Ques. “The ‘male backlash’ theory suggests that a woman’s independence signifies a challenge to a culturally prescribed norm and hence results in physical aggression”, while critically analysing the given statement highlight the need of reforms and policies for injustice against women in India.
The status of women in India has been subject to many great changes over the past few millennia. From equal status with men in ancient times through the low points of the medieval period, to the promotion of equal rights by many reformers, the history of women in India has been eventful. In modern India, women have held high offices in India including that of the President, Prime Minister, Speaker of the Lok Sabha and Leader of the Opposition. However, women in India continue to face atrocities such as rape, acid throwing, dowry killings, and the forced prostitution of young girls. According to a global poll conducted by Thomson Reuters, India is the “fourth most dangerous country” in the world for women, and the worst country for women among the G20 countries.
Why there is a dire need of reforms and policies:
- According to the Gender Inequality Index, India ranks 132 out of 146 countries.
- Crimes against women have more than doubled between 1990 and 2011, close to 40 per cent of these are injuries inflicted by husbands or family members.
- The National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-3 reports that 37 per cent of women who have ever been married have experienced spousal physical or sexual violence, and 40 per cent have experienced spousal physical, sexual or emotional violence. At present, married women and widowed women have a much higher prevalence of violence against them (37 and 38 per cent) than women who have never been married (16 per cent) or women whose gauna has not yet taken place (15 per cent).
- The number of women in the workforce seems to have lowered and stagnated. According to data from the National Sample Survey Organisation, female labour force participation fell from above 40 per cent in the early-to-mid 1990s to 22.5 per cent in 2011-12.
- NFHS-3 reports that there is a much higher prevalence of violence against women who were employed at any time in the past 12 months (39-40 per cent) than women who were not employed (29 per cent), contradicting the widely held assumption that women who contribute income are at a reduced risk of physical violence.
Recently in news, the rapes in Badaun demonstrate a disturbing need to publically shame, perform and consume acts of brutality against women, similarly household crime and neglect is socially normalised, and the two combined indicate a deeper, embedded psyche that cannot be addressed without a multifaceted policy approach. A political discourse on ‘empowering’ women must then become much more than it is now — a rhetoric of protection, justification of male urges and/or occasional lip-service. Indeed, to casually gloss over the structural nature of our entrenched hierarchical tendencies is only to give them a firmer hold. Gender ideology, as crystallised in social perspectives, norms and practices, affects women’s bargaining power, not just in the domestic space but in the market, community and the state as well. This does not, of course, imply that employment is not imperative — instead, it indicates that gender equality is a far more complex aspiration and requires the intervention of community organisations, policy-oriented efforts by the state, as well as non-governmental programmes. The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005, which took effect in 2006, includes the prohibition of marital rape and the provision of protection and maintenance orders against husbands and partners who are emotionally, physically or economically abusive. However, a policy approach centred on female agency must also be developed to tackle crimes against women and, in order to do so, the intersection of crimes with intra-household and extra-household bargaining power must be understood.