India: a paradox

India is a paradox. It’s a country that is still developing in both the public sector and the economic sector. Although the Indian constitution recognizes equal rights for both men and women, gender disparities between the two remain. But what makes the country so strange is that on one level, every other politician is a woman. Be it Mamata Banerjee, Mayawati, Sheila Dikshit, or Sonia Gandhi. These were some of the most powerful female politicians in the country. On the other hand, barely 1km away, you will see discrimination in all forms against women and girls. 

Dangal is a sport/action Bollywood movie that was released in December 2016. This film brought a social change in India that no one had ever seen or anticipated before. The story revolved around two girls who come home after beating up two boys in response to some derogatory comments made by them. Their father sees potential in them, and despite all stereotypes, begins to coach them as professional wrestlers. In a country where girls are often considered a liability, the story of Geeta and Babita contradicted this and inspired thousands of girls. Aamir Khan imposes rigid training schedules for his daughters and goes out of his way to ensure that they achieve what he could not. Moreover, Geeta and Babita destroy the Indian patriarchy by winning national championships and becoming the first Indian female wrestler to win a gold at the Commonwealth Games. The message on protecting the girl child is what stood out the most. A large number of Indian families believe having female progeny is a curse and this tends to reflect on society as a whole. This conservative mindset problem needs to be hammered in order for the country to develop and gender disparities to be crushed. The movie was the biggest hit of the year and one of the most successful films. This suggests that the assumption many families consider female progeny a curse may not be the case, or at least might be changing.

In 2019, just 29 (6%) of Indian Fortune 500 companies had women leaders with executive powers. Globally, businesses with at least one woman in senior management increased to 90%. In India, this stands at 98%. The country is now third with 39% women in senior management positions. Indra Nooyi is an Indian-American businesswoman, chairperson, and CEO of the world’s second-largest food and beverage company. Forbes claims her to be the 13th most powerful woman in the world, with an annual salary of 18.6 million dollars. Similarly, Chanda Kochhar is the CEO of ICICI bank and is responsible for the bank’s diverse operations in India. Under her leadership, ICICI won the “Best retail bank in India” award(s). These women have proved to the country and the rest of the world that women are as capable as men and sometimes even more. Through the work they do, they are slowly changing the attitudes of the educated in India. 

Discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace are, unfortunately, what our country is known for. The government maintains no centralised data relating to any cases of harassment of women in workplaces. A total of 10 percent of women in India face sexual harassment in the workplace. The Prevention of Sexual Harassment Act requires any company with more than 10 employees to file a complaint. The law itself has made it tough for women to file due to discrimination and power imbalances.

In my opinion, correct forms of communication can change attitudes. Aamir Khan himself claimed that: “Social media is a wonderful platform to connect with people, but each one of us has different popularity.” The role the actor played in this movie clearly showed that Indian mindsets can be changed and developed. As we’ve seen previously with successful politicians and leaders such as Mayawati and Chanda Kochhar, the country has the potential to produce more of these women and demolish gender inequality. 

Ira is the managing editor for The Woodstocker.

Edited by Keerat

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