India: Widening Gender Gap
INDIA: WIDENING GENDER GAP
The most recent World Economic Forum’s new Gender Gap Index published in 2014 paints a scathing picture of life for women in India: India's women rank 134th in the world (out of 142 countries) for economic opportunities; they place 126th in the world for educational attainment; 141st in the world for health and survival.
On the surface, all indications point to a variety of sociological factors stemming from India’s agrarian culture and rural way of life. According to a 2011 census, about 70% of India’s inhabitants still reside in rural settings. High female infanticide, dowry related deaths, and low literacy support this as a leading cause. However, under the surface, India’s gender discrimination extends much deeper than it may seem.
My time in India revealed another leading factor contributing to its widening gender gap: India’s unspoken caste system. Most people think of the caste system as class separation, but it also largely involves gender separation. While dinners were being eaten, tea was being poured, and properties being shown off, any women -- wife, daughter, grandmother, worker -- remained shrouded in mystery behind closed doors or more commonly working hard labor in the farm fields. I was never introduced to any women, and, at times, I even felt nervous one would get in trouble for coming into my view. They are the untouchables, largely servants of men in their castle.
This entrenched patriarchy and gender division, which values boys over girls and keeps men and women, girls and boys apart, combine with child marriage contributes to the creation of a society in which sexual abuse and exploitation of women is an acceptable party of everyday life.
And yet there's hope for a better future: India has recently opened it's doors to the world, both through tourism and investment. With it, comes responsibility: Recent high profile rape cases have caused outrage around the world and India's leaders have responded.
Despite some of the hardships I witnessed firsthand for the India, there's also a sense of hope for these people. Smiles, laughter and happiness on the faces of the women in India is credit to their resilience and perseverance in the hope that someday they'll live without discrimination.