Gender Neutrality: For Sustainability in Power Relations

Gender Neutrality: For Sustainability in Power Relations

Anandajit Goswami (TERI School of Advanced Studies, New Delhi, India), Sampurna Goswami (School of Human Studies, Ambedkar University Delhi, New Delhi, India) and Ashutosh Senger (Advocate, Supreme Court of India, New Delhi, India)
DOI: 10.4018/IJSECSR.2019070103

Abstract

The main focus of this article is to critically analyse the associations between crime against women, gender neutrality and attainment of SDG 5 within the multicultural complex context of India. The article argues that to achieve gender equality and neutrality, changes must be made at the level of policy that empowers not only women but also the other genders. This has to be mainstreamed within policy making, by institutions and someday as a part of CSR through the creation of a shared value approach. The article argues that gender equality is not just about women's empowerment but also about empowering all other genders. For making its case, this article gives a detailed analysis of women's empowerment laws and goes on to make a case for the gender equality and neutrality by challenging the binary of man versus woman. The article makes a narrative about the imperative need of pushing gender neutrality in order to attain SDG-5 and sustainability in the middle of the unequal power relationship within every segment and sector of societies with complex cultural, class, caste divide and other inequities.
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Introduction

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were decided by the UN in September 2015 for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. India is working towards achieving them by 2030. In the past few years, there have been an increase in reports of falsely implicating men on rape cases. According to the Delhi Commission of Women (DCW), 53.2% of the rape cases registered in the year 2013-14 were false. However, just like a montage, deja vu and a repeated memory call it feels like only yesterday when certain lines echoed in every corner of Delhi, the capital city of India when the public were demanding capital punishment for rapists. This demand inadvertently created a binary narrative of men versus women in a society of unequal power exchanges within the background context of non-neutral gender laws. It created a binary of every man being an oppressor and every woman being a victim within a society of unequal power exchanges. However, no civil society can be seen as binary post the infamous Nirbhaya tragedy in New Delhi, where people gathered from every corner of India to support a movement towards a gender-equal and gender-neutral society. The impatience within the citizens was quite rightly evident to end the power-gap among genders in every relationship in the largest democracy of the world.

Three years after this incident in India, the year 2015, saw the adoption of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by United Nations to make this world a better place for humanity by tackling some of the more pressing challenges facing the world today. The SDGs were developed due to the success of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The SDGs are part of Resolution 70/1 of the United Nations General Assembly: ‘Transforming our world: 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’. Amongst the SDGs, goal 5 explicitly mentions about gender equality while goal 16 deals with peace and justice.

Two years later, in 2017, the world saw another movement, the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and sexual assault. Shortly after that came the Time’s Up movement that aimed at tackling the issue of sexual assault, harassment and inequality in the workplace and within different power relations across different sectors of the world.

It is interesting to note how these events have occurred one-after the other. All these events, with all their limitations, are small, timely steps to a more gender sensitive and neutral society through something called social nudges. Last year, Richard Thaler won Nobel Prize for his theory on social nudges which is in the domain of Economics and Psychology (Earl, 2018). Through his work on social nudges, Thaler highlights the why, how and the condition in which people make choices and by which changes do happen in society (Sugden, 2009). Thaler shows through his work that people are not always rational decision makers when they make choices and decisions. Hence, he proves that to bring a change in society and make human society more sustainable, nudging must work. Nudging is important in a society to create a happy and good quality of life for future because according to Thaler, human beings do not always have enough mental capacity, attention or willpower to implement the best decisions under different social conditions and contexts. It is also shaped by the nature and degree of power relations which are existing in those contexts. Nudging through long term policy planning can create a will power within the society and can bring a change within the society. This is because people act in a short-term myopic way and often behave and act in the way with a short-term perspective and by not following something that can be beneficial in the long term even though it has short term pain and losses. It is the role of a policy maker and planner here to introduce nudges through incentives, movement, policy and planning implementation through effective institutions which comes in. . An issue like Gender neutrality is largely a long-term concept within the unequal power relations of a society like India. It can only come when these nudges will be introduced through movements as well as through systematic policy making and its effective implementation by means of law and institutions.

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