Patriarchy is the least noticed yet the most significant structure of social inequality

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Patriarchy is a social system in which men hold primary power, predominate in the roles of political leadership, moral authority, special privilege and control of the property. Men are also centre and authoritative figure in the domain of the family. Patriarchy has been one of the dominant features of the world particularly of Indian society. Roles in family or society are rigidly divided on the basis of gender in a patriarchy. These divisions are not only limited to scientific division such as child bearing by women etc but extend to all forms of life, without any justification.

Social inequality is a universal phenomenon in all societies. In every society, some people have a greater share of valued resources – money, property, education, health, and power – than others. These social resources can be divided into three forms of capital – economic capital in the form of material assets and income; cultural capital such as educational qualifications and status; and social capital in the form of networks of contacts and social associations. Often, these three forms of capital overlap and one can be converted into the other. Patterns of unequal access to social resources/ the exclusion of people from participating in social events are commonly called social inequality.

Patriarchy being the most significant structure of social inequality:

Right from birth women face inequality. Most of the parents don’t even want their girl child to be born. This was evidenced in 2018-19 Economic Survey’s “Son meta preference”. After birth, boy child gets better education, nutrition, clothing compare to girl child. Elder girls have to quit their education to take care of younger siblings. Even if they manage to continue their education, their performance is affected as they need to help their mothers in household chores. This manifests into a boy becoming a better individual than a girl in terms of possessing knowledge, wealth etc.

Despite bringing much legislation such as Hindu Succession Act etc, property transfer to girl child is minuscule. Data on Land records shows us that – in India, only 28% of women own land (both individually and jointly) despite having 50% share in overall population. Employers show discrimination against women candidates fearing their performance might reduce during pregnancy/ due to household responsibilities. Increasing crime against women makes parents of girl child skeptical in sending her to a better educational institution/better employment opportunity far off from their native place. Even if women manage to cross all the barriers and secure a good employment, their financial autonomy is still almost negligible.

Yet, Patriarchy is the least noticed structure of Inequality:

Most of us, irrespective of our economic, social, cultural status continue to accept patriarchy. Wife beating is accepted as a cultural norm by more than 50% of women. Women taking up jobs, women being main bread winner of family, women working in late hours all are still considered a taboo. Till recent Supreme Court judgments, women were not allowed inside Mosques through main gate/ into Sabarimala temple. Even after the judicial pronouncements, many women themselves are against availing the entry. We can compare any factor of social inequality – it may be cast/race/religion/color/sexual orientation/disability etc – in all those inequalities women are at the bottom of the period.

Indian government has been taking a lot of steps to reduce this social inequality manifested by patriarchy. For example, 33% reservation for women in local governments is considered to be a major step for increasing women representation in politics. In most of the states women represent almost 50% at local levels. However, the issue of Panchayat pati (husband of women representative being de-facto ruler) is yet to be addressed. “Beti Bachao Beti Padhao” has helped in reducing sex-selective abortion, hence improvement in “child sex ratio” in many districts. Providing 10% supernumerary quota for girls in prestigious IITs has increased their share significantly.

No society can advance with half of its population facing social inequality. The change has to come from within the society – instead of forced by government through legislations. Moral overhauling is a must in schools starting from very young age. Special treatment must be given to women to balance out decade long discrimination faced by them. 33% reservations for them in educational, political, employment opportunities can be one such step. If our mothers, sisters are treated with love and respect – automatically our wives, daughters will be treated that way too. This is utmost essential to address the issue of social inequality – not only in India but across the world.

-Anusha Kolli