Have you seen a married woman eat from the same plate her husband did or churn out a long line of babies just to have a ghar ka chirag? These are societal evils that have been carried on for centuries, chipping away at women’s will, strength, health, and rights. The reality is that even in 2021, Indian women are deprived of fundamental human rights. On Dussehra, TC46 highlights the most common challenges every Bharatiya naari faces even today with the goal of eradicating them as a society.
10 Challenges Faced By Indian Women
1. Lack Of Education
It can’t be denied that India’s formal education system does not provide the skills that children require to earn a livelihood. Adolescent girls in India are especially disadvantaged, also given their low school enrollment rates. They are among the most economically vulnerable groups who typically lack access to financial capital and have limited opportunities to gain the education, knowledge, and skills that can lead to economic advancement. Household responsibilities, early marriage, lack of menstruation knowledge and hygiene, lack of safety and infrastructure barriers are only a few reasons girls drop out of school.
Read Here: All about NGOs & institutions helping Indian girls stay in school.
Along with NGOs doing their bit for education among girls, you can volunteer as well. Get the kids of your domestic workers enrolled in schools, pay the fees and ensure that they receive uninterrupted education. Hold awareness camps in low-income communities to encourage parents to educate their daughters. Donate to charities that work tirelessly to eradicate illiteracy among Indian girls.
2. Minimal Menstruation Hygiene
Still considered taboo in many parts of the country, periods and related topics are rarely discussed in the open. Although menstruation has been a part of a woman’s life for nearly half her life span, there is so much confusion regarding the same. For centuries, people everywhere had stated how a woman on her period was extremely impure. From superstitions to evil practises and discrimination, menstruation has been the basis for it all. The lack of education about periods is baffling in a country where Kamakhya Devi is worshipped in the menstruation temple in Guwahati.
Read Here: All you need to know about your period, to make your flow easier and carefree.
Though the movies and entertainment sector are doing their bit with Padman, it’s vital you take part in this journey as well. Conduct awareness campaigns for girls to share all they need to know about periods. Volunteer at menstruation product distribution events held by NGOs. And keep educating all those around you by talking about menstruation openly and breaking the bond of taboo on this issue.
3. Dowry Harassment
In India, 21 women die every day due to dowry-related violence. Marriage, an institution of utmost importance and a practice of sanctity in India, is seeing visible cracks in its foundation. While dowry and domestic violence are not new, the fact that these evil practices still exist shocks the common people. In just 2021, Vismaya V Nair’s and Rashika Jain’s deaths have showcased the reality of dowry harassment in India.
Read Here: The laws that protect against dowry and the legal rights every woman should know about.
So does that mean the evil of dowry is unending? Certainly not, lawyers, activists, and several organisations are helping women fight such harassment. The recent cases have opened the conversation around dowry abuse and domestic violence again. If you’re being mentally and emotionally abused, trust your instincts. If you see someone being harassed for dowry, stand with them and guide them along the right path.
4. Mental Health Issues
However much we deny, the fact remains that Indian women are told to “work through it” or “shake it off”. From downplaying menstrual cramps to delayed diagnosis of life-threatening diseases, women face a huge disparity when it comes to their health. This is especially true when it comes to mental health. Several researchers found that women with anxiety disorders are more likely to internalise emotions, which typically results in withdrawal, loneliness, and depression. Depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), eating disorders, and suicidal tendencies are the 5 mental health issues that affect women more than men.
Read Here: Mental health problems more common among women than men
The first thing you can do is go check up on your close ones! Watch this video to know about 5 signs you need to look out for!
If you or a loved one is facing mental health issues, you can connect with a qualified therapist from the comfort of your home. Practising positive affirmations, gratitude journaling, meditating, diaphragmatic breathing, and exercise are 5 super simple everyday activities that can improve your mental health.
Click Here: Take this quiz to know if you are experiencing burnout. If you tick ‘yes’ to more than 10 questions it’s time you start investing in ‘ME-TIME’ and focus on your mental health.
5. Sexual Harassment
How many times have you travelled by public transport and had a hand brush against you? Forcefully? Or had a lingering eye following the collarbone area of your top, slowly dropping lower. From public spaces and transport to offices, women face sexual harassment everywhere. The #MeToo movement saw women across various industries—media, news, politics, corporate—coming out and sharing their sexual harassment experiences. From actors, film directors to advertising top guns, artists and writers and politicians, women professionals called out obnoxious behaviour at the workplace. From unwanted attention in the office to sexual innuendos on the film set, there were many kinds of allegations that surfaced.
Lawyer Tanya Appachu explains what sexual harassment is, what are its types, who can be responsible for it and what laws have been in action to protect women.
Coming to terms with when you have been abused is hard. You are in shock and angry. The trauma of sexual assault can leave survivors with physical, emotional, and psychological wounds. Each survivor has different experiences and needs and may process and recover from trauma in their own way. Ensuring your own safety, considering medical attention, knowing your legal rights and processing your experience are some of the steps not only for the victim but can also be followed by the victim’s friend or acquaintance to help guide them.
6. Pressure Of Marriage
From your nosey bua to the infamous Sima Aunty from Indian Matchmaking, everyone has an opinion about your marriage. Every Indian woman, when she reaches a certain age, is expected to get married. The average time bomb of marriageable age starts ticking at 24 in the modern world and post 30, it blows up to the spinster label. The pressure to get married by a certain age is reserved for women, men are free to pursue careers, seek adventure, do as they please and then decide to “settle down”.
Read Here: Some questions you must ask a potential match to find your perfect partner in the game called arranged marriage!
Stop with the ‘log kya kahenge’ attitude. Sit with yourself, make a plan, add goals, visualise your future, and work towards it. And it’s absolutely okay to not include getting married on that list. If parents are a big concern, have a heart to heart with them. If watching your peers get married and have kids affects you, talk to a professional. It definitely isn’t easy but it’s way better than doing what you are expected to do just for the sake of society.
7. Juggling Multiple Roles
The constant barrage of “Bahu, breakfast bana do”, “Mera towel kahan hai”, “Mummy, homework mein help kar do”, “Deliver the PPT before tomorrow’s meeting” and so on is common in a working desi woman’s life. Traditional roles of women require them to be present everywhere all the time. Women continue to bear a heavier burden when it comes to balancing work and family, despite progress in recent decades.
Read Here: 10 ways to split chores with your partner.
Men have, of course, become much more involved parents over the past couple of decades, and that, too, suggests broad support for big changes in the way we balance work and family. The ‘ghar ki khushi aurat khushi hai’ trope is outdated and women know it. Instead of men asking women if they can cook or do household chores during arranged marriage meetups, women are asking men these questions. The term “babysitting” is no longer accepted for men who take care of their own children. Times are changing and so should you.
8. The Stigma Of Divorce
Following traditional stereotypes, marriage is considered sacred and a highlight of a woman’s life. Whereas, divorce is a failure targeted towards the woman. Women after divorce are tagged as a divorcee and treated as if they are at fault. Women have faced the brunt of the after-effects more than men.
Read Here: Tips to help you rebuild your life after a divorce.
But now, like a phoenix, women have come out as their best versions. Divorce has not always been rainbows and roses. It is a difficult time in various aspects like finance, emotions, and companionship. But it is also a time for self-discovery, independence, and overcoming different hurdles to reach success. Divorces are messy and can be a rollercoaster. But the best thing to do is to strap on for the ride and come out like a boss! Your divorce does not define you and might be your sign to start fresh.
9. Workplace Gender Inequality
While we have come a long way in tackling gender bias, there still remains a lot of inequalities both in our society and in organisations. Gender inequality in the workplace occurs when an employee is treated differently, unfavourably or unfairly because of their gender. Gender equality at work includes employers providing equal opportunities for promotions; pay raises; advancement, and inclusion in decision-making processes. The meaning of gender equality is that everyone can equally participate in the workplace without any discrimination. There are four major types of gender inequality that women can face in the workplace – unequal pay, lesser promotions, pregnancy bias and harassment.
Read Here: Provisions that help women fight against gender discrimination in the workplace.
Businesses have begun to understand the need for gender equality. There are several ways you can do your bit to bring about change. Conduct a pay audit to check for any discrepancies in compensation trends. Make sure your hiring panel is also diverse to avoid bias. Create policies that promote gender equality in recruitment, training, hiring, and promotion practices. Setting up mentoring programs is one of the methods to reduce the different types of gender issues. Gender inequality can be reduced by providing flexible work timings and remote work options to employees for improving satisfaction and engagement for female employees. Women should be provided various tools, mentorship, and leadership opportunities to break the glass ceiling. To stand out as a great place to work it is important to make consistent strides in gender diversity.
10. Bodily Autonomy
Bodily autonomy or integrity is the right to governance over our own bodies. It is the inviolability of the physical body and emphasises the importance of personal autonomy, self-ownership, and self-determination of human beings over their own bodies. The denial of bodily autonomy is a violation of women and girls’ fundamental human rights. In India, only 12% of currently married women (15-49 years of age) make independent healthcare decisions, according to National Family Health Survey-4. The recently passed the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2020 falls short of giving a woman full authority in deciding if an abortion is required after 24 weeks and relegates it to a board of specialists.
Read Here: 10 health screenings all women should have.
It is clear that a woman who has control over her body is more likely to be empowered in other spheres of her life also. The lack of this control often compels them into terrible bargains like marriages against will, unwanted sex for a home or food and more. What is needed is a change in the mindset at the micro-level, beginning with the family, with parents valuing a girl and a boy equally. Sex education, financial independence, vital knowledge about women’s rights are a few key elements that can bring about a tidal wave of change.
Read Here: 10 things women should know before turning 30.