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This article is written by Somya Janki from the Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology. This is an exhaustive article that discusses sexism and online politics with a special emphasis on the present-day world. 

Introduction

Pink or other hues of pastel shades are meant for women or girls, while blue or certain dark shades are meant for men. Ever wondered why this stereotype exists. Ever pondered on why the male members are considered to be the bread earners and further why the bread makers are always assumed to be inferior to the men? Well, it all starts with discrimination in genders. This sort of sexism is very much persistent in the present society and can be found in every nook and corner in today’s world whether in the form of income variation and norms to facilitate gender-defined roles.

What is sexism

But coming forth to it, what do we mean by sexism. So, sexism is any kind of prejudice or any kind of discrimination based on sex or gender, specifically against women and girls. The concept of sexism is not very much conspicuous yet it is said to have emerged from the second wave of feminism which has its origin dating from the 1960s to the 1980s. It was most likely modelled on the Civil Rights Movement’s term racism or prejudice or discrimination based on race. So, sexism in simpler terms is a kind of belief one certain gender or sex is superior to the other. This ideology was formulated to impose certain limits and to raise consciousness on the oppression of females but with the advent of the 21st century, its purview did expand further thereby drawing issues concerning transgender and LGBTQ+.

Sexism is usually applied to male domination or patriarchy and the ideological hegemony of male hierarchy. It results in economic exploitations and social domination and the creation of various stereotyped roles and perpetuates sexist attitudes and narratives pertinent to traditional gender roles. It also views females as secondary sex and considers them to be inferior to men especially in terms of logical and rational reasoning and draws out inferences that therefore cannot be god leaders in business, politics, academic, or any other fields and their tasks are confined within the four walls. Extreme forms of sexism are seen in the forms of misogyny or apathy or aversion against women.

Political violence against women

The roles being ascribed for the genders by society have played a major role in politics. During the second wave of feminism, this sexist view had very prevalent that it ought to be a public man and they have roles to play outside the household like to carry out administrative and political works, focusing on their career, having interests in literature, arts while for the other side the private women were quintessential who would confine herself to take care of her family, nurture child/ children or carry out the household or domestic chores.

These gender-defined roles, beliefs, and attitudes have shaped politics into what it is and has led to the germination of political violence in various forms. But it has to be taken into account that political violence is not the mere outcome of the motive of male hegemony while it has certain other factors motivating it but the thing to be unveiled is that although men also suffer from political violence usually it’s much more of physical rather the case of women who are attacked sexually. In the words of Krook and Restrepo Sanín “gendered scripts—shape the form of the attack, even if the motives are something else, such as suppressing dissent or intimidating the opposition.”

But despite these odds, there has been quite a great expansion in the participation of women in politics thereby breaking these stereotypes and in many aspects, it has to be taken into notice that how the participation of women or their presence has brought alteration in the form and nature of politics and even the ideology itself. Yet despite all these, there are a plethora of issues and conflicts relating to women’s participation in politics whether to represent or to choose. From the instances of petty skirmishes to rioting, violence has been perpetuated which further violates human rights itself. In the past, there was this issue of stereotype and at present, there are changes that are not acceptable to the society and especially to the males and to counter it or thwart upon deviant methods like political violence are taken as a tool.

The situation on the ground – statistical data

Violence against women in politics is rampant in many parts of the world. According to a report from the Centre for Social Research and UN Women conducted particularly for South Asia, it had revealed and came to the conclusion that there is a paucity in implementation of legislation and lack of support from both police and the judiciary, and the socio-economic gap and current power structure facilitates these acts of violence specifically in the field of politics. There was this study conducted in India, Nepal, and Pakistan which examined the data of violent acts pertinent from the year 2003 to 2013 to address the nature, cause, and deep analyses of the incident to figure out the reason underlying political violence against women. It interviewed about 800 respondents including the families of election commission official/s, police, and the candidates residing in both rural and urban areas.

It was found that there was a certain increment in the number of women electing but it was also revealed that about 60% of women do not participate in politics due to apprehension of political violence. 90% shared that this was this fear which would make them back away before any participation. And another thing is that in these nations the legislations are too not that effective as such to prevent these offenders from doing such deviant acts. There are very few eminent female leaders and apart very less on par with men participating in politics. So, these acts of violence lead to the deterrence of participation of women in politics.

The study, ‘Violence against Women in Politics’ revealed that the insufficient implementation of laws, lack of support from police and judiciary, the socio-economic divide, and current power structures are the major reasons for violence which is very much evident from the fact that the United States of America is attributed to the trend among the modern and developed nation-states had its first female vice-president as Kamala Harris owing to its history dating far back to more than centuries ago.

Escalated risk during elections

Furthermore, data and reports collected like by ACLED based on political violence targeting women, mainly focusing on public and physical violence have found that the attacks are largely aimed at women like in the case of an Uzbek suicide bomber who killed military officials but largely schoolgirls and also in the Philippines where a politician’s daughter and the ex-wife was kidnapped. And the very well-known is one of the cases in India is that of the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

And further, the motive which rendered them to do such an act was not women but their participative and active role in politics. They were targeted simply because according to the standards of perpetrators women’s participation was outrageous.

Women empowerment and sexism in India

When it comes to India, it is itself personified as Mother India but despite it, there exists a patriarchal form of society where women are bound by the responsibilities of their families, and participation in politics is farfetched, even till now there are certain norms that are responsible for less literacy rate. It has been found that the overall literacy rate is about 64.8 %, the male literacy rate constitutes about 75.3%, and that for females is 53.7%, showing a gap of 21.6 percentage points between both sexes at the national level. And above all about 74% of the labour population consists of women yet they face prejudices. They are provided lesser salaries and wages compared to the male employees or workers who are paid through rose. But there are certain incentives taken by the government to uplift women. Just like women reservation is used as a means of women empowerment to bring equity and certain measures for their protection too have been taken. Despite all these women are not free from sexist views in the patriarchal society.

But that certainly does not limit the sexist views, it has also taken a toll on men with the concept of toxic masculinity. The harmful concept of masculinity focuses on “manliness” revolves around – strength, lack of too many emotions, self-sufficiency, dominance, and sexual virility. Men are considered to be self-sufficient and egoistic to become leaders which even at times strangles an individual’s freedom while considering these views of patriarchal society.

Social media is becoming an arena for harassment and abuse

To date, there exist sexist views in every nook and corner of the world and it has not even left social media. Social media platforms that were meant to ease the communication barrier are now a platform to harass young females. A report from New Delhi, suggests that more than half of the population of young females have met online harassment through these platforms, and in figures represented by Plan International (NGO) it constitutes more than 58%. And a further one in five has either stopped using or significantly reduced the use of these platforms and another one in ten has changed their way to express themselves. These attacks were commonly on Facebook, where 39 per cent of girls polled said they had been harassed, followed by Instagram with a percentage poll of 23, WhatsApp constituting 14 per cent, Snapchat about 10 per cent, while Twitter having over 9 per cent, and TikTok with 6 per cent. Nearly half of girls targeted had been threatened with physical or sexual violence, according to the poll. Many said the abuse took a mental toll, and a quarter felt physically unsafe.

Rights of women 

We live in a society where goddesses are worshipped and even the earth itself is held with the reverence of Mother Earth but we also live in a world where women are brutally raped, harassed, abused, and petted in a way to live by the norms of society. We live in a world where even though society claims how modern it is women are expected to be both a homemaker and a working woman but if men sit back at houses handling the chores it is considered an act of deviance and looked down upon by our society. So to keep it in check there are various rights of women such as:

  1. Right to equal pay or remuneration – According to the Equal Remuneration Act no person can be discriminated against based on their gender or sex when it comes to receiving their paychecks and salary or wages. Working women should receive equal wages as their male employees or colleagues.
  2. Right to dignity and decency – If a woman is held accused then it has to be ensured that examination or anything as such for that matter should be carried out either by a female or in her presence.
  3. Right against workplace harassment – Under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act a woman has every right to file a complaint against any kind of sexual harassment at her workplace.
  4. Right against domestic violence – Section 498 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (hereafter IPC) protects wife, female live-in partner, or any other woman in a household for that matter from any kind of abuse in the hands of male members. The accused shall be punished with non-bailable imprisonment for a term that may extend to three years and shall also be liable to a fine.
  5. Protection from sexual offences – Various sections under the Indian Penal Code prescribes punishment based on crime to protect the interests of a woman such as Section 326A of the IPC relating to the Acid attack, Section 326B the Indian Penal Code on an attempt to Acid attack, Section 354A the IPC on Sexual harassment, Section 354B on any act with intent to disrobe a woman, Section 354C of the IPC on Voyeurism and further Section 354D of the IPC on Stalking.
  6. Right to get free legal aid – A female victim has the right to get free legal aid or can get help from the Legal Services Authority which would arrange a lawyer for her.
  7. Right not to be arrested at night unless a contrary situation appears and orders from a first-class magistrate are there and also her family could only be interrogated in the presence of a female constable.
  8. Constitutional rights – Other than the above-mentioned rights she has certain fundamental rights as listed:
  1. Article 14 – Equality before the law
  2. Article 15 – Prohibition of discrimination
  3. Article 16 – Equal opportunity in the matters of employment
  4. Article 19 – Freedom of speech and movement and freedom to carry out any profession
  5. Article 21 – Protection of life and liberty, right to privacy
  6. Article 300A – Right to hold property
  7. Article 15 – Reservation rights
  8. Article 51A – Duty of every citizen of India to promote harmony and to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women

9. Hindu Succession Act of 1956– It gives women full ownership of the property before or after the signing of the Act, therefore abolishing their “limited owner” status.

Conclusion

When we talk about gender or sex, we refer to every gender, beyond male and female, irrespective of the Orthodox social norms that might call some unnatural and are often neglected in the talks of gender-related issues – like transgender, non-binary, intersex. Therefore sexism could be described as a social construct that creates a compartment solely based on gender or an individual. As reported by the World Economic Forum on the performance of various nations on gender equality, our nation ranked 108th position among 153 countries or nation-states. So, it is no doubt that we have still had a long way to go reach the destination towards the end of gender discrimination and indeed the invar of this journey is filled with a plethora of obstacles and is a long one too.

References

  • Beardall, G., 2011, Breaking the Mold: Understanding Gender and Electoral Violence, Washington, DC: International Foundation of Electoral System
  • Beardall, G., 2013, Gender-Specific Election Violence: the Role of Information and Communication Technologies. Stability: International Journal of Security and Development 2 (3): 60–71
  • Krook, ML., Restrepo Sanín, J., 2016, Gender and Political Violence in Latin America. Política y Gobierno 23: 125–157.)
  • Piscopo, JM., Beardall, G., Bjarnegard, E., 2019, December 3, How is Political Violence Gendered? Disentangling Motives, Forms, and Impacts, Volume: 68 issue: 4, page(s): 916-935, https://doi.org/10.1177/0032321719881812
  • Kishi, R, Pavlik, M, Matfess, H, 2019 Terribly and Terrifyingly Normal: Political Violence Targeting Women. Report for the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, University of Texas, Austin, TX, May
  • IANS, 2020, October 6, 58% of young females on social media have faced harassment, abuse: Survey

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