Each girl and boy deserves an equal chance to survive and thrive. As the leading expert on childhood, Save the Children has been championing equal rights for every child for over 100 years – in fact, we invented the concept. Today, we are the leading champion for the human rights of the world’s 2.2 billion girls and boys.
A girl is far more likely to be denied her rights, kept from school, forced to marry and subjected to violence – her voice undervalued, if it’s heard at all. This assault on childhood also deprives nations of the energy and talent they need to progress.
At the current rate of change, it will take over 200 years to achieve gender equality, and that’s just in the U.S. This is unacceptable.
Together, we can create a more equal world, right from the start.
What is gender discrimination?
Gender discrimination is any unequal treatment, including privilege and priority, on the basis of gender.
What is gender inequality?
Gender inequality is discrimination on the basis of sex or gender causing one sex or gender to be routinely privileged or prioritized over another.
Gender equality is a fundamental human right and that right is violated by gender based discrimination. Gender disparity starts in childhood and are right now limiting the lifelong potential of children around the world – disproportionately affecting girls.
At Save the Children, we put gender equality at the heart of everything we do. Our vision is a world in which all people – girls, boys, women and men – have equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities, regardless of gender norms, identities or expressions.
Is gender discrimination against the law?
Gender discrimination is prohibited under almost every human rights treaty. This includes international laws providing for equal gender rights between men and women, as well as those specifically dedicated to the realization of women’s rights, such as the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women – considered the international bill of rights for women.
Federal, state and local laws protect individuals from gender discrimination and gender inequality in the United States. Additionally, it is recognized in both law and policy that promoting gender equality is critical to achieving foreign policy objectives for a more prosperous and peaceful world.
What are the causes of gender inequality?
Gender prejudice and resulting gender discrimination begin in childhood. From the moment they’re born, girls and boys face unequal gender norms regarding expectations and access to resources and opportunities, with lifelong consequences – in their homes, schools and communities.
For example, the world’s boys are often encouraged to go to school and get an education to prepare for work, while girls carry heavy household responsibilities that keep them from school, increasing the odds of child marriage and pregnancy.
What are the effects of gender inequality?
Despite worldwide progress, gender inequality persists. The COVID-19 pandemic has threatened to put years of hard-won progress at risk. Far too many girls, especially those from the poorest families, still face gender discrimination in education, child marriage and pregnancy, sexual violence and unrecognized domestic work. These are some types of gender inequality.
Gender Inequality Examples:
- Gender inequality in girls education. Even before the pandemic, girls were more likely than boys to never set foot in a classroom. Conflict, poverty and other forms of social disadvantage also magnify gender inequality in education. Girls living in countries affected by conflict, for example, are 2.5 times more likely to be out of school than boys. Some 9.7 million children were at risk of being forced out of school by the end of 2020, with girls facing an increased risk.
- Child marriage. Child marriage is a form of gender-based violence and a result and driver of gender inequality and gender discrimination. Experts predict that the COVID-19 pandemic is set to reverse 25 years of progress, which saw child marriage rates decline. In fact, Save the Children analysis revealed a further 2.5 million girls at risk of marriage by 2025 because of the pandemic—the greatest surge in child marriage rates in nearly three decades.
- Gender-based violence. Gender-based violence occurs everywhere around the world across all economic and social groups. While both boys and girls are negatively impacted, girls are particularly at risk. An estimated 1 in 3 women globally have experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime .Types of violence may include: prenatal sex selection, female infanticide, neglect, female genital mutilation, rape, child marriage, forced prostitution, honor killing and dowry killing. Many of these gross violations of human rights have been used as weapons of war around the world. Refugee children are particularly vulnerable.
- Child labor. There are currently 152 million children engaged in child labor around the world. Child labor makes it difficult for children to attend school or limits their attendance, putting them at risk of falling behind their peers. Boys and girls are affected differently by child labor and parents’ decisions are often influenced by wider social norms about the different roles that they should play in the home and in society. Girls are much more likely to shoulder the responsibility for household chores while boys are more likely to engage in harmful work such as construction. Girls are usually pulled out of school earlier than boys and are more likely to face sexual exploitation
What is the importance of gender equality?
Gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable future. Eradicating gender issues means a world where women and men, girls and boys all enjoy equal rights, resources, opportunities and protections.
Empowering girls from the start is proven to have lasting and compounding benefits over the course of their lives. When girls are supported to be active in civic and political spaces, in particular, they are empowered with the tools and skills they need to be drivers of positive change in their families and communities. Girls are the experts of their own experiences, priorities and needs, and are powerful catalysts for a a world where gender equality flourishes.
What are the effects of gender equality on society?
When girls are empowered to lead their lives, speak their minds and determine their futures, everyone benefits. History suggests that when we fight gender oppression, societies are more stable, safe and prosperous, with happier, better educated citizens.
Investing in gender equality can have large-scale benefits:
- Every $1 invested in women’s and children’s health can generate a $20 return – according to the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health
- A girl’s eventual income will increase by up to 20% for every year she stays in school – according to UN Women. It also encourages girls to marry later and have fewer children, and leaves them less vulnerable to violence.
- Advancing women’s equality could add up to $28 trillion to global annual growth by 2025 – according to the McKinsey Global Institute.
How does Save the Children challenge gender discrimination and promote gender equality?
Gender equality is a basic right for all people, including both girls and boys. Based on this understanding, it is critical to directly address gender discrimination and gender inequality in order to ensure that no harm comes to children, and to advance our vision for a world where every child attains their equal right to grow up healthy, educated and safe.
A focus on gender equality is essential to close inequality gaps and ensure that we reach every last child, including those who are most vulnerable. Gender inequalities intersect with and exacerbate other factors contributing to vulnerability, including age, race, socio-economic class, gender identity, geography, health status and ability.
To build a more equal, inclusive future, free from gender discrimination, we need to start in childhood. Thanks to supporters like you, Save the Children reaches hundreds of millions of children every year, promoting gender equality and empowering girls, right from the start.
IMPORTANT CONSTITUTIONAL AND LEGAL PROVISIONS FOR WOMEN IN INDIA
The principle of gender equality is enshrined in the Indian Constitution in its Preamble, Fundamental Rights, Fundamental Duties and Directive Principles. The Constitution not only grants equality to women, but also empowers the State to adopt measures of positive discrimination in favour of women. Within the framework of a democratic polity, our laws, development policies, Plans and programmes have aimed at women’s advancement in different spheres. India has also ratified various international conventions and human rights instruments committing to secure equal rights of women.
Key among them is the ratification of the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1993.
1. CONSTITUTIONAL PROVISIONS
The Constitution of India not only grants equality to women but also empowers the State to adopt measures of positive discrimination in favour of women for neutralizing the cumulative socio economic, education and political disadvantages faced by them. Fundamental Rights, among others, ensure equality before the law and equal protection of law; prohibits discrimination against any citizen on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth, and guarantee equality of opportunity to all citizens in matters relating to employment.
Articles 14, 15, 15(3), 16, 39(a), 39(b), 39(c) and 42 of the Constitution are of specific importance in this regard.
- Equality before law for women (Article 14)
- The State not to discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them (Article 15 (i))
- The State to make any special provision in favour of women and children (Article 15 (3))
- Equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the State (Article 16)
- The State to direct its policy towards securing for men and women equally the right to an adequate means of livelihood (Article 39(a)); and equal pay for equal work for both men and women (Article 39(d))
- To promote justice, on a basis of equal opportunity and to provide free legal aid by suitable legislation or scheme or in any other way to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities (Article 39 A)
- The State to make provision for securing just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief (Article 42)
- The State to promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections Of the people and to protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation (Article 46)
- The State to raise the level of nutrition and the standard of living of its people (Article 47)
- To promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India and to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women (Article 51(A) €)
- Not less than one-third (including the number of seats reserved for women belonging to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes) of the total number of seats to be filled by direct election in every Panchayat to be reserved for women and such seats to be allotted by rotation to different constituencies in a Panchayat (Article 243 D(3))
- Not less than one- third of the total number of offices of Chairpersons in the Panchayats at each level to be reserved for women (Article 243 D (4))
- Not less than one-third (including the number of seats reserved for women belonging to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes) of the total number of seats to be filled by direct election in every Municipality to be reserved for women and such seats to be allotted by rotation to different constituencies in a Municipality (Article 243 T (3))
- Reservation of offices of Chairpersons in Municipalities for the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes and women in such manner as the legislature of a State may by law provide (Article 243 T (4)).
2. LEGAL PROVISIONS
To uphold the Constitutional mandate, the State has enacted various legislative measures intended to ensure equal rights, to counter social discrimination and various forms of violence and atrocities and to provide support services especially to working women. Although women may be victims of any of the crimes such as ‘Murder’, ‘Robbery’, ‘Cheating’ etc, the crimes, which are directed specifically against women, are characterized as ‘Crime against Women’. These are broadly classified under two categories;
The Crimes Identified Under the Indian Penal Code (IPC)
- Rape (Sec. 376 IPC)
- Kidnapping & Abduction for different purposes ( Sec. 363-373)
- Homicide for Dowry, Dowry Deaths or their attempts (Sec. 302/304-B IPC)
- Torture, both mental and physical (Sec. 498-A IPC)
- Molestation (Sec. 354 IPC)
- Sexual Harassment (Sec. 509 IPC)
- Importation of girls (up to 21 years of age)
The Crimes identified under the Special Laws (SLL)
Although all laws are not gender specific, the provisions of law affecting women significantly have been reviewed periodically and amendments carried out to keep pace with the emerging requirements.
Some acts which have special provisions to safeguard women and their interests are;
- The Employees State Insurance Act, 1948
- The Plantation Labour Act, 1951
- The Family Courts Act, 1954
- The Special Marriage Act, 1954
- The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955
- The Hindu Succession Act, 1956 with amendment in 2005
- Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956
- The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 (Amended in 1995)
- Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961
- The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971
- The Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1976
- The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976
- The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006
- The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 1983
- The Factories (Amendment) Act, 1986
- Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986
- Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act, 1987
- The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005
3. SPECIAL INITIATIVES FOR WOMEN
National Commission for Women : In January 1992, the Government set-up this statutory body with a specific mandate to study and monitor all matters relating to the constitutional and legal safeguards provided for women, review the existing legislation to suggest amendments wherever necessary
- Reservation for Women in Local Self -Government : The 73rd Constitutional Amendment Acts passed in 1992 by Parliament ensure one-third of the total seats for women in all elected offices in local bodies whether in rural areas or urban areas.
- The National Plan of Action for the Girl Child (1991-2000) : The plan of Action is to ensure survival, protection and development of the girl child with the ultimate objective of building up a better future for the girl child.
- National Policy for the Empowerment of Women, 2001 : The Department of Women & Child Development in the Ministry of Human Resource Development has prepared a “National Policy for the Empowerment of Women” in the year 2001. The goal of this policy is to bring about the advancement, development and empowerment of women.
Author: Lovepreet kaur,
BALLB – 3rd year,
Invertis University, Bareilly