Gender Justice and Indian Labour

Women constitute half the population of the society and it is presumed that best creation belong to the women. But it is a harsh reality that women have been ill-treated in every society for ages.

In India, it is believed that women enjoyed an equal status as men in the Vedic Period. The Upanishads and the Vedas have cited women sages and seers. But the condition declined considerably afterwards. Historical practices such as Sati and child marriage are a few traditions reflective of the gender imbalance in Indian Society. Though these practices are largely defuncting now, due to legal reform, the essence of the dysfunctional gender equity still is rampant and manifested today through domestic violence, trafficking, dowry deaths, female infanticide, female foeticide, sexual objectification, violence and sexual harassment at work place.

Technological progress in agriculture and the shift from subsistence to a market economy have had a dramatic negative impact on women, cutting them out of employment as many women are unskilled and lack education. Child labour among girls and unequal wages for women for similar work are common. Working women of all segments of society face various forms of discrimination.

Gender injustice is a problem that is seen all over the world. But unless there are certain attitudinal changes, women will continue to get a raw deal.

Meaning of Gender Justice

“Gender justice” is often used with reference to emancipator projects that advance women’s rights through legal change, or promote women’s interests in social and economic policy. Gender justice in the spirit of social justice is about more than simply questioning the relationship between men and women. It involves crafting strategies for corrective action toward transforming society as a whole to make it more just and equal and it means “a place in which women and men can be treated as fully human”.

Gender Justice and Labour Law

Under the Industrial laws the women have been bestowed the special position in the view of their unique characteristics, physically, mentally and biologically. These Acts not only regulated the hours of work but also contained provisions of health, safety and welfare of women workers and guarantees equality before law and equal treatment to women workers. Most of these laws have been inspired by the Conventions and recommendations adopted by the International labour Organization. The main objectives for passing these laws are to enable the women to increase their efficiency, to increase their participation in useful services, to ensure their infant welfare and to provide equal pay for equal work.

Gender Justice and Employment

Sexual division of labour is highly prevalent in the society. But, there is nothing “natural” about the sexual division of labour. The fact that men and women perform different kinds of work both within the family and outside has little to do with biology. Only the actual process of pregnancy is biological, all the other work within the home that women must do-cooking, cleaning, looking after children and so on, can equally be done by men. Unfortunately, this work is considered to be “women’s work”. This sexual division of labour is not limited to the home; it extends even to the “public” arena of paid work. Certain kinds of work are considered to be “women’s work”, and other kinds, men’s, but more important is the fact that whatever work that women do, gets lower wages and is less valued.

Employment of women in the unorganized sector has still not ensured them support services like child care, health care, equal remuneration and most of all promotional avenues. Women pre-dominate the lower hierarchies of employment and rarely move up to managerial and decision-making positions. These are areas of concern.

Working in the informal economy often becomes hazardous for undernourished women workers. Working as home-based workers in household industries, domestic workers, petty trades, services, construction sector, etc. women contribute significantly to the national economic growth as also to family welfare. Yet, their contribution is not adequately recognized; neither their gender specific problems adequately addressed. They remain largely unorganized, unheard, underpaid and under-represented.

Problems Faced by Women

  • Female feticide, infanticide, child marriage, domestic violence, sexual violence, and sexual harassment at the work place to the treatment meted out to elderly women makes any thinking person to wonder at the nature of the society. Participation of women in the decision-making bodies be they within the home, workplace or community is marginal, never reaching even 25% of the total population of women in India.
  • Women are forced to change their jobs or seek transfers on account of Sexual Harassment.
  • Most of the women’s work, inside the house goes unnoticed and unremunerated. Even outside the family they remain underpaid.
  • In terms of horizontal segregation, women are concentrated in low –paying positions such as secretary, typist, beautician, nurse, caregiver and assembly – line worker. “Equal work but unequal pay” is still a common practice in India’s private sector.
  • Children living in this environment and witnessing the differential role pattern of the man and the woman learn the lessons of gender inequality right from their childhood and the pattern is bound to continue generation after generation.

Remedies

  • It is now empirically established that women’s education is a single cure for a thousand societal ills.
  • Increasing women’s voice in decision-making; full participation of women in society, starting from autonomy in the household, to voice in all political processes at community, national and international levels.
  • Quotas have been shown to rapidly increase female representation in corporate decision-making, as well as politics.
  • Legislation should be passed entitling domestic workers to a minimum wage, social security and social services.
  • To ensure that the principle of non-discrimination is observed, express provision should be made for fines as a penalty for contravention of the rules, and monitoring and inspection bodies should be established to ensure compliance.
  • The State should guarantee women’s access to formal and informal education, technical training and new technologies. Conclusion

Gender equity emphasizes that all human beings be it men or women are free to develop their personal abilities and make choices without the limitations set by stereotypes, rigid gender roles, political and other prejudices. Their different aspirations should be valued equally and they would be treated fairly according to their respective needs. But the law alone cannot do much. All sections of society have to work for this transformation and this is where NGOs, the media and the people’s representatives have to play a major role. Gender justice is genuine equality among human beings where neither man is superior nor is a woman inferior.

 

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