Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Gender Inequality

Gender inequality has always been a problem in India and this has been growing over time. India has an unfavourable sex ratio toward women. The “God’s own country” boasts of economic indicators which are equal to that of developed countries. Kerala is the only state in India which has a favourable sex ratio for women. People have a feeling that the women in Kerala hold a respectable position. It is a very wrong picture. Let me start with my own experience.

The time I conceived, many people asked me if I wanted a baby boy or a baby girl. Without hesitation I could say that I wanted a baby girl. My sisters -in-law had seven boys. So it was quite natural for my in laws to wish for a girl. Personally I preferred a baby girl to a baby boy. People told me that boys were better as the parents didn’t have to save anything for the future. I used to get irritated with their nasty comments. I used to tell these people I didn’t mind a boy or a girl. All that I wanted was a healthy baby.

I delivered to a baby girl. She was the eldest grandchild to my parents and the only girl in my husband’s family. All of us rejoiced at her birth. When our driver knew about it he was so disappointed. His face looked as though some mishap had happened to him. He couldn’t accept the fact that our eldest child was a girl.

“Ayyo saare oru penn kutty vendayirunu” ( Ayyo, Sir u should have never had a baby girl) (Did he think that we creators could decide the sex of the baby?)

My husband tried making him understand that we were very happy but still it did not seem to penetrate into his thick skull. Again I felt the uneasiness of gender inequality.

Whenever I stayed with my grandma I have felt the inequality that she had shown me and my other female cousins. As my grandmother did not have any brothers, she held men in very high esteem. Probably she lived in a male dominant society. I remember how she would stand besides my grandfather while he was having his food. The males were served first and only then the women of the house would eat. Men had all the major chunk of what was cooked and we girls had the leftovers. I would strongly protest against her discriminating policies. According to my grandma, men were the people who went out to work. So they needed nutritious food. Boys had to grow up and they will have to work. So even they needed nutritious food. Girls didn’t have to work. So they didn’t need much food. My first experience of discrimination was from my grandmother’s house.

Since of late I have been hearing about the discrimination experienced by various women – at least the people who are working with me. I met an old classmate of mine. She is teaching in a government school in the higher secondary section while her husband teaches in the UP section of a government school. She has two daughters. She has been facing problems since the day she got a job in the higher secondary. The problem may be due to the inferiority complex of her husband. He doesn’t allow her to keep a maid. She is expected to do all the household chores. It seems he doesn’t eat anything that is kept in the refrigerator. So she is forced to cook everyday. To add to her woes her mother-in-law keeps nagging her that she doesn’t have a son. The saddest part is that she is not keeping well. She has great difficulty in walking. It seems she becomes breathless when she walks and has a heavy feeling in her chest. She hasn’t been to the doctor yet. I asked her if I would take her to the hospital and her reply disturbed me

“Angerku enne venda. Pine Xina ku entha?” and then she added, “avarku oru cashu kodukathe jolikarriye avashayam. Enikku anel cash tharendello.” (He doesn’t need me. Then why are u bothered, Xina? He needs an unpaid maid. He doesn’t have to pay me)

I tried to make her understand that she had two daughters and that a mother was essential in their growing phase. She refuses to understand that. All that she wants is to die as soon as possible and escape from her miseries.

This is just an incident that is happening in the modern world.

Now coming ro the the attitude of men. I don’t mean all men, but most of the men.. In Kerala with a high female population, it is difficult for parents to get a suitable groom for their daughters. So parents are willing to pay a very high dowry. It was at that time that the pre-degree was de-linked from colleges and the higher secondary came into being. Many new appointments were made and parents found prospective grooms for their daughters. Very heavy dowry was demanded by parents of the boys. The reason was simple. The males paid huge amounts as donation to covet the job. So it was quite natural to demand for that amount from the bride’s parents. (I have heard a relative of ours saying that she spent 9 lakhs on her son’s education. I am not sure if she kept an account from the time her son joined school. So she expected a dowry much more than that. Lucky she did not keep an account of the cost of food he ate and the medicines he consumed!!!) The irony of it is that most of the brides were higher secondary teachers too. Didn’t they pay the same amount to acquire the job? Then why should her parents pay a dowry for an equally qualified and employed boy? Be it in the education sector or in any other sector this is the case. One of my co-worker’s daughters is getting married next month. She is an engineer and is a techie. She is getting married to another engineer techie. Her parents are giving her a dowry worth around 60 lakhs!!! According to the Economic Theory, when demand is more than supply, the price increases (maybe that is why the dowry rates are sky rocketing). In spite of taking a very high dowry these men expect an obliging wife who can slog like a maid and who can dance to his whims and fancies without uttering a word!!! When you pay for something, it means you are buying that thing. So when the bride pays a huge dowry it means that the parents are buying the groom. Then why should the bride dance to her husband's tune???

What is the status of woman today? Is it enough to guarantee her 33% of the Lok Sabha seats and 30% seats (this is not guaranteed) in the KSRTC buses?

It is very disturbing to read articles about the inhuman treatment meted by women in the newspapers. Last Sunday, in The Hindu there were articles about the ill treatment of girls. In that it was said that in some remote village, an infant was dipped in hot water by a midwife with an aim to kill it!!! The infant was admitted to the hospital with severe burn. The fault of the infant was that she was the second daughter of a couple. Imagine the cruelty of the midwife!!!! Did she forget that she was a girl once upon a time?

There was another article in The Indian Express an article about Sunanda Pushakar by Paul Zachariah. When I read the article by Mr. Zachariah, I felt that at least there was a man (with some common sense) to support a woman who has been in a much debated controversy. What was the mistake she did? Is it because she worked for a company to bring the IPL team to Kerala? In “India Today”, there was an article which said that she hails from a very wealthy family. More over she is working in Dubai. There are a very good number of Indians who work there. No NRI goes abroad to do service free of cost. The main aim of any NRI is to make money. That is exactly what Ms. Pushkar did. Then about her connection with Mr. Tharoor… it is purely a personal affair and one doesn’t have to make a hue and cry over that. Ms. Pushkar is an adult and she has the right to decide what is good for her. Entire India needn’t run behind her to see what she is up to. I don’t find anything wrong in her even if she is having an affair with Mr. Tharoor. I will call her a brave woman because most of the Indians whether a man or a woman is masked. They preach about morality and practices immorality. I feel that 99% of the Indians are hypocrites. Just because she is a woman people can wag their tongues and damage her reputation.

Will the mindset of people ever change? The mindset of women is changing and I guess that has been attributed to the causes of increasing divorce rates in Kerala as well as in India. Will there be gender equality in India at least in the near future?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Children of a Lesser God

I am a higher secondary teacher who has been working in the department for many years now. From day one we teachers have been facing a number of problems. Governments came, governments went, but our problems are here to remain

The High school teachers were the cream of the school until we went there. Immediately there arose a clash between HSAs and HSSTs. There were a lot of allegations against us. I am one person who underwent such torments. Rumours spread out about most of the teachers. It’s very normal among people to react when someone is appointed superior to them. But this clash has been continuing over a decade.

The school teachers work five days a week and so does the college teachers. Why are only the higher secondary teachers working 6 days a week? According to school teachers,
“Kai niraye cash medukukayalle? Pine joli cheythal entha?”
I agree that we do get a decent salary but what about the college teachers? Are they not being paid three times our salary? How come they are free on Saturdays and Sundays? They are free because they have to prepare. And they are university staffs who come under the UGC. That is their explanation. Don’t we have to prepare for the following week? Are we not teaching the same Pre-degree which were once taught in colleges? The only difference is that it was Pre-degree then and now it is higher secondary.

My immediate provocation to write this article is that we have been forced to go for valuation of answer scripts. The Centralized valuation camp where I go, five subjects are being valued there. It is a school with just a little over 500 students. This school is in the heart of the city. Believe me, there are no fans in this school. In the room where I sit there are seven groups of teachers. Each group has five assistants and a chief. So in all, we are forty two teachers in a room with barely any place to sit. It is so congested that all of us are soaked in sweat by afternoon. To add fuel to this, most of the days there is no water in the toilets. Teachers from Trivandrum district come here for valuation. How long does the authority expect teachers to work without going to the toilet? Majority of us reach by 9:30am in the morning. All of a sudden news spreads that there is no water to wash our hands and to go to the toilets. Is it not violation of human rights? As far as I know, the atmosphere should be conducive to work. There are many teachers who are elderly and asking them to work in such an atmosphere is atrocious.

The worst of all is that there is a step motherly treatment towards the teachers going for valuation. Answer scripts are issued only after 9:30 am. The next set is issued after 1:30pm. The camp coordinator takes back the afternoon set only after 4:30pm. The reason they give is that the Joint Director has given them strict instruction that the teachers should leave the camp only after 4:30pm. What does he gain by keeping us there for all these hours? Does he think that he is doing us something great favour by calling us for valuation? Never!!!! He is just torturing us and I think he gets a sadistic pleasure in keeping us in that miserable place. Please remember there are teachers who have to catch the trains to reach their hometowns in the evening.

We are sacrificing our summer vacations for valuation. You may argue that this work that we are doing can be surrendered and we that we get an additional income. Let me tell you frankly, many teachers are not interested in cash. We prefer holidays. This is the only time that we get to spend with our family. Even that has been grabbed away from us. Don’t we teachers need holidays? It has been made compulsory for us teachers to attend the CV camp. If not, a memo will wait us when we go back to school. Valuation for certain subjects go beyond May 15. By the time valuation is over, we teachers are forced to go for vacation class. In short teachers are being denied their summer holidays.

Are we children of a lesser God? Or are we slaves who are expected to slog the whole year?

After all the hard work we do, memos are kept ready for the slightest mistake. Memos are given to teachers, who don’t attend the valuation camp. Memos are given to teachers who have attended the camp but for a slight mistake that they commit. It is simply not possible to give 100% attention in the work we do in such an atmosphere.

You, leaders of the teachers’ union please unite and protest against the atrocities on us.