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Where do Women Stand in the 21st Century?

Ever since the beginning, women have been considered to be the weaker section of the society. Decades later and still, women are struggling to be heard and fight against the ‘so-called’ societal norms.

One doesn’t need data or evidence (though there is no lack of it), to conclude that for as long as civilization has existed, gender discrimination has existed alongside it. Gender discrimination is in favor of men in many areas including the workplace and there have been hundreds of thousands of cases all around the world which show how bad the working conditions for women are in the corporate world. From the engineering industry to the gaming industry, women are being considered a less desirable option for any job position than men. In many instances, women get laid off for being married or pregnant, and let’s not forget about the pay difference amongst the genders. It is astonishing to see how gender discrimination still exists in large numbers, even though there have been “strict” laws against it. According to the latest studies, it was indicated that most medium and large size companies pay higher wages to men compared to women. The 2017 research conducted by the NWLC, reported that women lose $418,800 and women of color lose almost $870,000 due to the gender pay gap.

Recently, there have been plenty of cases hitting the news relating to sexual harassment and discrimination at the workplace. Here are a few examples:

For a large number of women around the world, it is close to impossible to get an education, let alone being able to work and the small percentage of women that do end up working, get discriminated, bullied, harassed, and slut-shamed. History is witness that whosoever dared to fight against such orthodox and unfair practices became a target. One of the most famous examples is Malala Yousafzai who became the target of many because of a simple dream, girl education.

As of 2019, India is the second-most populous country in the world with over 133.92 crores (approximately 1.33 billion) people and out of which 48% of the population consists of women. Although, not all of those women have the “privilege” of attaining education. The literacy rate is staggering in the country with females at 65.46% as compared to 82.14% of the males. One of the main reasons behind this problem could be the fact that – India is mostly a “patriarchal” society and believes that the sole purpose of females is to fulfill their “traditional duty” of being a housewife and taking care of their families. This sort of mindset amongst Indians has created a society where discrimination begins even before the child is born and that is considered ok. 

When looking at the statistics, Indian women on average earn only 64% of what their male counterparts earn and for the same occupation and with the same level of qualification. India ranks 108th in the WEF gender gap index; scores third-lowest on health and is below the global average of WEF with countries like Finland, Sweden, Norway, Ireland, Philippines, New Zealand, and Rwanda in the lead. 

What has been done so far? 

Governments have enforced numerous laws and guidelines in order to ensure a proper balance between men and women in society. Governments around the world have been taking small steps towards gender equality, however, the process of change is time-consuming and requires a constant effort from the coming generations. Let’s take a look at some of the laws that are in place in order to keep discrimination in check:

In the USA, 

  1. Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA) protects men and women who perform equal work from wage discrimination based on sex.
  2. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
  3. Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 makes it illegal to discriminate against a woman due to pregnancy or childbirth. For example, you can’t refuse to hire a pregnant woman because of her pregnancy.

In India, 

  1. Constitutional provisions such as Article 14, 15, and 16 
  2. The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act, 2013
  3. Equal Remuneration Act, 1976
  4. Women’s Reservation Bill

In the UK, 

  1. UK Labour Law
  2. Equality Act, 2010
  3. Protection from Harassment Act, 1997
  4. Employment Rights Act, 1996

Apart from these national laws, there are several other regional laws and rules in place in order to maintain a proper check on unfair and discriminatory practices. However, people are still able to find loopholes in the justice department and manage to evade the law. This happens because of the mindset and ideologies that have been running the households for generations. Since time immemorial, women have been considered someone whose primary reason for existence is to bear a child and take care of the household.

Today in the 21st century, women all around the world are using the power of technology and social media to make their voices heard and let the world know of their situation. Social media has become one of the major tools in helping women to get their message across the public and get the help they need. Also, organizations such as UNESCO, Human Rights Watch, UNICEF, and UN Women are also working towards the welfare of women all around the world. 



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