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The Hindu festival of Dussehra is celebrated with much gaeity and glory every year. As effigies of Ravana & Co. go up in flames, it’s a not-so-subtle reminder of the eventual victory of good over evil. Dussehra stands tall in its strong symbolism of conquering personal demons and social evils. Considering it also marks the culmination of Navratri, a nine-day festival celebrating goddess Durga and the spirit of women power, Health Shots outlines 10 social evils that deserve to be burnt, to make the world a better place for women.
This Dussehra, look around you and know what are the current social evils that you are seeing in your society. Make yourself count in a collective effort towards bringing a positive difference.
10 social evils to burn this Dussehra
1. Female foeticide and female infanticide
It’s a rude reality, but one that no one can and should not ignore. According to a United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) report from 2020, India accounts for almost one-third (32.1 per cent) of the total 142.6 million missing females in the world. The term ‘missing females’ here encompasses sex-ratio imbalances at birth as a result of gender-biased (pre-natal) sex selection, and excess female mortality caused by post-natal sex-selection. It’s high time people stop, and save the girl child.
An ingrained patriarchal mindset, where a preference for a son has been emphasized for years, has been hard to break. But let’s hope it’s time up for the underlying gender inequality in the society and the girl child is looked at with the same lens as boys.
2. Gender discrimination
If and when a girl child survives the existing social evils of female foeticide and infanticide, there begins her tryst with discrimination at every step of life. From what she wears, what she thinks, what she speaks to her career choices, social circle, lifestyle, remuneration, looks and more – there’s discrimination all the way. Gender pay gap is a very in vogue discussion at a time when gender issues have finally started getting a public platform. This, coupled with ageism, sexism and weightism are all social ‘isms’ that a woman battles even in a so-called ‘modern family’. The only little respite is to find a social circle that is supportive of her choices, her reality and her opinions. While that may be rare, gender discrimination is certainly a social evil that needs to burnt as savagely as Ravana.
3. Female illiteracy
The National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) and National Statistical Office (2021 and 2022) peg India’s literate female population at 70.30 percent, as compared to 84.70 percent males. While the good news is that literacy rates among women are increasing, the gap is self-explanatory.
In certain economically weaker sections of the society, it takes a lot to convince parents to ‘allow’ the girl to be educated. If she makes it to a school, she is either pulled out because of financial stress on a family, or because she may have reached puberty. Let’s not forget that even to reduce the evil of illiteracy from the society, we need education. Education empowers a woman to be financially, physically, emotionally and psychologically independent. Besides, educating a woman goes a long way in shaping up the future of the society.
Also read: 5 health lessons every mom needs to empower her little girl with
4. Domestic violence
Did you know that between 2001 and 2018, the rate of reported cases of cruelty by husband or relatives in India rose by 53 percent? The data, based on BMC Women’s Health analysing trends and lessons on domestic violence faced by Indian women, shows a mirror of the world that we’re living in. Women deserve equal respect, and not violence for any reason.
5. Dowry harassment
Newspaper headlines still scream dowry deaths, and the perpetrators need to really look within to know it’s not worth it! Dowry can range from hefty sums of money to expensive gifts, cars or even houses, as a result of a ‘demand’ by the groom’s family. Weddings are often called off, and women and families are harassed or tortured even to the extent of deaths and suicides, due to unreasonable dowry demands. What people don’t realise is how this makes an emotional affair such as marriage very transactional, and a woman a commodity. But we beg to assert: a woman is not a commodity. And a social institution such as marriage needs to be devoid of this social evil. And mind you, dowry is prohibited by law.
6. Period poverty
From the day a woman hits puberty, her battles can double. The society is riddled with menstruation myths which can be as rude as untouchability and social isolation. Even though the onset of puberty marks the beginning of a woman’s power to create a new life, the monthly bleeding is deemed ‘impure’. If this isn’t enough, a large section of women in the society, fail to get proper education and awareness regarding period hygiene and safety. Access to period products and disposal of menstrual waste are other hurdles in the way of managing menstrual health, which is crucial to her reproductive health.
Gradual efforts are being made at an individual, organisational and government levels to drive this social evil out of the world. That’s all it deserves.
7. Sexual abuse
The #MeToo movement didn’t make a noise for nothing. It was a collective call for various forms of sexual abuse women face. It could range from child abuse to rape to marital rape to sexual abuse. One may have thought that after the 2012 gruesome Nirbhaya gang rape and murder incident, there would have been a social awakening about sexual abuse. But we continue to read about sexual abuse cases. Definitely, a social evil that needs to burn!
A 40-year-old man can date a 25-year-old woman, but if it’s vice-versa, tag her a cougar! That’s society and ageism for you. To think that a 60-year-old woman isn’t fit for new adventures or to feel that a 24-year-old isn’t the right fit to run a business, are all ageism-related stereotypes that need to be shattered to pieces. Age, as they say, is just a number. Why else would you get to read news about 100-plus women breaking world records ranging from sprints to skydiving. A woman must be free to choose what she wants to do, and how she wants to do it. Being younger or older has nothing to do with her choices.
9. Body shaming
Size doesn’t really matter, as long as you’re confident. The society is plagued with people who think it’s their right to comment on a woman’s body size – be it too small or too bit. Fit shaming is as prevalent as fat shaming, basically proving the point that nothing is going to ever be good enough for people around you. They will always find something negative to point out. By this, we don’t mean to say fat is fit, but whatever size you may be, you should wear it with aplomb. When the society tries to corner you into thinking that there’s something wrong about the way you look, that sparks a vicious circle of self-image and self-confidence issues. That, my dear, makes body shaming a social evil worth boxing out of your life’s ring.
10. Infertility stigma
Uff! Our society doesn’t just get over the “Khush khabri” or “Good news” syndrome, does it? If women and men know biology enough, they should know that procreating is not in your hands, literally! There’s a whole fertility system at play when it comes to when a woman’s eggs are available, what’s the quality, what’s a man’s sperm quantity and quality like, what’s the frequency of sex, et al, when it comes to family planning. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. With lifestyle habits leading to various infertility conditions among 30-plus women nowadays, it’s time we stop rubbing it in. Pregnancy is a choice, and it’s even okay for women not to make it. Some women can’t bear a child, some women don’t want to. The stigma around them both needs to burn!
The last word
While it may be easier said than done to burn these social evils, every bit of effort can count slowly and steadily. So, do your bit. If you’re a woman reading this, assert your right to human rights that are equal to men and voice your opinions instead of being a silent sufferer. If you’re not a woman reading this, know that even a word of support and care can do a lot in empowering a woman to live a healthy and happy life.