feminist to ask for leave, even physical attacks on the bodies of female journalists and media reporters due to their reportage. May 2017 saw the culmination of this discrimination and inequality in the form of the shock wave that spread all over the country after the murder of senior journalist and critical reporter of the Hindu Right, Gauri Lankesh, by a gunman because her hate speech was unequivocally linked to hate speech.

Freedom of the Press not only entails bolstering the fourth pillar of the Indian democracy by providing it an enabling environment but also making the Press more gender inclusive so that diverse voices and issues are covered. Independent Press is the internal requirement for good journalism and giving it a safe environment to thrive and inform the citizen is an external requirement that the State needs to provide to the Press. The citizens, as is always the case, have to be watchdogs to ensure that we get the Press and the State, we deserve.

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Gender Matters by Centre For Social Research - 2M ago

Women contribute in ensuring that democracy continuously evolves and within the same, avenues of sustained women empowerment open up. The heightened voice of women as voters in democracy is not an initiator. Rather it is an outcome of long and strenuous efforts by women actively engaged in political society of India. The role of women in formal politics pre-dates Indian freedom. Women were instrumental in the quest for universal adult franchise in India. Women’s group united and voiced against the separate electorates based on religion in pre-independence India. They actively opposed it as it would hinder women from participating in active politics by putting them at disadvantaged footing in comparison to their male counterparts. The active engagement of women in formal politics continued post-independence, when women fought for modifications in Hindu Code bill and asserted for their rights on property. This had led to wide divisions and disputes in the Lok-Sabhas following independence. Time and again women parliamentarians have brought to forth and fought for women centric issues.

Women constitute nearly half of the entire population of a country. In the context of India, where they still form the minor portion of the population, it is not unjustified to call them the largest minority. While, this statement has to be treated cautiously as in a multi-cultural country like India, not all women are same, yet, they are still tied by a common thread of being disadvantaged solely based on their gender in addition to other social positionings. In a fair world they would be equal participants in any decision making and political process. But often this equilibrium is not the natural state of affairs. It is said that women are repository of culture and tradition, and hence social policing is stricter and more rigid for them, so is the systemic disadvantage and curtailment on agency for women. Therefore, there have to be active efforts on parts of different organs of political and civil society to instate a state of equality wherein equipping women with greater agency, capability and choices in political spheres.

The proponents of democracy have often argued for the superiority of democracy in providing equal opportunities for women and other disadvantaged and marginalized groups to voice their concerns and be partners in nation building. While, the argument holds merit as out of present systems of governance, democracy in its theoretical foundations provides the maximum space for all divergent social groups to participate. Yet, the marriage of theory with reality is not natural. Democracy as a form of modern governance has been hailed as most participatory in nature. But it has often been observed that democracy if placed in a society composed of multiple social cleavages, fail to act as a levelling mechanism on its own.

Democracy just like any other social and political institution is not fixated in time, rather it evolves over time and needs to be actively strengthened and protected against authoritative and hegemonic powers. Democracy being a political system embedded within socio- cultural milieu of a society is heavily swayed by the inherent power relations, and apparent democratic processes can be often underlain by undemocratic procedures. Using the very participatory political space provided by democracy, it needs several enabling factors to allow for full and equal participation of each and every person in the sovereign boundary of a particular democratic country. Democracy and process of democratization are both affected and in turn affect the process of social and distributive justice, and participatory governance. It is essential to understand that a mere right to participate in political process through voting is not the zenith of democracy. Instead, the ability and ease of using free agency based on availability and access to unbiased and free information as well as ample opportunities and freedom to participate at all levels of political functioning is strengthened and mature democracy.

The discussion till now focused on why democracy is not a perfect system providing equal opportunities. This snippet was vital to establish the context of what is meant by a holistic and mature democracy, and why there is a need of strengthening it. While it is true that 2014 general elections saw the most visual unification of women voters into a unified and politically viable voter group it was not the first time that women had voted in large numbers. Rather they have done so in 1984 elections, post the assassination of Indira Gandhi, and voiced their condemnation of violence and brutality in politics. The female voter in India has been becoming more politically aware, independent and increasingly using their free agency, moving out of the shadow of the male members of the family. It is this political maturity within female voters that has brought the issues of women to forefront at electoral campaigns and political manifesto. The impact has been the increased debate and discussion around the issues of women and child rights. The prominent example of this electoral maturity and strengthening of women as a uniform group transcending their internal stratifications, has been the heavy-handed role of women voters in victory of BJP and their prime ministerial candidate in 2014 general elections. The election campaign was heavily laden with promises of female safety and security, which was able to attract a large number of women voters. Same has been the case with the winners in the 2018 State assembly elections.

The increased participation of women in democracy as voters, and the resultant compulsion for political parties to voice the demands and incorporate women centric issues, points towards the role of women as voters in strengthening the democracy. Using this increased visual contribution of women as voters as point of departure, it has been often fallaciously argued that role of women in strengthening democracy has been recent. This unification of women as voters is an outcome of long struggles by women at different levels of political and civil society that facilitated the maturity in democracy to enable women voters. The increased emphasis by feminist scholars and activists to analyze household as a segregated unit composed of complex power relations, has enabled to concentrate efforts towards increasing access to power for females within households. Now the political information within household is no longer hegemonic domain of the male members, rather it is gradually diffusing.

One cannot undermine the role of Geeta Mukherjee and Promila Dandavate in their struggle for 108th constitutional amendment of Women Reservation Bill. It has to be admitted that often despite several women parliamentarians fighting for the cause of women in formal politics, they have often been unable to usher in legislative reforms on their own. This is widely due to the active fencing of politics from women, resulting in minuscule number of women as parliamentarians, who often on their own are unable to get the desired legislative outcomes. Yet, these women of national prominence act as symbols of female strength and power and act as strong role models for the women of the country, motivating them to increase their participation in the democratic processes.

One domain of the formal politics that has recently seen surge in active and effective participation of women has been the Panchayati Raj and local body institutions, where it has been constitutionally mandated for reservation of seats for female candidates. Within these institutions, when present in substantial numbers, women gain sufficient power to alter the political landscape. It has often been seen in various researches that women local body legislatures have worked more for welfare schemes. Apart from their role in provision and increasing access to welfare schemes, these local leaders act as strong magnets for women to increase their participation in democracy, and pave way for democratic institutions that are placed at more equalized footing, smoothening the multiple slivers of divisions within Indian society.

Engagement of women in strengthening the democratic space of the nation is not limited to voters or formal politicians but is composed in large proportions of women movement organisations. These organisations have been the dominant mobilizing vehicle of women in the Indian democracy. The women rights organisations operate in distinct ways. The two dominant streams have been- active political engagement and capacity building. The former has been instrumental in ushering in constitutional and legislative amendments by acting as a strong pressure group, often acting as a bridge between political echelons and common women. Given the nature of Indian democracy emanating from the nature of its freedom struggle, civil society often overlaps with the political society in India. Very often, the women legislatures who have been most vocal for female centric laws have been part of the wider women organisations and civil society. These organisations have been consequential in formation of laws such as anti-dowry laws, constitutional provision providing Hindu women right to ancestral property, laws against domestic violence, sexual abuse, etc.

The other wing of the women movement though working in distance with the active politics, has been of vital importance in preparing a functioning and capable base of women to enter and engage effectively in democratic processes. These organisations have been working for years in providing training to the elected women legislatures, provision of education and other life chance opportunities, as well as monitoring implementation of the laws safeguarding rights of women and ensuring gender justice.  These organisations have been instrumental in provision of skills necessary for strengthening democracy through informed agency at grassroot levels.

It is evident that involvement and role of women in strengthening of democracy has not been unidirectional, rather it had been diverse, impacting all possible facets of democratic life. Women in their various capacities have utilized the opportunities provided by a democratic system and have engaged actively in directing the nascent democratic institutions towards mature democracy. Yet, there remain several gap areas that need to be filled in order to create conducive conditions enabling women to harness their full democratic potentials and further strengthen democracy. The number of women in parliament and state assemblies remains dismal. Though this number is rising but the pace is disappointing, and it is further questionable that how many women members in parliament engage with women rights issues. In past few years, the involvement of women parliamentarians raising and fighting for women rights issues is dismal. This cannot be solved until there is substantial number of women in parliament, like in local body institutions, providing enough voice to women to sway decision favoring gender equality in heavily male dominated parliament and state assemblies. It is of utter importance that sufficient affirmative action is provided in form of constitutional reforms enabling women to engage in legislative processes and have greater voice in the active nation building. This is vital to direct the politically charged women of the nation into active participants of policy formulation, shaping and strengthening the democracy and process of democratization.

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I rise like the morning sun
Vibrant & divine
I shine like the morning sun
Luminous & fine
I born, I shine, I whine
Loud enough for the
Mankind to keep in mind
I bathe in glory of infinity
Glory to you
Glory to me
Glory to the almighty…
There is no doubt in the fact that women are actively participating in sports activities not only within the country but all around the world. They are bringing about a change slowly, consistently and with lots and lots of hard work and determination.
– Ms. Dyutima Sharma (Miranda House, Delhi University)
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For me gender equality is not equality of women only but men and transgender people too. We need to understand the point that women are no less than men. So, no need to fight for equality. We already have that. We need the rights and adequate resources and upliftment with sufficient motivation to be equals.

When in future gender as a whole are treated as equals then no gender will be looked down. For this education and awareness plays an important role. Gender equality will predominate when the cultural shift is completed but it comes with education and that will take time.
Still in upcoming future when we as men, women or transgender treat all genders equally then in true sense we all have enriched in ourselves the words of the constitution and the rights it gives us of equality and freedom.
Each gender is unique in its own ways. Having its own pros and cons. And we cannot neglect it simply by stating it to be weak or strong. Thus we need to understand EQUALITY in true sense.
– Ms. Ishita Dhar (Miranda House, Delhi University)
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Gender as we know is a very fluid and a socially constructed concept. During birth medical practitioners assign a child within two binary sex (male, female) and then the society makes it concrete it by giving them specific roles. A child till two years behave in the same manner until and unless they are told to stay with their gender and behave in a certain way. So coming to my vision of gender equal India,  it will be where all kinds of sexuality and gender are respected and represented. India will be Gender Equal only when we start normalizing a female defense minister, a male home maker and a person outside this binary as a head of the country

– Ms. Shambhavi Mani (General Secretary, Women’s Development Cell – Miranda House, Delhi University)

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Gender equality, equality between men and women, entails the concept that all human beings, both men and women, are free to develop their personal abilities and make choices without the limitations set by stereotypes, rigid gender roles and prejudices. But in reality it is not so in any country all over the world.

Education I feel is one of the major tool to bring gender equality. I as a female staff of “Nambikkai Centre” has completed my post graduation and I feel slowly my people in my village have started to accept my words.

I am very confident that gender equality is the future. I have been training life skill through sport to nearly 600 children and I make it certain that gender equality reigns all throughout the sessions. Boys and girls feel comfortable to think their opposite sex as equal.

– Ms. Ekta Cesvi (Miranda House, Delhi University)

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Gender equality is achieved when women and men enjoy the same rights and opportunities across all sectors of society, including economic participation and decision-making, and when the different behaviours, aspirations and needs of women and men are equally valued and favoured.

But in reality it is not so. There are various reasons for this. As for me women should be strong, confident, committed, patient and economically sound. If this is found in women, I can say that they can demand their needs and rights.

The major achievement from women should be: they should participate in governance in a large number. They should be in all the higher posts where they are in a situation to take decisions. Once women are found in large numbers in these two sections then gender equality will be a dream which can be realized very soon.

– Ms. Ekta Nambikkai (Miranda House, Delhi University)

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Where feminism won’t be a subject for meme making,
Where audience will realize our hit item numbers are problematic and Munni ain’t a tandoori murgi to satisfy someone’s lust.
When Indian daily soaps will have a plot revolving around hardships faced by female protagonist to achieve her career instead of hardships faced to make husband happy and be an ideal housewife.
Where we’ll find more female E-Rickshaw drivers at Metro stations,
Where women won’t be a capillary of power,
Where girls will have equal access to technology,
Where all of us can post our snaps without fear of being judged and break ups don’t lead to revenge porn.
Where masturbation won’t be a tabooed topic and women could freely talk about their sexual pleasure,
Where sanitary napkins won’t be a luxury and those in remote places will have access to safe and hygienic washrooms.
Where license to temple won’t depend on menstruation cycle.
Where we won’t see Hijras at red light and instead find them working at MNCs.
Where drag artists would be respected and receive support from society.
Where in case of rape punishment judge will say, “Right to bodily integrated has been violated”
Instead of saying that accused has ruined life of victim.
Where breast feeding will be normal,
When women’s presence in military won’t be a distraction.
Where activist won’t deal with rape threats.
Where casual construction laborers won’t be harassed on sites.
Where our National Income and GDP would take into account Household work.
Happy women’s day. Let’s make it a reality.
– Ms. Diksha Yadav (Miranda House College, Delhi University)
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