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When will the good times (achhe din) come for women in India?

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The World Economic Forum's 2014 Gender Gap Index has ranked India a poor 114 (13 spots below its ranking of 101 in 2013) out of 142 countries in removing gender-based disparities in the field of education; health and equal pay for equal work. Its rank is lowest among the BRICS nations and it is also one of the 20 worst performing countries on female labour force participation, estimated earned income, literacy rate and sex ratio at birth indicators.

The High Level Committee on Status of Women that presented its first copy of the Preliminary Report in February 2015, identified Violence Against Women, Declining Sex Ratio and Economic Disempowerment of Women as three key burning issues which require immediate attention and action by the Indian government.

Linked! Masculinity, gender violence and son-preference

Masculinity, Intimate Partner Violence and Son Preference in India -- a study done by the International Center for Research on Women, establishes a link between masculinity, gender violence and a preference for sons, which represents the most powerful manifestation of gender inequality. The study found that the average Indian man is "convinced that masculinity is about acting tough, freely exercising his privilege to lay down the rules in personal relationships and controlling women. Men's controlling behavior and gender inequitable attitudes strongly determine their preference for sons over daughters as well as their proclivity for violence towards an intimate partner -- both of which are manifestations of gender inequality".

52% of the women surveyed had experienced violence during their lifetime, and 60% of the male respondents had acted violently against their wife or partner. An overwhelming majority of men (76%) and women (81%) considered it very important to have at least one son in their family. Also 50% of the men and women were unaware of the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) law, which prohibits prenatal sex determination for non-medical reasons.

How can we reverse these trends?

Roy votes for a thorough, transparent, respectful sex education from kindergarten through high school and junior college, in an age-sensitive way. He also calls for genuine respect for women and girls at home, in schools, in the workplace, and everywhere else, with men leading by example.

Sumita would like the government to ensure safe public transport, streets with proper lighting and surveillance cameras to make Indian roads safer for women travellers/commuters. At a societal level, she wants people to be more permissible on sex outside of marriage. 'As age of marriage increases, people must have the opportunity to form consensual sexual relationships without fear of being judged/labelled promiscuous'.

Anushi endorses safe travelling options and fast track courts for dealing with cases involving crime against women. And as for society--"Stop degrading women in films, stop showing women as objects in advertisements, stop domestic violence of any kind and show both boys and girls from an early age in the family itself that females are to be respected. Oh there is a lot for the society to mend its ways".

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