Women's Empowerment

Independence Day: What do Indian women want freedom from?

On this Independence Day, we look at some of the things Indian women want freedom from - patriarchy, unpaid labour, and more.

Tanvi Dubey
15th Aug 2019
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It has been over 70 years since India became independent, but women, who constitute 49 percent of the country’s population, are still struggling with issues such as safety, mobility, economic independence, bias, and patriarchy.

We list some of the things women would like to be free from this year:

Freedom from patriarchy

A patriarchal society like ours gives the power of decision making to men. From the choice to study or work to making economic decisions, to utilisation of earnings, and having a say over her body are decisions often denied to women. In fact, India has one of the highest female foeticide incidents in the world.

Next in the order is education, and the literacy rate of women, according to the 2011 census is 64.46 percent while male literacy stands at 82.14 percent.

Freedom from unpaid labour

One of the most prominent ways in which gender inequality manifests itself is in the form of gender bias and unequal pay. A UN report shows that over 51 percent of work done by women is unpaid, and is not counted in the nation’s GDP and other statistics.

gender inequality
With women receiving no remuneration and respect for this unpaid work, the burden of it also keeps them away from succeeding at the workplace. India ranked 121 out of 131 countries in Female Labour Force Participation (FLFP) by a World Bank report.

Consider this - data suggests India lost between $1.4 trillion and $2.8 trillion in GDP in 2018 due to lower female participation in the workforce. To put that in perspective, this loss is equivalent to the entire economy of France.

But all this data is of no value because women still continue to shoulder household responsibilities with men only sometimes helping out. Until the situation is rectified, women will not be able to contribute to the economy.

In fact, according to the 'Progress of the World's Women 2019-2020' report by the United Nations Women, an estimated 4.5 percent of all Indian households - 13 million - are run by single mothers.

Women need freedom from this burden because it also keeps them from growing at a faster pace than their male colleagues as it hardly gives them time to invest in their growth, networking or taking on more projects.

Freedom from violence, abuse, and harassment

From infants to senior citizens, India shows its women every day how unsafe they are in their homes, workplaces, and in public. Consent means next to nothing and most women have no say or control over their bodies.

From abusers within the family and sexual harassment at the workplace to unsafe public transport and public space, it seems almost like India is not for women.

male gaze

Then we have rampant mansplaining, sexist jokes on WhatsApp on wives, and remarks that belittle women. Even movies like Kabir Singh that glorify abusive men and trolls that get away with online abuse are just some of the things women have to go through every day.

The picture has been grim, and will continue to remain so unless we tackle this problem head-on. The silver lining right now is that women are slowly and steadily taking charge and trying to be the agents of change for themselves and other women.

From trying to support their dreams and finding networks to help achieve them, breaking glass ceilings and leading by example. Women across villages, towns, cities, and metros are more determined than ever to be financially independent. It is this desire for financial independence and penetration of technology that will probably help women get where they want to be.

Freedom from stigma and taboo

Thousands of women across India face taboo and stigma when it comes to health and hygiene as well. Menstruation continues to be a major taboo and many women still don’t have access to sanitary products. In fact, they have don’t have access to basic washrooms too.

This keeps girls away from school. Data suggest that about 46 percent of women do not use hygienic methods of menstrual protection and about 39 percent of women still defecate in the open. Lack of toilets and menstruation keep a lot of young girls away from school.

Girls also face malnourishment and expectant mothers, especially in rural areas, don’t have access to basic healthcare. According to a report, almost 50 percent of teenage Indian girls are underweight and 52 percent are anaemic.

Women’s health and hygiene need a lot more attention, especially in rural areas, where women have to make do without basics.

There is a lot more that women need and we have a long way to go and much to change till we get there.

Tell us, what do you want freedom from?

(Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta)

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