The Sabarimala Temple issue in the southern state of Kerala has lately been talk of the nation and keeping women out of the ‘holymost inner sanctum’ to preserve Lord Ayyappa’s celibacy. There is the debate surrounding the ‘BJP-engineered’ Triple Talaq Bill to give Muslim women the gender equality which they rightly deserve. A few days ago, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi found himself in a controversy when in an interview with news agency ANI, said Triple Talaq is related to gender equality and Sabarimala Temple issue is connected to tradition. The PM said “the ordinance or executive order against the practice of instant Triple Talaq was brought keeping in mind gender equality and social justice and it shouldn’t be seen as interference in religious matters.”
But then again, gender inequality is just not about women of one particular religion. There are dowry issues in India, political and economic representation, educational opportunities, jobs and promotion etc. Women, irrespective of religion, are discriminated in public and private spaces because of their gender, for being ‘female’. The United Nations explains that gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world. “Providing women and girls with equal access to education, health care, decent work and representation in political and economic decision-making processes will fuel sustainable economies and benefit societies and humanity at large.”
Moreover, UN has outlined gender equality as number five sustainable development goal. The world organization has been striving towards it, toiling through gender inequalities which is deeply rooted and present across all countries and are pervasive in each and every dimension of sustainable development. While reviewing its goal, the UN has identified the need for gender data, statistics and analysis to effectively monitor progress for women and girls across all goals and targets; and prioritizing gender-responsive investments, policies and programmes to align action with the principles, values and aspirations of the 2030 Agenda.
According to latest report by NITI Aayog, almost all states in India have performed poorly on gender equality criteria. As per the report women and girls in India experience inequalities in every aspect of life from access to healthcare, education, nutrition, and employment to asset ownership. National Family Health Survey (NFHS) data reveals that 37 per cent of married women in India have experienced physical or sexual violence by a spouse while 40 per cent have experienced physical, sexual or emotional violence by a spouse. Researchers advocate a multi-faceted approach to women’s empowerment.
India has to relook at its policies and come up with female-friendly approaches for a all-rounded economic and social growth. Tradition and religions cannot be wholly blamed for gender inequality. Men have to take responsibility.