Gender sensitivity refers to theories claiming a causal effect on gender equality towards children and the behavioral modification of teachers and parents. While referring to a document published by UNESCO on Gender Sensitivity, it has mentioned in the document that we cannot relate gender sensitivity with the concept of pitting on women against men. Rather it refers to educate the members of society for respecting all the genders, it teaches tolerance for all genders and not following the ideology of stereotyped generalizations. It is important to understand that gender awareness does not refer to intellectual efforts rather it refers to empathy and open-mindedness towards all genders.
We usually see that issues related to sexual harassment or sexual abuse contain many linked sensitive issues and complexities including caste discrimination, minority exploitation, etc. The reason behind such complexities is the lack of proper emotional and academic support at the personal and institutional front for children who belong to marginalized groups. Such problems are also related to low health facilities or lack of proper encouragement or low motivation or economic factors which all lead to gender sensitization. The concept of ‘gender sensitivity’ does not mean to be sensitive towards one gender but it means to respect all genders irrespective of any favors to one gender.
We must first understand the term ‘gender’ which refers to socio-economic and cultural attributes and associated opportunities linked to gender. When we talk about gender discrimination then we mean different biological and physical characteristics, men and women are different as they behave, dress, and have different work capabilities. It is a stereotype that men are more capable than women but it is not true in a practical sense as women are no less than men in any field. There is a need for a change in perception which also requires many efforts and support through policy-makers, media professionals, adult learners, curriculum developers, etc. and such efforts shall be taken at a larger scale.
If we look at the Indian legal system then it has been gone through a lot of changes with time; the reason for a change may include several political and social factors as well. The legislature of our country has executed their best duty whereby they have confirmed various corrective measures and stricter laws for crimes against women. To meet the changing need there have been several amendments in law that ensure justice, safety, create a free environment for all genders in India.
A sociological perspective on gender sensitivity
It is important to note that when we refer to ‘gender sensitivity’ then we not only consider women but refer to all genders that include men, women, and transgender as well. Generally, men have been given the highest status in society for ages. While referring to the expression ‘sex bias’ we may relate it to an inappropriate representation of genders where we are biased towards one and neglect the other, we usually do so due to our stereotypes where we discriminate among genders on biological grounds (Beery and Zukcer, 2011). For the past many years, gender-based violence is the most obstinate social problem across regional, social, and cultural boundaries. This problem not only exists in India but it is deeply embedded in the whole world. Everybody has a basic right to have free access to public space without any violence and we cannot discriminate against such freedom and right merely based on gender or caste.
Thinkers like Marx and Durkheim were not aware of the term ‘gender’ and they dealt with the issue of ‘sex’ inequality where they linked it with the social status of women who are considered subordinate to men. According to Durkheim the social facts have a physiological impact on people and they start discriminating based on gender. Dual system theories were coined that defined that various symbolic factors may have varying influence and it leads to inequalities (Walby, 1996). It is the time of a broader outlook and moves away from the stereotype that women are caregivers and men are bread earners as the time has changed and so the roles (OECD, 2014).
Not only women but transgender are being treated very badly, they have not been giving equal respect or freedom as other citizens of the nation. They are being discriminated against in employment and they are treated differently as if they are suffering from some deadly disease. We say that we have tolerance for all caste, religions, and genders but it is not true when it comes to practicality, India is still a patriarchal society where male dominance is deeply rooted in the mindset of people. They may be highly qualified or well-placed professionally but they do not have open-mindedness, they still feel that women should not get equal status and they still disrespect transgender. Gender is treated as a confounding variable and it can be understood in different aspects (Stephenson and McKee, 1993).
Feminist theory and gender sensitivity
This theory is considered as a conflict theory that deals with the inequalities related to existing gender biases. As per the theory, a conflicting approach is adopted to examine and determine the concept of gender inequalities. It criticized the male dominance in society and also challenges the stereotypes that men are the bread earners and women are homemakers as the scenario has changed and women have an equal stand and an earning hand in the family. Now, men and women work together, and rather at many places women are the bosses and men are their subordinates (Sanday, 2004). There is no difference between the genders and women are being dominated in the society merely due to pre-existing notions that they are weak and dependant on men that is absolutely wrong and irrelevant. According to feminist theory, women are self-dependant; they can earn and manage themselves well without any support from men.
The major objective of this paper is to bring out the real relation between gender sensitivity and the right to equality because they are so closely related to each other and one is a corollary of another. They are entangled to each other like a thread, which can’t be separated and have to go hand in hand.
The questions to be dealt with by the paper are as follows-
- Does the Constitution of India recognize the concept of ‘gender sensitivity’? Is there any other enactment as well that recognizes this concept?
- What is the gender-based offense? Is it important to take into consideration the gender-based concerns while designing a programme and ensuring its’ implementation?
- What is the importance of ‘gender awareness’? How is it linked with ‘gender equality’ and ‘gender sensitivity’ specifically focusing on women’s empowerment?
Gender sensitivity- Provisions under Constitution and other enactments
India legislation has enacted many Acts specifically focusing on gender sensitivity however still the greatest challenge relates to the alarming threat to women’s safety and freedom of movement in public spaces. A woman feels unsafe to go out alone, travel outside the city, and walking on the streets late at night. Crimes against women are increasing rapidly majorly in metro cities such as Mumbai, Delhi, and Bengaluru, etc. Violence against women has become a grave violation of human rights in all sectors of society. To understand various issues related to gender-biased attitudes and interrelations between different genders, we need a clear conceptual model for better understanding (Krieger, 2003).
The concept of gender equality is enshrined under the Constitution of India. The principle of gender equality is recognized as a basic structure of the Constitution that cannot be amended and it is a fundamental right, fundamental duty, directive principle, and a part of the preamble to the Constitution that none can be discriminated against based on gender. It not only grants gender equality but also gives power to the State to make such provisions that ensure gender equality in the country. It recognizes the rights in form of equality before law (Article 14) and no discrimination on the grounds of gender (Article 15). It further provides that there shall be equal opportunities in employment and the government can take necessary measures (Article 16).
Further, it also recognizes the equal right to livelihood [Article 39(d)] and equal pay for equal work principle as the directive principle of state policy [Article 39(a)]. There are several other provisions as well in the Constitution that recognize gender equality as a fundamental right that an individual can claim. Not only Constitution but there are other legislative enactments as well that recognizes the concept of gender equality such as the Criminal Code, Hindu Succession Act, Sexual Harassment Act, etc. We also have Transgender Protection Rights Act enacted in 2019 with an aim and objective to recognize the rights of transgender persons in India (Transgender Persons Act comes into effect, The Hindu, 2020).
The government has taken initiatives time and again to ensure the safety of women and also transgender. On 20th September 2018, the Government has launched the “National Database on Sexual Offenders” to facilitate the investigation and tracking of sexual offenders across India. In 2018, a cyber-crime portal was started for people where they can report obscene online content. To facilitate the States, the Government has launched an online tool (Investigation Tracking System for Sexual Offences) for police on 19th February 2019. Aiming at monitoring and tracking of sexual assault-related offenses and its’ time-bound investigation.
Gender-based concerns and implementation of programs
For many years the gender-related issues have been dealt with by various governmental agencies that concentrate on gender equity by ensuring socio-economic advancements. Several international meetings are conducted time and again to investigate and deal with the issues of gender disparities existing in the whole world. According to various Scholars, there is a link between gender equality and sustainable development of a nation that can be done through a specific mechanism of international cooperation.
According to UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), in 1992, in Rio de Janeiro, the question of gender related issues were included. In another Conference held on Human Rights in Vienna significant progress was made regarding recognition of human rights where the rights of girls and women were taken into consideration and its significance was discussed. In 1994, an International Conference was held in Cairo where gender issues were discussed and stressed upon, gender empowerment of women was linked with equitable development. The objective of all international conferences was to promote gender equality in all spheres including family as a smaller unit and the whole community as a larger unit, it encourages men and women to take responsibility at a larger front.
In 1995 World Conference Summit held in Copenhagen whereby the issue of gender equity was taken as a core concept for socio-economic development. Several such summits keep occurring to deal with the gender-related issues and to strengthen the status of women. It also concentrates of issues of removing barriers and hurdles related to gender equity and ensure equal participation of women in all the spheres. Many Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), have also taken initiatives regarding similar issues whereby they dealt with reasons behind the increasing burden of poverty, existing inequalities based on unequal training and education, disparities based on unequal access to health-related facilities and other necessary services, dealt with the issues related to violence against women, existing inequalities in economic policies and unequal access to resources, the existence of inequality between men and women, inefficiency in mechanism to promote women, inadequate protection of women’s rights, existing stereotypes and pre-conceived notions that is the root cause of gender biases and lack of equal participation of women in all spheres of life, etc.
Across the globe, in almost all societies the concept of ‘gender’ is used to demarcate their members into strata (Huber, 1999, p. 66; Collins et al., 1993). Women have been discriminated with men and this stereotype exists in every part of the world. Gender-based differences exist in all spheres of life and the degree of sex differentiation varies from place to place but its’ existence is evident and cannot be denied (Collins et al., 1993).
We must understand that gender relations cannot operate in a social vacuum as human beings are the product of society and they are social animals who love to be a part of society. Gender sensitivity is an evolving concept or a behavioral pattern where we show empathic views towards other genders. This is not a concept that can be taught but it is innate and parents, as well as educational institutions, should promote it among children. We must understand that God has made us all, the way we look or appear it is God’s gift and hence we must respect his creation, as you are nobody to question its’ creation based on gender or caste or creed or color, as discrimination on any ground is not only wrong but unethical as well. The concept of gender sensitization should be an integral part of school curriculum, as it is very important that children must at the school level so that we can have a better society (Hon’ble MHRD Mr. Pallam Raju, 2013).
Forms of gender-based offenses
Female feticide is a heinous offense and an indicator of violence against women. This is a gender-based offense where sex is determined of the fetus by ultrasound scanning, and in vitro fertilization has aggravated this situation. Although doing this is illegal in India and considered unethical but still, this procedure for gender identification is very prevalent that goes on illegally in many clinics.
Another heinous offense is the trafficking of women and children who are battered and raped. Trafficked women who return to their home face new difficulties whereby they get rejections from their families and community; they have no self-financial support and does not get formal employment opportunities, these women have no other option than to return to prostitution within their own community, or again migrate as this is their only means of financial support.
Very recently news circulated that a four-month pregnant woman’s abdomen was slit open by her husband, he did so as a priest told him that his wife was expecting a sixth girl child. The man attacked his wife and left her in a pool of blood. He attacked and cut open her stomach to “know the gender” of the child (Man slits open pregnant wife’s belly, The Times of India, 2020).
Gender awareness: Concept of gender equality and sensitivity
While discussing the concept of ‘gender awareness’ we focus on increasing gender sensitivity among people whereby they understand and have knowledge about the significance of gender equality. Gender awareness is a process that deals with the facilitation of exchanging ideas and for mutual understanding that is a must for society’s change. It provides access to information for a better understanding of the concept of gender equality that is the fundamental feature of a democratic society. It encourages and promotes an understanding related to various challenges that are being faced by women and transgender; it focuses on disparities based on the gender pay gap and various stereotypes that exist in a male dominant society.
The concept of gender awareness is playing an important role as it makes men and women aware of gender equality and the adverse consequences of gender inequality. For instance- It raises awareness related to economic benefits associated with advancing gender equality and its positive effect on GDP and other related aspects. It also spreads awareness about the negative impact on gender inequality that may lead to poverty if women won’t work or don’t study that it will adversely affect the growth of the nation. Gender awareness not only functions in raising awareness but it also intends to change the perspective and outlook towards the opposite gender. It spreads gender sensitivity in a way when we understand the positive and negative aspects of gender biases. Gender equality and gender sensitivity go hand in hand as both are inter-related that address the challenges faced by women, transgender, and the priorities given to men.
There is a three-fold purpose of gender awareness that comprises of providing basic facts and evidence related to gender equality and spread of awareness of the adverse impact of inequality. To concentrate on the improvement of mutual understanding and learning about the consequences of gender inequality and to mobilize the communities as a whole with an aim to bring significant changes in attitude and believes related to gender equality. Gender awareness linked with the consequences of gender inequality raises awareness that automatically leads to change in society. However, there are many obstacles in spreading awareness due to existing stereotypes, but it is the need of the hour to bring a positive change in society.
To conclude we may say that the pre-conceived notion is the base of existing discrimination between the genders. Patriarchy means a set of such institutional structures that is based on the belief that men are the head of the family and women should follow them. The decision-making authority is the man and the woman is the follower. It is a dominant gender ideology that provides gender differences based on behavior, character, and abilities. However, this notion is absolutely wrong and we can see that women are rather performing better when they are given opportunities.
- Dr. J.N. Pandey, 2014, “Constitutional Law of India English 51th Edition” (Central Law Agency)
- H.M. Seervai, 2015, “Constitutional Law of India Volume 2” (Universal Publishers)
- Stephan Groschl, 2012, “Diversity quotas, diverse perspectives: the case of gender” (Gower Pub.)
- Raghavan, Chitra, 2012, “Self-determination and women’s rights in Muslim societies” (Brandeis University Press)
- Mary Holmes, 2007, “What is gender? A Sociological Approach” (Sage Publications)
Reference List of Journal Articles
- F. Reskin and Denise D. Bielby, (2005), “A Sociological Perspective on Gender and Career Outcomes”, Journal of Economic Perspectives, Vol. 19, No. 1, pp. 71– 86
- Kelly L. Hazel and Kerry S. Kleymann, (2019), “Gender and sex inequalities: Implications and resistance”, Journal of Prevention & Intervention in the Community, Vol. 48, No. 4, pp. 281-292
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