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The Prevalence of Gender Inequality in India by Jasmin Singh

Imagine being treated differently because of your gender. The war against gender inequality is one that women have been fighting for centuries. Many have had enough and with the imbalance of being born with an automatic disadvantage.

India has the second-largest population in the world which means that millions of girls are born every year, many of which are ‘unwanted.’ Parents’ preference for a son has been going on throughout India’s vast history.

There are many historical reasons couples in India prefer having sons over daughters. First, the security of passing down an inheritance. Traditionally, any inheritance from the parents goes to the sons which results in a cycle of later generations wishing for sons with the hope to keep any land or other familial possessions within the family.

Second, the dowry has been a tradition in India for a very long time where the bride must pay (whether that be land, gifts, gold, or money) the groom and his family in order to get married. Now, you can probably already see the various problems with this practice. For starters, what if the bride is not economically able to pay such a price? Well, she can not get married as she intended. She might still get married, at the groom’s discretion of course, however, she might not have security in the marriage. The ‘purpose’ of a dowry is to provide economic security for the bride in the marriage. The groom does not always follow through on this so-called ‘guaranteed security,’ because it is by no means an actual guarantee. If a man chooses to walk out on his family, he can do so with little to no consequences.

Dowries have been illegal in India since the 1960s, yet brides continue to feel pressured by societal standards to pay it. The dowry tradition is another practice in India that likely contributes to families in India looking down on girls versus boys. Why would a family want to be forced to pay another family just to marry off their daughter?

For these reasons (and many others), many couples anticipate the effects of having a daughter which makes them prefer a son either consciously or subconsciously. Overall, in India, girls are still tied down to traditional domestic roles while trying to escape old thinking with new economic opportunities. Society tells them to act one way while they aspire to act another. To which is the right way? Ruin one’s image for the sake of personal happiness or conform to societal standards to keep one’s friends and families happy? Which brings us to the question which is more important - becoming a modern woman or staying a traditional one? When looking at the subject broadly it is easy to say what others should be doing, however, when one looks at such problems on an individual level, it is clear to see the complications that may lead one to make the latter choice. As Frieda Pinto once said, “gender equality is a human fight, not a female fight.”

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