AN ANALYSIS OF THE BANE OF GENDER INEQUALITY FOR ACCESS TO SANITATION
- Faiz Aayat Ansari
Gender inequality related to the professions and occupations carried out by humans has been a practice as old as the society itself. This practice owes its relation not only to the Indian scenario but also to various civilizations across the world. Since the civil law practice to codify the laws started gaining impetus, laws regarding gender neutrality in general started getting drafted. This progressive trend also spread to the professional landscape at large. The effective realization of these laws and practices was deemed to be highly sceptical by a large section of the society.
One may also argue that the implementation of gender progressive practices is still a far cry from reality. However, with the recent developments in the legislative as well as the judicial framework and interpretation, there has been a positive change regarding the same. The older perspective was rather a limited one and tried to straight jacket and emphasize on the gender stereotyping related to the professions and occupations.
The recent perspective is fairly liberal and broad in its outlook. It tries to do away with the entire system of gender stereotyping related to the professions and occupations with the help of progressive judicial pronouncements like the recent one based on Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. The traditional ideologies of ‘masculine and feminine’ traits as perceived in our society are fast becoming obsolete. Jobs, in the current scenario, are more and more becoming gender neutral. However, amongst all these seemingly positive developments, the one important thing which is often forgotten or neglected is the stark practical difficulties faced by women at professional workplaces due to lack of availability of proper sanitation facilities.
This acts as a bottleneck to achieving the dream of equal opportunities for all and hits the right to equality very hard. The researcher, in the present research paper, has tried to analyse and correlate the older and recent perspectives towards gender stereotyping related to the professions and occupations, the impact of legislations and judicial pronouncements on the same and analyse the same with respect to gender disparity in availability of sanitation facilities at workplaces resulting in the compromise to right to equality for the society at large.
Keywords: Gender inequality,gender progressive practices,traditional ideologies of masculine and feminine traits, disparity in availability of sanitation facilities
A civilization is any complex society with numerous inter-group interactions characterised by urban development, social stratification imposed by a cultural elite, symbolic systems of communication and a perceived separate form and domination over natural environment.
Since times immemorial, humans have organized themselves into a stratified society based on caste, religion, gender, ideologies, beliefs and goals. These divisions further went on to distinguish the individuals into groups, agencies and social units, eventually leading to a social hierarchy, forming a base for a diversified society at large.  These units further progressed to build social relations, which result to ideas such as hierarchy, patriarchy, stratification, oppression and marginalisation.
These ideals further went on to build a society based on the above discussed principles, creating a number of crests and troughs for different groups in the social setup. One of the prominent forms of oppressions observed in the society is the gender discrimination and its reflection in the professional front.
Early Civilizations – Distribution of Roles
Every ancient civilization functioned on certain norms and abided by the rules which were set long before the history was documented. For every society, an individual’s role was primed on the basis of his/her gender, which eventually determined his/her role in the society. The basic roles of women included household chores like cooking, cleaning, washing and taking care of the family, while men were expected to go out for hunting, get involved in civilization military and build structures in the same.
A woman’s role comprised of taking care and raising children. The Spartans believed that women would be more efficient in performing their tasks if they indulged in physical activities. Thus, along with managing the household, women also participated in running, wrestling and javelin. A unique feature of Greek civilization was the concept of wife sharing.
On the other hand, masculine roles comprised of activities such as politics, arts, crafts and agriculture. Men were heavily involved in public events and were encouraged to stay outside unlike women. A woman was to stay inside as it showed a sign of wealth.
Ancient Roman society observed a number of instances of discrimination on the grounds of gender. Women did not have to power to rule the state and the practices of rape and homicide were very common in that social setup. If a woman was to divorce her husband, the entire household used to get transferred to the husband. The condition of women in ancient Rome was deplorable.
The Roman families were strongly dominated by men and they were considered the “Kings” of the household. The responsibilities of earning the livelihood rested solely with the men. The spectrum of jobs varied from the armed force to business.
Thus, from the above cited examples of early civilizations and the distribution of works solely based on gender differences and, it is evident that the practice of women suppression is an age old process which still persists in our society and continues to haunt the freedom of a major section of our society as the minds still resonate with the stronghold of patriarchy.
Reflections of Gender Roles in Modern Society
In view of the above discussion, it was claimed that women have been given a lower seat and continue to breathe in the same suppressed situation if not slightly elevated in case of urban areas, where women are overdoing their abilities and competing with the mainstream society.
Going according to the recent statistics, there is a dramatic hike in the cases of gender discrimination in workplaces. Gender discrimination can take place in various forms – the spectrum varies from a hegemonic discourse to unusual or harsh treatment.Certain instances of this social poison at professional front are:
A number of cases have been reported where there is an exponential gap between the pay of workers crucially dependent on their gender. Such forms of discrimination are not only observed in labour class workers, but also in upscale IT departments and white collar jobs in some cases. It has been claimed that despite of the efforts to promote equality among the working masses, discrimination still persists, widening the gaps on the front of economic equity, income, unemployment and occupational distribution. Evidence states that women’s salaries average only 72%-88% of men’s salaries.
These evil practices are not only restricted till the binary genders but have also advanced towards the uproar of queer individuals as well. Researchers conducted a study on the LGBTQ community on a professional front and it was observed that 16% to 68% LGBT people reported employment discrimination. Further studies claimed that 8-17% were fired or denied employment, 10%-28% were denied a promotion or given negative employment remarks, 7%-41% were verbally and physically abused and 10%-19% received unequal pay or employment perks.
The Idea of Feminism
Feminism is an amalgamation of a set of ideologies and theories, that at its core, seeks to achieve an equal political, social and economic rights for women and men and make women as equal part of society as men. It is a highly subjective field and supports a variety of beliefs, ideas, movements, manifestos and agendas. It seeks to elevate the status of women and bring them to the pedestal as men in a social setup.
The ideals and principles of feminism continue to inspire women across the globe and in the same spirit, an influential writer and a prominent feminist known as Jo Freeman unleashed a radical manifesto called “The Bitch Manifesto”. In the subsequent sections, The Bitch Manifesto has been elaborated and elucidated in view of Iris Marion Young’s views on the condition of women in the society. The arguments of both the writers have been put forward and distinguished.
The Bitch Manifesto
“Men know that women are an overmatch for them, and therefore they choose the weakest or the most ignorant. If they did not think so, they never could be afraid of women knowing as much as themselves.”
Oppression can be defined as unfair use of power, authority or law to prevent a marginalised section from being treated as equally as the majority in a social setup.It is a structural concept, promoting a social stratification which need not be intentional. It systematically reproduces inequality and defines a relation between two social groups. In this discussion, the authors have dealt with the undue and unjust suppression of women in the society and also elaborated on a manifesto which raises a voice against such infliction.
Since times immemorial, women have faced unjust barriers in achieving full equality as men in any social setup. Feminist theorists dating back to 1960s and 1970s analysed this oppression and drew onto the work of earlier authors which dealt with similar issues including “Simone de Beauvoir in the Second Sex and Mary Wollstonecraft in a Vindication of the Rights of Woman”. Women throughout the world had to suffer the tyrannical power of male dominance which coerced them to occupy an inferior position in the society and go through every day practices such as not having the same legal and political rights as men, follow the ritual of widow suicide and not have rights to own property.
In the quest of battling the undue and unjust diversion of women from the mainstream society and their unjustified oppression, a prominent feminist Jo Freeman unleashed a phenomenal manifesto called “The Bitch Manifesto”.
In her manifesto, Freeman argues that bitch is a strong woman who is not held back by the stereotypes and misconceptions of the society and pursues her ambitions, achieves her goals and maintains her versatile character, regardless of what the society throws at her. Freeman urges women to take pride in their identity and motivates them to break away from the shackles of the society, spread their wings and soar as high as possible and achieve the unachievable.
Key characteristics of bitches include:
- Bitches are aggressive, strong-minded, competitive, achieving, turbulent beings, who never go unnoticed and take strong stands for whatever they do or speak. They do not entertain unjustified behaviour and get stubborn wherever required. 
- Bitches can be tall, harsh, awkward, clumsy and strident. They do not let their gender overpower their dynamic personalities and hence do not remain confined till beauty and external beauty. She may be dazzling, in which case she is called the Bitch Goddess.
- Bitches attain their positions in a society firmly through their conspicuous personalities. They are always on the move, they never settle; whether it be for a man, mansion or movement. They are independent beings who strongly believe in self sustainability and do not like to depend on others. If professionally inclined, they can go through any situation to achieve their goals and are highly competitive.
Personalities like Kiran Bedi, Tessy Thomas, Elisa Steele, Ida and Barkha Dutt can be considered as epitome of Bitches and continue to inspire and build a future generations of bitches.
Bitch Manifesto from Young’s Perspective
Looking at this issue from the perspective of Iris Marion Young, this form of maltreatment can be considered under the ambit of three forms of oppression
Oppression of Women under Exploitation
Oppression of women can be aligned with the idea of exploitation. As argued by Iris Marion Young, it was a challenge faced by the feminists to prove that oppression of women is partly due to the age old norms and ideologies passed on through generations of unreciprocated powers from women to men. It subsequently resulted into an unequal distribution of power, authority, freedom and status between both the genders and hence, immobilized the women in the social setup. 
The Bitch Manifesto creates a stronghold against this ideology and argues that a “Bitch” never lets the society to exploit her in any sense and bluntly opposes such practices whenever she comes across one. 
Oppression of Women under Marginalization
“Marginalization can be defined as the process of making a group or a class of people less important or relegated to a secondary position” In view of Young’s essay on the same, it can be argued that women have been confined to the four walls of nurturing, caring and supporting the male individuals, and catering to everyone’s emotional needs. Feminists have uncovered this misconception and have claimed it to be “inappropriately individualistic and derived from a specifically male experience of social relations”. Female experience of social relations claims to be mostly associated with domestic care and responsibility and in some cases, is linked to paid chores and occupations. This evidence supports the claim that a bird’s eye view of this situation boils down to the conclusion that the position of women persists to be marginalized in the social setup.
Jo Freeman, in her manifesto, argues that a bitch never settles for less and always stays in competition. If professionally inclined, a bitch seeks success and doesn’t fear in competing with anyone, no matter which society or class does that individual belong to.
Oppression of Women under Powerlessness
Power, in context of gender discrimination, refers to possessing a higher pedestal when it comes to authority, respectability, status and sense of self that professionals tend to have.There is a stark sexism followed when it comes to professionalism. As stated above, women have acquired a lower pedestal when it comes to employment and earning a livelihood for themselves. This phenomena is reflected in the practices of gender based wages and salaries in various professions. It has been claimed that “By the time a college – educated woman turns 59, she will have lost $800,000 throughout her life.” These entire facts boil down to the fact that women face yet another strong face of oppression – the state of being powerless. They are in a continuous state of lack of autonomy, status, prestige and are deprived from avenues of opportunities when compared to men. 
The Bitch Manifesto strongly refutes the idea of women being suppressive and devoid of any opportunities. A Bitch is blunt, arrogant, aggressive, an amalgamation of stereotypical “masculine” as well as “feminine” traits and strives for power. 
Patriarchy and the Gender System
Despite the objections the term patriarchy continues to be used in the feminist discourse. It has to be understood that we avoid using the term to mean the power of men and remember other distinctions between men as well as tensions between fathers and sons and brothers the problems for women are different. They are replaced as in societies that are neither capitalist nor patriarchal. And even in clearly patriarchal society and families women are not equally oppressed. Within some family the wife or mother of the patriarch may wield enormous power. In others patriarchs take multiple wives who compete with their children for family resources. While son's wife of our daughters may be cherished on neglected there is no one set pattern but they are always less valued than sons and their status is usually temporary as they are married into other families.
Importance of Women in the Nation Building
Feminist studies in both the Humanities and Social Sciences has suggested that analytical and critical work as well as the policies are impoverished if adequate attention is not paid to women. Feminist scholarship in the USA along with analysis of Gender and sexuality has started to grapple with the implications of the widely accepted argument that women are not a unitary category. However such an engagement is still implicitly foregrounds us and European feminist studies has a modernizing impulse and that bypasses the diverse writings cultural products and other regional and global actions of women in the third world. Cultural studies have directed attention to the importance of analysing cultures within the context both locally and globally.
It argues that cultures maybe conceptualized as more than habits customs and particular societies. However the approaches found in cultural studies although drawn up on feminist colours in the USA, but they are really utilised to provide insights into specific aspects of society in the third world. Then the approach of the third world cultural studies encompassing as it does a broad range of perspectives including postcolonial studies subaltern studies and the third world postmodernism begins to move in the direction we have in mind. But it still needs to take on insights that integrate gender sexuality and ethnicity in an inclusive context into analysis of culture economy and the politics as a whole.
Lack of Effective Realization of Women Empowerment in the Professional Role
The Constitution of India has not only granted equality to women but also the power to the state to adopt measures to positive discrimination in favour of women to undo the cumulative disadvantages suffered by them over the years. Fundamental rights ensure equality before law prohibits discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth and guarantee equality of opportunity to all citizens in matters relating to employment. In fact there is no shortage of laws favouring women development.
Article 14 ensures equality before law, Article 15 prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, Article 16 guarantees equality of opportunity in employment, Article 39 guarantees equal pay for equal work. Because of certain positive steps taken in order to achieve these plans, there has been an increase in the literacy level among women increasing employment opportunities entry of women into executive positions in multinational companies and recently even into the political arena which have created an impression that women development in this country and for that matter throughout the world is really fast.
It creates an impression that women have attained equality and they are on par with men. They are liberated, authoritative and assertive when compared to women of previous generation. It is even said that the basic institution of family is witnessing a devastating change because women have not been put in their place. It is said that women have abandoned their traditional role and that is the root cause for all the problems in the household and the society. Even in the professional sphere men are increasingly haunted by the fear that women make overpower them with their entry into this field.
This erroneous interpretation is due to superficial observation of women's development and history judgement based on a handful of positive cases. If we go deeper into the analysis it will become crystal clear that women are not even in the first step of their empowerment ladder.
Now, after doing an in depth research about the role of the women in the professional framework, right from the ancient ages, the study of Bitch manifesto and the social fabric, the question which naturally comes to one’s mind is that what is the reason behind the non realisation of equality in the professional workplaces. Many reasons would come to the mind of a layman and a researcher, like the geographical limitations, the family atmosphere, the culture, patriarchal system, etc. However, one rarely would give poor sanitation facilities as a reason for the same. But, as a matter of fact, lack of proper sanitation facilities at workplaces play a major role in gender stereotyping of workplaces as well as non participation of women in certain nature of works.
Legal Implications and Analysis
As it is clear from the previous deliberations there was a minimum respect of women in various civilizations of the world pertaining to different professions and occupations. However this is a very broad statement and cannot be generalized for all the situations and circumstances at various points of time in different civilizations. One may also find instances of grave injustice done to women in various spheres of life particularly pertaining to various professions where the gender stereotyping was at its peak. When we connect this situation to the legal scenario one may find that certain concrete steps started to be taken after the Civil law practice of codification started getting implemented in various legal systems across the world. The common law practice of following the judgements of the courts as laws has also resulted in considerable improvements in this situation.
One of the latest judgements in the Indian scenario is the one related to the decriminalization of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. Though as such this judgement does not directly relate to the women but it actually lays down a foundation in order to empower the vulnerable genders at large.
When we take a look at the legislative point of view, there are a plethora of statutes which have been framed by the Parliament as well as the state legislatures in order to safeguard the interests of the working women. The statutes range from The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2013, The Factories Act, 1948, The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976, Shops and Establishments Acts of various states, The Employee’s Provident Fund & Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952; The Employee’s State Insurance Act, 1948; Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972; Payment of Bonus Act, 1965, etc.
However, the above mentioned legislations do not specifically cater to the sanitation facilities at workplaces. Even if one may find certain elements of sanitation in legislations here and there, but most of the times, the same is not implemented by the employer. Moreover, most of the times, the women employees are not in a position to complain about the same to the employer and raise their voice.
One does not find an explicit mention of the right to sanitation in the fundamental rights mentioned in the constitution. However, the same is a part and parcel of the right to life and personal liberty, which has been dealt by the Supreme Court in several cases. The origin can also be traced in the Directive Principles of State Policy, which mentions that the state shall endeavour to raise the standard of living of the people. The Supreme Court went on to the extent of stating that without sanitation, the life cannot be enjoyed. The Rajasthan High Court also held that Maintenance of health, preservation of sanitation and the environment falls within the purview of Article 21 of the Constitution as it adversely affects the life of the citizen and amounts to slow poisoning and reducing the life of the citizen because of the hazards created, if not checked. Thus, the constitutional and legal positions do broadly lay down that sanitation is a very important aspect of life.
Talking from the Indian societal point of view in general there has always been a rich history of women in various spheres of life who have contributed to the process of nation building. We have also been ahead of various other nations when it comes to certain professions in terms of women’s participation. However the social security of women cannot be truly realized till the workplaces don’t give them equal opportunities, including proper sanitation and health facilities. This loophole needs to be amended and put straight by the proper implementation of various women related legislations as well as legislating new statutes which would eventually empower the women to achieve their true potential in a democracy like India, in consonance with the right to health.
 Asst, Prof. Parul Institute of Law, Faculty of Law, Parul University.
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