Exploring Social Barriers to Gender Equality in India

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Ms. Japneet Kaur, Dr. Savita Sharma


Gender Equality is one of the critical concerns for developmental theorists and policy makers across the world who are working in the area of inclusion and sustainable development of humanity. Over the past couple of years gender studies as the area of research has also gained significant momentum. Gender is a social construct that signifies range of attributes that differentiate between the social roles as identified with respect to the biological identity of people. Gender equality has been a much desired and a debated topic round the world. The countries have been targeting gender equality as a major instrument to achieve sustainable development through different social, economic and political revamping yet the goal of gender equality seems to be distant one. Gender equality is defined as the equality in rights, responsibilities as well as the opportunities of all the genders. Keeping in mind its eminent role in establishing more stable and just societies, the United Nations has recognized gender equality as one of the crucial Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The achievement of the said goal requires the countries to work rigorously towards the empowerment of all genders including women. “Empowerment can be viewed as means of creating an environment in which one can make decisions and choices either individually or collectively for social transformation” (Sinha 2016). Though empowerment of all genders remain a focal point in this regard but since time immemorial, women, particularly in India and in other parts of the world have witnessed great deal of discrimination and therefore their organic progress calls for more targeted effort to make up for the injustices of the past. Since the situation of women displays the morale or reputation of a society and women empowerment is a pivotal factor in deciding women’s position, it is necessary to imbibe the significance of women empowerment in India. Women empowerment has been an active agenda for the Government of India as well. The Government of India has been a signatory of various international conventions and human rights instruments committing to secure equal rights to women. Some of the eminent ones are CEDAW (1993) which contains internationally accepted principles and measures to achieve equal rights for women round the world. The Mexico Plan of Action (1975), the Nairobi Forward Looking Strategies (1985), the Beijing Declaration as well as the Platform for Action (1995) which was adopted by UN Fourth World Conference on Women by 189 states are the other landmark initiatives in this regard.  In spite of several such initiatives women empowerment in India still remains a critical area of concern. In light of the above discussion, the paper attempts to explore the social barriers that hamper the equal participation of women in decision making and leadership at different social platforms in India.

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