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The Equal Gender - Gender Based Inequality in India

By Dhwani Jaisingh

Gender and LGBTQ+ inequality remains an extremely complex and diversified issue in India - there is disparity in education, employment, politics, entertainment, agriculture and industries. According to a report by the United Nations Development Programme, India currently ranks 132 out of 187 countries on the index for Gender Inequality (GII) - not only ranking low because of our population ratio but also due to social, psychological and cultural stigma and stereotypes. Landmark court judgements and rulings have evolved but haven’t changed the legal and social set up for the LGBTQ+ community in India. The lack of opportunities lead to cases of domestic violence, suicide, self-harm and mental concerns such as depression, anxiety and low self-esteem. In India, the cultural framework is such that there are rigid social norms that decide and determine the education, employment opportunities, their mental health, and their relationships with friends and families.

In the field of employment and job-seeking, according to a report by the World Bank, the Indian female labour force participation rate has fallen to a 23.3% in 2017-18, which refers to the fact that 3 out of 4 women are not employed and not actively seeking employment. Among these low percentages, only the upper caste, upper class women are working-therefore, showing their privilege. The LGBTQ+ community is discriminated against at the employment front as well, as most of them are unable to complete their education because of some form of violence and harassment at the hands of their classmates in schoolAccording to a 2017 study by the National Human Rights Commission of India, it was reported that there are high levels of unemployment amongst the trans community in areas of North India. The report stated that they were forced to employ themselves in low paid jobs in the informal sector and are often exposed to oppression and harassment in their workplaces. There is a lack of equality of remuneration, equality of opportunities and freedom from workplace harassment.

According to the United Nations General Assembly, sexual harassment in the workplace is identified as a form of gender-based violence. The LGBTQ+ community may face exclusion due to the gender-specific nature of the job requirements and have to be restricted to exclusive work spaces such as male-female toilets. Other challenges they may face are gendered dress code requirements, workplace harassment (including physical, verbal and sexual) and misgendering or using the wrong pronouns. The trans, non-binary, intersex and gender non-conforming community face challenges while applying for applications because of the lack of documents and identity markers provided for them by the government. Often denied jobs, the community resort to take up work in the informal sector or decide to choose other livelihoods to sustain themselves.

In the field of education, although enrolment of the girl child has increased substantially since the 1990s, there is still a huge gap between completing the schooling and pursuing higher studies. Their education is compromised due to the higher dropout rates and the lack of attendance of the girls. Recently, the Indian Government has released a few campaigns and schemes to ensure toilets for the girls in schools but these remain unhygienic and unsanitary for use. As several NGOs and organisations have worked to educate the girl child, states such as Bihar and Rajasthan still have a long way to go in comparison to more prosperous states such as Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Statistics show that from 2006 to 2010 only 26 percent of the girls in India have completed their secondary education, in comparison to 50 percent of the boys. These inequalities are more prominent in lower caste, lower economic sections and minority communities. There are yet changes to be made in the policies and structures of the schools, to improve the quality of education and ensure better opportunities for girls in the future.

Healthcare is a basic requirement for all, even a priority for some; and yet the LGBTQ+ community is invisiblised and removed from society. There was even an instance of a transgender person who was suffering unattended because the doctors were not able to decide which ward to send them to. Members of the community have struggled to seek help and open up about their traumatizing experiences as they tend to avoid healthcare facilities. There are gendered wards and washrooms, doctors with social stigmas and the lack of documents. As homosexuality and transgender identity is pathologised, a few individuals have reported to undergo several harsh and inhumane treatments such as aversion therapy, hormone therapy and castration.

The acceptance and acknowledgement of the LGBTQ+ community is a drawn-out struggle, as they face social exclusion, removal and are violated of their basic human rights. There are several organisations working for their inclusion. More awareness and participation from the community is observed in pride parades and online forums. In conclusion, these gendered inequalities continue in India in different economic, political and social aspects. The arguments have been proven with statistics as deep trenched power dynamics are not removed and are fixed into the minds of the orthodox and conservative Indian society. The current discourse on intersectionality has to be taken into account as well, of course, men from lower economic backgrounds, men with disabilities and men from the LGBTQ+ communities may struggle more than urban women having white collar jobs. But it is women who have faced injustices since time immemorial due to the overarching patriarchal set up.

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