Social : Why-does-partiality-between-boy-and-girl-still-exist-in-india-Why-there-is-inequality
Answer by Balaji Viswanathan:
This is a complex question and need to handle it in deeper sense. We need to understand that paternalism was strong in all parts of the world until a couple of decades ago. The question is why.
Dishwasher vs. the Battering Ram
By 400 BC we invented machines that would pierce an enemy's castle, but a more humble & useful machine to wash dishes [that would substantially avoid millions of hours of wasted time every year] was not invented until the 1920s. That's how lopsided human society's priorities were since the dawn of civilization.
10,000 years ago men and women had equally challenging roles. Men hunted & brought food. Women gathered firewood, cooked & reared the children.It was a fairly equal society. Then agriculture was invented and changed humanity. Civilizations arose. Men suddenly were able to bring food with much lesser effort. Then the invention of steel and later firearms helped men use this spare time to build empires.
However, no such major invention helped the women do their jobs. Cooking was still primitive, no major machines were invented for household chores for 1000s of years, raising kids was still hard & poor healthcare meant women were still hard hard time birthing kids.
By a strange sideeffect, the bith of civilization brought sexism. Thus, all major civilizations grew in a patriarchal way. Even now, we can see some tribal societies without agriculture with more equal treatment of the sexes.
The rise of warfare & Empires
With agriculture, men now had a lot of spare time, given that they don't need to hunt anymore [It took 8000 years since then for men to start doing chores at home]. 100s of thousands of years of evolution made us very fine hunters & we could not avoid that.
Instead of hunting boar and deer, we started building empires through wars. With the invention of steel, we built fine swords & arrows. With gunpowder we created cannons & guns. Wars were getting increasingly complex and big. Each of them brought undespicable horrors on women. Women wee stolen, raped, traded and murdered. The society thus made her into an object that makes future soldiers & one that is to be protected.
While agriculture turned the table on women, the concept of warfare stuck women under the table and suffocated her. Almost all wars are started by men and for men.
There was little evolutionary pressure on women to grow hunting skills & they had much more important duties. Thus, the parents thought their sons, who could pick a sword, as an asset while the daughter who is to be "protected" from shame & loot, as a liability. Historically, all martial societies were terrible for women. Compare the state of women in a constantly warring Middle East versus the Scandinavians who gave up warfare a century ago. India is just now moving from the state of constant warfare to a nation at peace.
Turning the Tide in the West
However, a century ago, the circle had started turning back. The new advancements in health care meant that women were no longer dying in childbirth in large numbers. They also needed fewer children in an increasingly modern workforce. Thus, the biggest disadvantage to women historically was diminished.
Advancements in education – such as schooling for all kids – again helped the women take a part of burden away. After sending the kids to school, women had the first sense of spare time. The availability of machines for washing, grinding and cleaning meant that women could both take care of the home and also be a part of the workforce.
The World Wars brought even more development of women in the West. As the men were stuck fighting in the battlefield, the womenfolk manned the economy, got greater expertise & became more aware of the rights.
In the developed countries with the above advantages, women started reentering the society. As they started entering, they raised their voice for more rights that were never given to them. First, they got voting rights. Then, with women politicians they were able to win much more equal benefits they got more laws that protected equal treatment of sexes.
Sexism in India
At the top level, India was a little better. Hinduism is only major world religion with female deities. India's Constitution was probably the only major constitution that involved women in the Constituent Assembly.. India is among the handful of major democracies with women's suffrage from Day 1. India has had women premiers before the West.
The top level was still not really equal, but at least manageable. However, the bottom part of India was completely contradictory due to a variety of reasons:
- The abysmal health care and a lot of babies meant that women were spending most of their life bearing kids & many dying in the process.
- The lack of modern appliances in poorer India meant that women were still stuck mostly at home doing chores.
- Until recently education didn't reach all and thus women were both uneducated and also needed to take care of the kids at home – who should otherwise be at school.
- The lack of overall development – roads, electricity – put a disproportionate burden on the women. Technology always liberates women and we have not yet gotten there.
- For centuries, India was under the crisis of foreign occupation and that made society really backward. In any crisis, the womenfolk will be the first one to be affected. Rapes, murders, forced marriage and other despicable horrors happened.
In short, Indian women got none of the benefits explained in the previous section that the European & North American women had.
Preferences for boys
- Given the historical crises, many parents in interior lands are always under the constant fear of their daughter being taken over. A range of Indian evils such as Sati & Child Marriage, were a reaction to the cultural invasions.
- Given the absence of adequate technology, women have a hard time with life & some parents see them as a burden. Cost of childbirth [in terms of time and effort] which falls on the woman's parents can take a toll on their earnings.
- Given the absence of adequate systems to bring out their talent, female kids are unable to bring as much earnings as their male kids can. If the primitive economy is still based on brute strength, then males would always earn more. It is only in the knowledge economies can women have an equal footing. Many parts of India are beyond the knowledge economy.
- India's cultural reforms are moving at a slow pace. Hinduism and other religions need a constant cleanup from time to time. Religions are great, but they need to stay updated. Throughout history, Hinduism has had reformers like Sankarachayra. More than a century ago, Hindu reformers such as Vivekananda, Raja Ram Mohan Roy and Mahatma Gandhi started a series of reforms. Now we need to press the accelerator than throw out many stupid ideas from religion and culture – most of which came in the medieval times. India is a very religious place and development of women cannot take place without getting the help of religious reformers.
Such a male preference exist in many primitive economies like ours & quite common in many other developing countries such as China.
How do we solve this?
Socioeconomic problems need fixing both the society and the economy. Some things:
- Drastically improve access to healthcare: Healthcare is one field that disproportionately benefits women more than men & equal access to health care can help women fight for their rights more. Not just that, it also gives women much more jobs to work.
- Improve access to education: With education, women can enter the knowledge economy. While the IT sector is not perfectly equal, it is better than the back breaking jobs. Like healthcare, education sector can bring a variety of benefits to women.
- Enable a greater spread of entrepreneurship: It can allow women to work from the comfort of home or at least help them have a greater control over their own life.
- Enable a timebound affirmative action for women in politics: Bring much more women into politics and start with a 33% reservation. Although it looks philosophically wrong to give any community an advantage, it can bring practical benefits.