OVERCOMING OUR PATRIARCHAL MINDSET
- Fr. Cedric Prakash sj*
There will be much to cheer on March 8th when (hopefully) the Women's Reservation Bill is passed in Parliament. A giant leap indeed after a delay of almost fourteen long years! A wonderful present on the hundredth anniversary of International Women's Day.
There are added reasons to cheer: the 'Save the Girl Child Campaign' has indeed highlighted the stark reality of the widening gap in the female – male sex ratio. Laudable efforts by several, are definitely in place. However, any radical change needs radical action; such concrete action will emerge only if and when we are willing to change the patriarchal attitude and mindset that exists in society.
A significant majority of girls in our society are still not given the opportunities to complete their formal schooling, leave alone going in for higher or professional studies. A little over a year ago, the Gujarat Government had identified 85 of 225 talukas of the State as Educationally Backward Blocks (EBB). These 85 talukas covered almost 40% of the State and the literacy rate of girls, in this area was below 50%. In spite of a Central Government scheme on the anvil to construct and run girls' hostels in these areas, practically nothing was done by the State Government to address this reality.
Domestic violence against women continues unabated. In Gujarat, according to official statistics, one woman is raped and fifteen die unnatural deaths daily. A good percentage of these deaths take place inside their homes. The State, however, invests precious little in ensuring the implementation of the Domestic Violence law.
Religion continues to play an important role in discriminating against women. Most institutionalized religions are controlled by men. It goes without saying that women exercise little or no influence in the decision making processes, be it in the Church, Masjid or Temple. Unfortunately, sometimes Sacred Scripture is also selectively quoted in order to legitimatize male domination over women. Several other instances can be highlighted making it an endless list.
It is great to have a more gender-balanced Parliament! We do need it. The fact, however, remains that if we have to truly go beyond cosmetic changes, we need to break through mindsets and attitudes which are heavily patriarchal. A difficult step – but a must!
(* Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ is the Director of PRASHANT, the Ahmedabad based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace.)
8th March, 2010
PRASHANT (A Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace)
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