I was reading "The Professional" by Subroto Bagchilast Monday(19th October, 2009). In part VI in his book, he was discussing about Inclusion and Gender. It was a highly rewarding reading as Bagchi subtly but surely opened my blurred vision on gender bias.
Incidentally, almost at the same time a journalist friend invited me for an interactive session on the topic 'Is there an undercurrent gender bias in all sphere of Assam', which unfortunately I had to decline because of prior engagements.
What Bagchi had written and what has been prevailing (not only) in Assam now, has much similarities. Bagchi was describing an incident when he went to a leading private sector bank along with his writer wife looking for a loan to build his home in 1998. There, seated in front of the manager, he explained that though he would be the borrower on records, the financial decisions would be taken by his wife who had been managing the finance in the family. His wife had some questions before deciding on the loan and once the manager was ready, she started her questions.
"For every question she asked, the manager would steadfastly ignore her and look at me while answering. It was clear that he did not consider her important enough and kept focusing on me", wrote Bagchi.
Mr. & Mrs. Bagchi then decided to settle for a loan from another bank despite the first bank's rate of interest being lower because of the simple practical reason that it would have been impossible for Mr. Bagchi to accompany his wife for all the meetings with the banker as she would be dealing with him on an ongoing basis. Like the banker, hundreds of us discriminate against women, possibly unknowingly, in our daily life - everywhere in this country. Same applies for Assam.
To stop discriminating against women, we need to have gender awareness. It is much more important to understand the difference between the genders then to simply look for equality. The genders are not equal - physically, emotionally, economically or socially. There is no point trying to make the genders equal - they can never be. That's why there has to be reserved seat for women in public transport, women should not be engaged in jobs requiring hard labour and so on. They are not equal to men. Situations where physical attributes are not vital, they are probably better.
So, what is gender discrimination? We are discriminating against women, when they are judged only on the basis of their physical, mental and emotional weaknesses - not on the basis of their strong points. Or not on the basis of their equal abilities. However, putting women in jobs which are best suited for men like dressing them in battle fatigue serves only the purpose of inflating the ego of those screaming hoarse for gender equality without understanding the gender difference.