In today’s social context, precise knowledge of the meaning of the term ‘gender equality’ is very significant. Generally, when discussing about the rights of a specific gender getting violated because of certain heinous crimes, an obvious and expected scenario of demand for justice is seen through various modes like protests, which, sometimes, turn violent, candle-light marches, etc.
There are some vital steps that a responsible citizen has to follow to build an unprejudiced, unbiased society. But, unknowingly, a paradoxical mindset, lurking in the society, related to an ambiguous concept of ‘gender equality’, can act like slow poison in stimulating crimes against women in the society, or put constraints on their rights and freedom.
It is believed that Northeast India is matrilineal in its societal orientations, and so, women here have smooth and full lives. Assam is considered to nurse a liberal attitude towards women. It is true to some extent when we ponder upon the rights that our Constitution grants to each and every woman, be it socio-political, economic, cultural, or religious rights.
Every piece of information related to the rights of women speak about how women are different, what their rights are, the crimes committed against them, and how to curb such menaces. But, very less has been spoken about the rights of women in their immediate environment. By saying so, I mean about their position in their homes, in their neighbourhood, in their place of employment, etc.
In many States, the right to have choices is annulled in case of marrying the partner of their choice. Overtly, Assam has a liberal, open-minded society, but, very often, a girl’s partner for marriage is often determined by her parents. The liberty to freely make choices about her life, her future, and even the decision to stay unmarried gets curbed to a great deal. The right to liberty and freedom of choice is violated indirectly or unknowingly.
License regarding what to wear is another issue in our society. Dress code in a teaching profession is more like a uniform. Saree or mekhala sador, a mandatory dress code in the teaching profession, has nothing to do with education. The teaching-learning process should not get hampered by the dress of a female teacher in the class. Teaching of the rightful body postures, where to go, who to hang out with, what to study are more often than not, dictated to a girl. Often, notions are made regarding ‘female-based subjects’ which demands ‘less hardwork and pressure’. Body-shaming is also vehemently present in the society in a deeper manner where women are constantly taunted for their body-sizes, reducing a woman’s right to her body.
Right to choose one’s livelihood is preached in the Assamese society to both the genders, but, the reluctance of parents to send their girl child into demanding professions is seen in the society.
Bob Marley once said, “Before you point your fingers, make sure your hands are clean”. A society cannot succeed in ensuring a healthy space for women if the entire foundation is fake. The constraints in the journey for an unbiased and egalitarian society yield a paradox while interpreting the scenario of how Assam has stood in the context of maintaining gender equality in the society. Breaking and deconstructing social norms are what today’s women must take in their own hands.