Thu, 24 Jun 2021 Today's Paper

Gender discrimination A Long standing social evil

11 October 2015 07:52 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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A gender equal and violence free society: Is it a man’s choice?

he Human Race, which was largely Egalitarian during ‘Prehistoric Hunter Days’ transitioned to Patriarchy, which signifies Paternalistic Dominance and presupposes male supremacy over females. 
It has persisted through centuries nurtured by male hegemony and come to stay ever since taking root long ago. 
This phenomenon has witnessed persistent discrimination against women in every aspect of human life happening in more or less all societies throughout the time span of the evolutionary process of humankind. Male dominance is prevalent in almost all societies throughout the world today, and is conspicuous in varying degrees. It is vigorously manifested in societies that are predominantly subjected to the heavy-handed influence of religious fundamentalism.
Draconian and iron-fisted measures adopted by the Taliban and ISIS to keep women shut out from mainstream activities of society are a pertinent case in point, representing most ruthless and utmost extreme forms of gender based discrimination

 

Unshackling women

One of the pioneering initiatives in the emancipation of women was taken by the Peerless Buddha at a time when women were undergoing drastic forms of social exclusion mainly due to their sex. During the pre-Buddhist era women were considered as sinful and the source of all sins and all misfortunes that befell men. 



Owing to that stigma they were subjected to serious discriminations including religious bias. Undoubtedly the Peerless Buddha was the first person, who took the unprecedented initiative to provide women equal and unhindered access to practise and follow the noble path revealed by engaging in spiritual advancement, which for long remained an exclusive right and a privilege of Male Domain. Buddha demonstrated that gender has neither any role nor is a determinant in one’s capability to engage in spiritual advancement which lead to ultimate self liberation.

 

Persistence of Exploitation

Today many hapless women of all ages from throughout the world could be silently going through immense untold miseries and numerous hardships as victims of heinous sexual crimes and other forms of harassment at the hands of merciless beasts appearing in the guise of humans. 
The heart-rending story of Seya Sadevmini’s gruesome death after suffering grievous physical harm at the hands of a murderous sadist, who was said to be affected by a serious psychopathic disorder, which has sensationally awakened this nation to the unprecedented danger mainly faced by females today, including those still in their tender little ages, should serve as a loud wake-up call to those who call the shots, highlighting the utmost urgency to rise to the occasion to comprehensively address this issue before any more innocent women could fall victims to sexual abuse.

 

Crass Commercialism

Fast-moving, highly commercialised global society witnesses commodification of feminine attributes such as beauty, radiance, gentleness, sensuality and sexuality etc as a catalyst to further crass commercial interests. 
This has been happening at the expense of deteriorating human values. Women today are being exploited as a product of erotic appeal by mega commercial fat cats to promote profiteering trades. 
Graphic portrayal of female physical attributes of sex appeal in subtle innuendo and flagrant display to generate commercial interests also contributes to arouse and incite the needs of flesh of male chauvinism. Trade practices that lack moral standards could insidiously contribute to unleash perverted sexual interests and immoral instincts of those who are prone to sex motivated offences.
Widespread practice of the erotic portrayal of women to promote commercial interests and rapidly spreading pornography in today’s digital age, have heightened man’s sexual drive to seek pleasures through far-fetched notions of imaginary indulgences that pervert, dehumanise and vulgarise the standards of human behaviour.
The advent of state of the art communication gadgetry such as new generation mobile handsets with internet connectivity has heightened access to pornographic material, further exacerbating this situation. This trend has bewildered today’s youth including those in school going ages driving them in pursuit of vulgar pleasures at the expense of moral values in youth mentality, and morals.
Some of the menaces faced by society in consequence are the rise of Paedophilia, Necrophilia, and Teleiophilia or Reverse-Paedophilia. “Grievous nature of some of the reported crimes indicate severe abnormalities in male sexual propensities and many of the perpetrators appear to be suffering from serious psychopathic disorders,” a speaker said.

 

Discrimination at work  

The sexual discrimination is a phenomenon that persists in blue collar as well as white collar elite corporate environments, and mostly females are the underdogs.
Female workers face unpleasant, difficult and de-motivating circumstances in work places due to intrusive and unwelcome behaviour and undue influences exerted by male peers and superiors intent on extracting sexual favours and advantages. Women who dare to resist unwelcome advances and cross swords with bullies incur their wrath and end up facing endless hostilities, criticisms, and slander. 
Requests for sexual gratification in return for opportunities leading to career advancement, and demanding sexual favours as part of sinister schemes of blackmail, too happen in work places.
Moreover, stereotypical and traditionalist views on gender bias held by Corporate/Organisational Leaders also may put females at serious disadvantage as regards the prospects of accomplishing career advancement, as women could be viewed by top management as weaker sex and not fit for certain challenging roles at higher rungs of the career ladder. 
Also, due to the long-held notion that women are primarily responsible for household chores and bringing up children, may deprive them of the opportunities of securing challenging careers, as they may be viewed through persistent gender bias, as being unfit to take higher corporate/organisational responsibilities owing to family related to burdens.

 

Political will  

In the global scenario only a handful of women occupy seats of political authority. In Sri Lanka the situation could even be worse as female representation in Parliament is awfully low. 
Also it has been reported that many elected members did not possess GCE O/L qualification and a large number do not have GCE A/L, which indicate many do not possess basic education. Moreover, it is alleged that many are supposed to be of dubious track records and are of questionable integrities. 
This shows lack of fortitude and political will to establish eligibility standards including gender diversity criteria to ensure compliance with minimum educational and moral standards by elected members, which has virtually extended tacit approval for calibre and moral standards of male-dominated assembly to degenerate to abysmal depths, whilst denying a reasonable female share of political clout in statecraft. 
No one including so-called Marxists crying out loud for social equality has raised any voice on behalf of Millions of fellow female citizens who still remain as a segment with not much of a voice.

 

Corporate sector

Even in the corporate world among the elite business community, where meritocracy is said to serve as driving force and determining criteria, corporate leaders, management gurus and so-called elite professional fraternity, who claim moral high ground, waxing eloquent on lofty principles of good governance and merit based rewarding, have to date failed to promote gender diversity in board rooms, and consequently many competent and qualified females are compelled to play second fiddle in corporate roles, in spite of accomplishing phenomenal success in professional advancement.
Medical profession is yet to acknowledge that, gender equality should be promoted within its calling. Majority of consultants in practice are male doctors and specialised branches of medicine and medical treatment such as cardiology, cardiothoracic surgery, neurosurgery, pulmonology, and psychiatry are dominated by males.



One of the basic reasons appears to be the long held belief that Men are more capable than women in certain job roles. Moreover, Male Doctors seem to enjoy preference for career advancement and get better remuneration and benefits than female peers, who are on par. As a result, Males are able to command preference in Primary Care, Secondary and Tertiary Care Roles. Males today dominate specialist consultative care, as well as advanced medical investigations and state of the art treatment procedures including advanced surgeries. Consequently, many lady doctors who are highly qualified and competent in such domains may not be enjoying equal opportunities to build their practices and rise in career ladder. Also men are treated preferentially as regards managerial roles in health sector as is evident in the situation that prevails today. Presidency of Sri Lanka Medical Council, the apex body of the medical profession has been predominantly held by males over the years except in the case of only one or two female heads that had the opportunity to rise to the top.



In the medical segment women are considered more suitable for helping roles such as nursing and “dirty work” involving cleaning and personal care of patients. Not only women are discriminated in career progression, they also suffer discrimination in obtaining treatment and medical care of their choice, due to the dearth of female medical specialists, consultants and surgeons which prevents them from obtaining the services of female specialists particularly with regard to gynaecological and obstetrical needs. 
Whilst many qualified female doctors may be facing unpleasant work situations, experiencing disappointment, lack of job satisfaction and loss of morale, Female Patients too could be facing predicament, as dearth of female specialists may deprive them of the opportunity to obtain gender sensitive Gynaecological and Obstetrical care, which would make doctor-patient relations more productive and rewarding.

 

Elimination of Gender Bias through Empowerment

Since women account for equal or more portion of the population, it is important for the policy makers and planners to evolve, establish and institutionalise systems and procedures to ensure that reasonable female representation in decision making mechanisms, be it in professional associations, board rooms of corporate entities, working environments, hospitals proving healthcare services, judiciary that carries out administration of justice or the legislature that handles statecraft, in order that, decision making processes of all important sectors would be designed and implemented in a gender sensitive manner giving due consideration to the needs, attitudes, aspirations & concerns of females and specific issues faced by them to ensure female citizens would not be subjected to detriments caused by gender based prejudices.
Sri Lankan population is aging fast, and is at cross roads. Unless proper long term policies and programmes taken to addressed it, same will precipitate a serious productivity crisis through depletion of productive labour force dominated by males, in time to come. However, measures are yet to be initiated to boost women’s participation in mainstream economic activity which is lower than desirable at present. Women participation in labour force is low at 34 percent although they make up a little over half the population. 



Of the total employment only 33percent is represented by women with the remainder being males, denoting male to female ratio of 2: 1 in active labour force. In the case of public sector male to female participation in top management positions is six to one, a dismal state of affairs that speaks volumes about the degree of gender based discrimination prevailing in public sector management and decision making mechanisms. Although private sector is considered more efficient, technologically advanced, forward looking, transparent and suppose to run in compliance with globally accepted best commercial practices and principles of corporate governance, the situation in top 100 companies leaves much to be desired and indicates that only five percent of them have females as Chief Executives. This very clearly indicates that male workforce in private sector have 20 times more opportunities than fellow female employees to reach the top management positions. So, it is very clear that one of the steps that could be taken to boost an effective labour force, is enhancing women’s participation in economic activity through empowerment, which will also contribute to eliminate gender bias.

 

Gender equality  and Good Governance

The Yahapalanaya regime in its strategic approach to execute ambitious schemes of economic advancement needs to introduce institutionalised mechanisms to achieve economic and social inclusion. 
“Gender Mainstreaming”, which is designed to eliminate long-standing gender inequalities undoubtedly forms an integral part of a strategic approach promoting equal gender participation in creating economic value. Sri Lanka cannot afford to sustain male hegemonic form of governance and carry on with such prejudiced policies at the cost of losing the productive contribution of a potent workforce comprising of female members of the society that form more than 50 percent of the population. Hence elimination of partiality in policy making is a sine-qua-non to achieve optimum balance in gender representation in socio economic spheres of activity. Unless principles of good governance are designed to promote non-partisanship and gender neutrality, they will remain pro male and serve limited interests.
Political leadership could enact laws, establish procedures and make enforcement more stringent with stern and rigorous punishments being meted out to offenders. Can those alone could mould rectify and sanctify the souls given to perpetrate heinous acts of criminality that are on the rise today is a question that begs an answer. Gender neutral thinking has to be moulded from kindergarten days, to ensure it pervades human life in a cradle to grave fashion. Society can’t wait another couple of decades or so until today’s toddlers grow up as more cultured enlightened and responsible citizens who respect equality characterised by gender neutrality to see a deep rooted ill being rectified. 
Whilst the young generation is put through a radical paradigm shift in its education to mould attitudes, thinking and outlook on a long term plan to recognise and get rid-of gender bias, sweeping measures could be initiated in a top-down approach to promote gender neutrality in decision making processes in main pillars of governance and all mainstream activities to eradicate the long-standing gender bias. 
Unless this regime could wake up to this reality, and establish and institutionalise system driven safeguards to enhance women’s rights, empower women and bring them on par with male counterparts to eradicate a long-standing social injustice, style of governance being practised could never be called good governance.
Echelons of power should realise that it is their call to act sooner than later, as more than half the population that has remained subservient and suffered at the hands of male dominance looks up to them with high hopes yearning for a better tomorrow.
Will that day ever dawn is certainly a matter of man’s choice. Pathetically there is hardly any light at the end of the tunnel as of now. 
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