We all know that men and women are different, but the fact remains that there
lie certain ambiguities about how different are they? What is the extent and
nature of the difference? Sometimes it is hard to understand exactly what is
meant by the term gender and how it differs from the closely related term
sex. Understanding of the social construct of gender starts with ever
expanding the two concepts i.e. gender and sex.
However, they bear different meanings. Sex and Gender Sex is a biological
term and Gender is a psychological and cultural term. Common sense
suggests that they are merely two ways of looking at same division. The concept
of sex and gender have been clear therefore according to feminists Sex is
concerned with biological or physical characteristics of man and women whereas
gender is concerned with social, cultural dissimilarities of man and woman.
Using the definitions given for sex (biological differences between males and
females) and gender (socially defined differences between men and women), sex
differences therefore refer only to those differences that can be attributed
solely to biological difference. At the beginning of human race man was
differentiated from women on basis of biological and physical characteristics,
both the bodies were having separate characteristics.
Physical phenomenon like pregnancy, child birth, lactation, menstruation, has
been happening to female body. Male body on the other hand had strong body
structure against fine body of women and features like beard and moustaches and
stronger muscles which in fact led the foundation for differentiation,
dependence and domination on female by males. Due to this separate socio
cultural roles in society where set.
Gender as Social-Cultural Phenomena
Gender is considered more as a social cultural aspect of human life. Division of
role on the basis of sex and body has given rise to different social roles and
status for man and women. Equality and education was never established for women
as she was traditionally associated with kitchen and kids, taking care of family
were her sole occupation. Hence both sex and gender are similar but
contradictory terms, only having separate features with respect to biological,
physical and socio-cultural orientation.
We do not treat boys and girls the same way. Men and women do not get equal
opportunities to participate in all social, political, economic and educational
activities. Let us first understand the word discrimination
with one or
two examples. Let us say, in a village, the people belonging to scheduled caste
are not allowed to draw water from a well while others are free to do so. Water
is a basic necessity for all. Denying water from the nearby well puts the people
in to a distinct disadvantage.
This is caste based discrimination. Let us take another example. Let us say
there are two people, equally capable, one with a dark skin and the other with
fair skin. We have to make a selection for an activity. Not selecting a person
merely because of dark skin is a discriminatory practice. Discriminatory
behaviors take many forms, but they all involve some form of exclusion or
Now, let us come to gender discrimination. Gender discrimination is
discrimination on the basis of sex. It is the unequal treatment of a person
based solely on that person’s sex. Any unfair consideration, policy, practice or
belief which treats men and women unequally and hence restricts or denies
choices for members of a particular sex is gender discrimination. Providing
separate toilets for boys and girls does not tantamount to discrimination.
A girl in a family wants to go to her friend’s house for doing a project. She is
either not allowed or asked to come back before it is dusk. No such restrictions
are placed on boys. Simply, she is not allowed to do certain things because she
is a girl
. We often see boys playing in the open ground with lot of
sports materials. Girls on the other hand are allowed to play indoor games with
hardly any play material. Sometimes they are denied opportunities to play even
the indoor games. Why does this happen? Is this justified? Gender discrimination
can also affect boys and men.
For instance, a boy who is injured while playing is not expected to cry. Why?
This is simply because he is a boy
. He is not supposed to accept defeat
in anything. A man cannot become a home maker
. This is also gender
discrimination. However, the discrimination as of today is largely loaded
against women and girls. This is why we are paying attention on the issue of
discrimination against girls and women.
Sources of Gender discrimination
You as a teacher may think that it is better to have a boy as class leader, and
select a boy rather than a girl. This is direct discrimination. Dismissing
worker on grounds of pregnancy is direct discrimination. Indirect discrimination
occurs when there are provisions and practices which put girls and women at a
- Family and parents
- Government Policies
- Educational Opportunities
- Nutrition Health and leisure
- Laws and Rules
- Property and control over
- Appointment, Promotion, placement.
Gender discrimination begins before the birth of a girl child. This is
underscored by large instances of female foeticide despite laws against this
practice. Preference of parents’ society for boy babies is too well known. Girls
are largely neglected in the family while the boys get special treatment. The
nutritional and health requirements of girls are generally neglected. This
results in higher mortality of girl children. Denial of opportunity to
education, discouraging girls to take up courses of their choice, discouraging
girls from pursuing higher education are quite common even now. In the
employment sector, men usually get priority over women.
There are often basic inequalities in gender relations within the family. These
inequalities can take many different forms. For instance, inequalities may exist
in sharing the burden of household work and child care putting a huge burden on
women and girls. This will have its impact on girls and women in areas of
education, employment and promotion. It can also limit their understanding of
the outside world. There are many instances where girls are taken out of the
schools on attaining puberty. Women are harassed for not bearing a male child.
More girl children die due to malnutrition. There are instances of female babies
either discarded or killed by parents themselves. These are some of the well
recognized instances of gender discrimination.
When it comes to the choice of courses to be studied, gender discrimination
operates in a subtle way. Girls are discouraged from taking up certain courses
especially if she has to move away from parents. Many people think that a course
in mechanical engineering is not suitable for girls! Jobs like clerical,
teaching, nursing and housekeeping are unjustifiably considered more appropriate
for girls. The tradition and religious texts shape the way people think and act.
Many religions place women below men, and thus create an unequal society.
Discriminatory injunctions imposed by the religion are practiced by the
followers often without any questioning. Almost all religions have their
personal laws and all such laws confer fewer rights to women.
Gender Discrimination And Equality
Gender Discrimination refers to the practice of granting or denying rights or
privileges to a person based on their gender. In some societies, this practice
is longstanding and acceptable to both genders. Certain religious groups embrace
gender discrimination as part of their dogma. However, in most industrialized
nations, it is either illegal or generally considered inappropriate. Attitudes
toward gender discrimination can normally be traced back to the roots of certain
segments of society.
Much of the discrimination is attributed to stories such as a woman being made
from man’s and societal practices such as dowries paid to fathers by prospective
husbands to purchase their daughters to be wives. The Equal Pay Act of 1963 was
intended to end that discrepancy. The law stated that "no employer shall
discriminate, within any establishment in which such employees are employed,
between employees on the basis of sex by paying wages to employees. The Equal
Pay Act officially gives women protection under the law in regards to equal pay
for equal work, but inequities still exist in almost every employment sector.
What does gender equality mean?
Gender equality is the aim of Gender and Development. It does not simply or
necessarily mean equal numbers of women and men(girls and boys) in development
activities, nor does it necessarily mean treating women and men (girls and boys)
exactly the same. The aim is not that women and men become the same, but that
their opportunities and life chances become and remain equal. Gender equality
includes women and men to equally contribute to designing the society they want.
Gender Equality means that women and men enjoy the same status within a society.
It does not mean that men and women are the same but rather these similarities
and differences are recognized.
Gender InjusticeBread and Roses:
Indian History and mythology have given place of pride
to women. Sita, Savitri and Draupadi are the women whose name strike the mind
immediately. Over the year of first half of 20 century, the struggle continued
and women coined the phrase “Bread and Roses”. The reference to Bread is freedom
from hunger and Roses is the satisfaction of the wants.
Subordinate positions: Gender injustice is not a recent phenomenon. Crimes
against women have committed since ancient times. Any tradition and custom
places women in subordinate positions within society or in the family. Pt.
Jawaharlal Nehru said that you can tell the condition of a nation by looking
at the status of its women
Women are superior not equal to men:
Nature treated the women in different ways
and made them biologically different. Some person calls the women as inferior
but it is not so. The history says women were called Shakti. Shakti means power;
woman is the power of man.
Gender injustice is global issue:
The women who constitute half of the world’s
population and who work two third of world working hours should earn just one
tenth of the world’s property and also should remain victim of inequalities and
Sex and Gender:
The term sex is applied to those distinctions between man and
women. In short sex difference is natural but gender difference are creative
difference on the basis of sex.
Gender Injustice in India:
- Pre-natal sex-selective Abortion: The most extreme expression of the
preference for sons is female infanticide and sex selective abortion.A study
in a Bombay hospital found that 96% of female were aborted.
- Sexual Harassment at work places: is a harassment of a sexual nature,
typically in the work place. Sexual harassment is considered a form of
illegal discrimination. Sexual harassment at work place is not an isolated
phenomenon but a mainfestaion of the larger gender discrimination in
- Female are malnourished: India has exceptionally high rate of child
malnutrition, because tradition in India requires that women eat last and
least throughout their lives, even when pregnant.
- Women are uneducated: Families are far less likely to educate girls than
boys and far more likely to pull them out of school, either to help out at
home or from fear of violence. So women and girls receive far less education
than men both due to social norms and fears of violence.
- Women are in Poor health: Females receive less health care than males.
Many women die in childbirth. The practice of breast feeding female children
for shorter periods of time reflects the strong desire for sons.
- Women are overworked: Women work longer hours and their work is more
than the men (agricultural Work).
- Women are Unskilled: Women have unequal access to resources.
- Injustice Policy of Reservation in Public office: The women occupy 46%
of the Indian population but reservation is given for only 33% where
- Women are mistreated: In recent year there has been an alarming rise in
atrocities against women in India in term s of rapes, assaults and dowry
- Women are Powerless: While women are guaranteed equality under the
constitution. But due to lack of power to decide who they will marry and are
often married off as children.
Gender injustice means injustice on the basis of sex. But in practice the story
is different in the case of injustice to women; it is women only except the rape
cases. In kinds of injustice as domestic violence, forced abortion, sex
detection and dowry death. Behind this there are more role of women than men.