This is a question that has plagued even feminists and it is still an ongoing debate as to whether women should be treated differently, as a separate category or whether should be treated as equals. This question is reflective of a double-edged sword, which has its share of perks and downfalls. In public transports there are seats reserved for women. In local trains in India, there are compartments with a phrase ‘Men not Allowed’ painted on them. This can have several ramifications. One of them is that a view is taken that women need security and protection from certain lumpen elements in a crowd and hence, in order to save her from the unrequited glances and indecent gestures or actions, she must be put in a separate compartment. The flip side of the coin is shrouded by graver questions. By putting her in a different and even confined physical space is it an effort to segregate her from the domain of the man and in a way make her the other. If at every step she is kept at a distance and is not allowed to mingle with her opposite sex, then the demand for an equal footing in society suffers a huge blow. She is typecast as the exotic and the unknown other who is only meant to be treated with a difference.
In newspapers and visual media we often hear about incidents where men are thrown out of ladies compartments in trains but how far is that justified? Sometimes under varied circumstances if a man ventures into a ladies compartment, is he supposed to be dealt in such brutal ways? Taking law into their own hands and displaying dangerous levels of intolerance, these facilities and reservations are often unjustly used by a lot of people. Hence, it goes on to prove that such reservations and categorizations are often marked by a grey zone, between dark and white, between right and wrong as every right seems to be wrong and vice versa. Next in line is the question of women’s reservation in sectors like government and private jobs, higher education and in the parliament itself. In order to promote education of the girl child, measures should have been adopted to secure and reserve a number of seats in educational and job sectors but does this really help the purpose?
Few years back there was talk of the reputed management institution, Indian Institute of Management offering to reserve a part of their seats for women. While one section of the stakeholders celebrated such a thought and the move was taken in a positive light while many others or perhaps more than those who praised the move felt that such a thing would lead to more discrimination. Such a step might actually give an opportunity to many to say that girls could not make into such a prestigious institution on merit but required a further inducement or help. According to The Times of India report of May 13, 2010, IIM Kozhikode recorded a 33% intake of women in their academic year 2013-14 without a quota in place. This can be seen as a great achievement and hence, it shows that categorizing women and showering them with privileges may actually lead to her further marginalization. In stead the call of the day is to encourage women education from its preliminary stages, by making her a part of the growth endeavour and endowing her with all the opportunities that her male counterpart would be blessed with. Efforts should be made to curb any action that may lead to showing the woman as an inferior, in need of help in the quintessential image of the damsel in distress, with many knights in shining armours waiting in the wing to come to her rescue.
Another important thing that is connected to the idea of reservation and categorization of women although indirectly is the question of chivalry. Is the chivalrous man a good Samaritan or whether he is simply patronizing? The answer again is quite a dicey one. The man is expected to pull out a chair for the woman at the dinner table and offer his seat to her in case she is standing besides many other such chivalrous gestures. Does such an attitude really amount to perceiving the woman with respect and reverence or does it actually highlight conventions that she is not able enough to deal with herself. Again a definite answer is hard to obtain in this scenario. The question becomes even more pertinent because women cannot be treated as a homogenous entity. Just like every human being is different from the other in their varied approaches, in the same way every woman has a mind of her own, which makes her competent enough to think independently and without interference. Maybe my best friend may not advocate the need for reservations for women while I may believe in the idea or the other way round. Consensus is hard to be attained and thus decisions cannot be taken with the opinions of a handful of women and such decisions cannot be bulldozed on those who dissent to such an idea. In my opinion, measures have to be taken to eradicate the disparity rather than creating humongous gulfs that can hardly be abridged.