Gender war, yet to be won

V.R. Krishna Iyer

The move to create a U.N. Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, named U.N. Women, is a major stride for humankind.


Whether you believe in god or not, every effect must have a cause. Out of nothing, nothing comes: ex nihilo nihil fit. Any creation must have a creator: call him Brahman, God, Allah the Merciful… God is everywhere and in everything. As the philosopher Arthur Young said, god sleeps in the mineral, wakes in the vegetable, walks in the animal, flies in the bird and thinks in man. This critical awareness is unique to human beings, gives them the power to identify themselves with creativity and universal consciousness. Call it omnipresent infinity through absolute power present universally and ubiquitously. The vedic seer’s universal vision of existence does not discriminate.

Walt Whitman wrote: “… [A] leaf of grass is no less than the journey work of the stars. And the pismire is equally perfect, and a grain of sand, and the egg of the wren, and the tree toad is a chef-d’oeuvre for the highest, And the running blackberry would adorn the parlors of heaven.” Indeed, the deepest waters and the summit skies are made sublime by the same divine wonder.

Jesus described this infinite wonder the kingdom of god and made it the universal truth: “The Kingdom of God is within you,” he told humanity. The upanishads called it Advaita Brahman. Islam stands for peace, purity, submission. Every human being finds a celestial essence in cosmic brotherhood, whatever his or her religion. So he is all-merciful. The vedic vision is absolute unity in creation. Brahman is not plurality of gods but one god — Advaita.

So, whatever be your religion we have but one god, the awakened over the supreme wonder as the Buddha. The Buddha did not preach. God believed in truth and non-violence — the Enlightened One, a Hindu avatar. So I am a Brahmin, a spark of Brahman. Thus I am a Christian with Jesus’ vision, and also Islam’s single brotherhood credo. This profound unitary global glory is the foundation of Indian constitutional-cultural-theological secularism. Ignorant of this deeper spiritual core, those who set off religious acrimony and communalism forget the quintessence of secularism. Vulgar religious rivalry violates sublime secularism.

We discriminate between man and woman and consider the latter to be inferior. No man is born without a woman. There are some biological differences but they do not warrant basic discrimination. Man, woman and child are humanity in unity.

This sublime, supreme truth of divinity has led the United Nations to found a gender wonder. It seeks to give a stronger voice to the notionally illusory weaker sex. They are equal in terms of their potency. The queen on the throne is no less than the king can be. Indira Gandhi was as powerful as her father was before her. So too the spiritual-temporal jurisprudence of peer sex power.

The U.N General Assembly on July 2, 2010 voted unanimously to create a U.N. Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, named U.N. Women (UNW). The new entity is meant to accelerate progress in meeting the needs of women and girls worldwide. It aims to create a new vibrant ethos, a valiant instrument to accelerate gender equality and women’s empowerment, bring to a close discriminatory disparity, according to a U.N. statement. UNW brings four U.N bodies dealing with gender issues under one umbrella. It is meant to be an egalitarian organ.

With the creation of UNW, the egalitarian gender jurisprudence is affirmed unanimously. Hopefully, a grand transformation is under way now that it has come into being. A man or a woman can be vibrantly one. But, give woman nuclear weapons, and she will bomb as terribly as a man will.

Every faculty in the cerebral power is equal across genders. But this militant equality has yet to become a social reality. Indian culture accepts the wealthy and the ‘illthy’, the rich and the indigent, equally in its epics. Egalite is writ large in constitutional print. Currently in Indian politics a few women are right at the top, such as Sonia Gandhi and Mayawati. But in Parliament, the judiciary and the executive, or in the professions, have women gained gender equality? It is a war yet to be won.

The U.N. resolution has called for the appointment of an Under-Secretary-General to head the UNW, and the establishment of an executive board to provide intergovernmental support to and supervision of its operation. All public institutions must aid this process.

This move must be radically supported by every country. India should not lag behind. It is a shame that the Indian Parliament does not yet have one-third composition of women members. In the judiciary, too, women are obscure. India should have at least a third of all judges coming from the humblest among women. Then social justice will become gentler, more compassionate and real.

Equal roles

Women are not domestic slaves to be sold for a dowry and beaten up by alcoholic husbands. They are equal and eligible to wield public power. Women can be economically independent and be the guardians of minor children under the law.

More women should come into the police department, for one. They are generally less corrupt and harsh than many of their male counterparts, less violent in handling persons in custody, kinder to women offenders and juveniles. We need more police women in high positions, just as we need successful women District Collectors, Chief Secretaries and Chief Justices.

Women, awake, arise and make every political party include equal gender justice as a policy in their manifesto. In the matter of C.B. Muthamma, who was the first woman to join the Indian Foreign Service, I had condemned statutory gender discrimination resorted to by the Union government.

A women’s code to deal with special requirements for gender development calls for special institutions. The right to be born healthy must be guarded for the girl. In education, sports, conjugal life, maternal facilities, old age maintenance, the law has to show special concern. This writer once presented a fair and comprehensive women’s code, prepared by a committee appointed by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), to Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. But there has been no legislation in this regard yet. Public pressure is needed to make the code a law. India has promises to keep for gender justice. A Ministry for gender justice is essential.

UNICEF made me chairman of a committee to prepare a children’s code since the Government of India had failed to produce a statute under the International Children’s Convention. Margaret Alva, a Minister under Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao, appointed me chairman of a panel to prepare a report on the maladies facing women kept in custody. In both these cases the committees drafted exemplary codes and presented them to the Central government. But the story ended there: the reports were not implemented.

Many gender-oriented reforms in jurisprudence were recommended by the Kerala Law Reforms Commission, of which this writer was the Chairman. The Bills are progressive and will transform society if implemented. But there has not been any movement on this front.

The unanimous U.N resolution for the creation of the UNW was a great day for world womanhood, indeed all of humankind. All thinking persons will greet the decision. Gender power will gain strength as humanity becomes aware that sans mother there is no man. When I advocate the development of womanhood I really argue for the cause of humanity as a whole.


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