By Fr Paul Lelen Haokip
While Indian society is primarily patriarchal in administration and property rights, there is a growing awareness of women’s share in familial and societal proceedings. Each year, we celebrate International Women’s Day with policies (hopes) that seek to reserve one-third of seats for women in the Lok Sabha and the state legislative assemblies; One-third of the total number of seats reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes for women of those groups in the Lok Sabha and the legislative assemblies(The Women’s Reservation Bill or The Constitution, 108th Amendment). For 2023, the UN International Women’s Day theme is “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality” to give an equal digital platform to urban and rural women. There is a high digital interface between women’s and men’s interests in urban areas. However, rural women still need digital access to various amenities such as health-related news, financial transactions, educational applications, etc. Is the Indian patriarchal society opting to give proper space to women or just an eyewash to cope with global external pressures?
Payment for housewives
Indian women (mothers) are mostly described as ‘housewives’ to their husbands. I think every mother is an engineer trying to set things right in their family. They are unsung heroes and unpaid contributors towards nation-building. A woman can be a wife of someone or a mother to her children, but the Government and Society should realise that these women are the initiators of moral values, social etiquette, religious tenets, and social reforms in the family that ultimately affects a nation. It is worth paying them a monthly salary for their work towards nation-building. The Women and Child Development (WCD) ministry for socio-economic empowerment of homemakers’ proposal to share a portion of the husband’s salary with his house-making wife is a welcome note with precaution as well. Monetising a woman’s labour at home may bring some financial independence to the woman. On the other hand, it could compromise the values of being a mother and a wife without payment. If her work is monetised, she may lose the argument that she has made selfless sacrifices for her husband and children and other extended family members.
Women and Men
Women cannot be compared with men. Inherently, there are emotional, psychological, and physical differences between women and men. These differences are unique and precious too. There are thousands of things women can perform,but men cannot. So, faulty comparisons are waste of time and energy. Each gender has allotted gifts and areas to seek other person’s help. This reality brings the complementarity principle into play for good. Parents should not compare their girls with boys. Rather, children should be taught the differences between being a female and a male and learn to appreciate the differences. In the true sense, women and men should not be compared because they are two different entities God has created for the good of society. They are beautiful and precious in their own space and existence. Each religion may quote its scriptures either to espouse or degrade women. But one should know that religions are not higher than humanity. Any religion that belittles either women or men is not a true religion because God created women and men for a respectable purpose. Religions are there for the social and sacred progression of society. Disrespect of girls or women equates to respect for half of the human population and potential on the earth. Disrespect for a particular gender is a crime affecting nation-building and the world’s progress.
Religion, Gender & Politics
Talks and agendas about religious freedom and gender equality are popular political genres echoing everywhere. In reality, these topics are far from realisation but a political bait for electoral popularity. Like in politics, where women and men cast their votes for their selected candidates, in Hinduism, male Gods are incomplete without female consorts. On the other hand, there are restrictions on women entering some temples during their menstrual cycle, given the validity of this procedure. In Christianity, the clergy largely consists of the menfolk leaving aside women. There is a hierarchical power difference between men’s and women’s religious congregations. In many regions of India, religion overshadows politics, and it becomes a kingmaker even in a democratic government. The Machiavellian principle of“ends justify the means” is a popular mandate many organisations adopt for their growth and existence. Male chauvinism and monopoly are open secrets thriving on Indian soil. Numerous tribal ethnic groups claim gender equality as their cultural value, while their women folk are hardly seen in decision-making bodies. One can imagine if the claim of gender equality is a politics of culture or a cultural projection to the outside world. Is gender equality just legal fiction – ‘something assumed to be true for the sake of convenience whether true or false’ (Collins Dictionary of Law). Women themselves will be the right source to get authentic answers if there is a true gender equality principle.
(The author is a PhD research scholar, Department of Sociology and Social Work, Christ University, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India. Email: [email protected])