Why Is Feminism Misunderstood And Hated In Indian Society?

Posted: March 27, 2019

Feminism has become the new F-word that no one wants to associate with. Instead of constantly bashing Feminism, let’s take a look at why the fight for equality should not stop just yet.

Why are so many women uneasy with feminism?

Many of us prefer prefer to call ourselves ‘humanists’ rather than feminists..

Is the hard branding of feminism unnerving men in our society?

Way back in the 70s and 80s feminism was misunderstood as man hating, bra burning, ciggie twirling, red lipstick women who were depicted as family breakers while the good girls were like wholesome milk full of goodness.

What does feminism imply?

Feminism simply means seeking equality of the genders, fighting for the rights of women and equal opportunities for men and women. Feminism seeks empowerment of women to end inequalities and gender discrimination through education better health and economic independence.

Feminism is uplifting the weaker and marginalised sections of women by spreading social awareness.

While we seek equal opportunities for growth and development, we are  essentially working as “feminists” towards “humanist” and universal values of equality, freedom and empowerment.

And in no way we are stating the supremacy of  feminine over the masculine or making it a gender war.

So then, why is feminism feared by men and traditional or patriarchal society?

Orthodox societies have systematically oppressed women, fear losing their control or dominance and breaking down of existing social patterns; they are afraid of challenges from educated women who will resist atrocities and oppression. Fear of feminism is expressed in terms of a focus on the liberty to smoke, drinking or sexuality portrayed in media.

Men fear that their jobs or opportunities will be taken away with more women entering their field and domain.

Why feminism is important for women in India

India ranks 108 among 144 countries on Gender Equality as per the World Economic Forum as stated in its Global Gender Gap Report 2017; as the largest democracy this is a national shame.

Women and Education

  • Only  65.46% of  women are literate as against 82.14 % of men in India, when the world average female literacy is 79.7%.  Given the current rate we may attain universal literacy only by 2060.
  • 63.5% dropout of school in adolescence due to lack of infrastructure like schools, toilets, sanitation, orthodoxy and economic problems
  • Education and health are correlated because, Kerala with a high literacy rate of 92% as per census 2011 has the lowest infant mortality, whereas, Bihar and UP rank higher in infant mortality with a correspondingly lower literacy rate.
  • Literacy has a direct link to pay parity. Graduate women earn 5.8 times more than illiterate women in rural areas and almost 4 times more in urban areas.
  • Literacy also impacted awareness of rights and choices in life. Shockingly only 4.99% of women had control in choosing their partners, while 65% Indian women had met their husbands for the first time on their wedding day!

Pay parity and women at work show abysmal figures

  • Men earn 30% more than women despite the same educational qualifications in urban areas, whereas, in agriculture women earn a Rs.88 against a man’s Rs 128, the disparities are stark in other areas too.
  • India ranks 121 among 131 countries of the world  in female workforce participation with only 27% of Indian women forming part of the labour force, as per World Bank Report 2017.
  • Gender Pay Gap was 30%, and one of  the highest in the world, as per Global Wage Report 2016-17 of the International Labour Organisation in 2016, and will need more than 100 years to close the gaps.
  • Women constitute 50% of the population, but lack of education deprives them from participating in economic progress and development.
  • India can achieve a GDP of 16% if it achieves gender parity, if it harnessed  the potential of women in development.
  • A UN study of 31 countries shows women work 10-30% more hours than men and that 2/3rd of their work is unpaid, undervalued and invisible.

Women in Politics

  • The women’s reservation bill seeking 33% for women in parliament and assemblies will never see the light of the day given the hostility around it.
  • The first general elections of 1951 saw 22 women elected which is  5% of the total seats and in 2014, 66 of of 543 seats were held by women, merely 12% compared to a global average of 23%.

Women’s Healthcare, Nutrition, Sanitation and Safety

  • Malnutrition is a seriously neglected issue – as per the Global Nutrition Report 2017, 51% of women are anaemic and more than 22% of adult women are overweight and 38.4% children under age of 5 are stunted in growth.
  • 79.8% women needed permission from families to visit health centres, according to IHDS survey 2012.
  • 40% of AIDS/HIV cases were women  and currently mortality rate of HIV/AIDS is higher for women than men due to lack of medical care, social and economic reasons
  • When 2011 Pednekar Survey states how out of 100 boys and girls with congenital heart diseases, 70 boys and only 22 girls received similar treatment, indicates how little we value the life of the girl child.
  • As per the UNICEF Report 2009, 47% of Indian girls were married off before 18 years, that goes up to 56% in rural areas – early marriage increases their vulnerability to health issues.
  • As per National Crime Records Bureau,  a woman is raped every 29 minute, with one dowry death every 77 minutes, one case of domestic violence or abuse reported every 9 minutes despite Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act. These numbers point towards appallingly low safety standards for Indian women
  • Alarmingly Thomas Reuters Foundation survey ranked India as the 4th most dangerous place  in the world for crimes against women with Delhi topping charts and though the report was criticised for its limited online sample survey by 577 representatives, it indicates the unfavourable socio-economic conditions prevailing in Indian society for women.
  • As per National Family Health Survey- III, 31 % women were reported to be victims of spousal violence, which could be higher as most cases go unreported in our society.
  • The women suicide rate is 2.1 times the global average and was the 6th highest in the world in 2016.

While examining the real indicators of empowerment, Indian women seem far behind than the developed countries.

Educated and urban societies are in a tearing hurry to get past the plodding millions in our society. Feminism sometimes becomes skewed when we speak only of the rights and choices of a privileged few, while ignoring the  actual issues that beleaguer marginalised sections.

Feminism means becoming respectful of diversities of opinions  and accommodating voices that are different from ours. Feminism does not mean shaming or bashing traditionalists or conservatives; rather, it means actively engaging with them trying to bridge gaps, reaching out while helping them to uplift themselves.

Every woman must have the right to make her choices conservative or liberal, regardless of our own idea of emancipation, without being ridiculed. Feminism more than the right to smoke or drink which are only individual choices, and nothing to do with feminism as a movement.  Feminism is about coexisting with diversities of cultures, while working towards harmony in society.

Many argue how equality between men and women is possible when they are different and how can there be comparisons between them. Equality is about the spirit of fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution irrespective of gender. Men and women don’t have to be the same in order to enjoy equality or rights and freedoms guaranteed under the constitution. It is a fallacious argument.

In fact, it would be better appreciated, if more right thinking men empathise with the spirit of feminism and help women come out of the shadows of of fathers, husbands and sons in their homes and elsewhere.

First published here.

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Comments

3 Comments


  1. In simple words, you explain everything. Amazing.

    Thank you for writing on this topic.

    • Bharati Muralidhar -

      Thanks Nisha..happy if I resonate your thoughts, women need to empathise with issues regardless of what their views might appear

  2. it was helpful ma’am

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