TOPICS: Gender and politics

Hierarchical social division is seen everywhere, but is rarely recognized in the study of politics. The gender division tends to be understood as natural and unchangeable.

However, it is not based on biology but on social expectations and stereotypes.

Boys and girls are brought up to believe that the main responsibility of women is housework and bringing up children. This is reflected in a system in which all work inside the home is either done by the women of the family, or organized by them through the domestic helpers.

In most families: women do all the work inside the home such as cooking, cleaning, washing clothes, tailoring looking after children etc., and men do all the work outside the home.

It is not that men cannot do housework; they simply think that it is for women to attend to these things.

When these jobs are paid for, men are ready to take up these works. Most tailors or cooks in hotels are men. Similarly, it is not that women do not work outside their home. In villages, women fetch water, collect fuel and work in the fields.

In urban areas, poor women work as domestic helpers in middle class homes, while the middle class women work in offices. In fact the majority of women do some sort of paid work in addition to domestic labour. But their work is not valued and does not get recognition.

The result of this division of labour is that although women constitute half of humanity, their role in public life, especially politics, is minimal in most societies. Earlier, only men were allowed to participate in public affairs, vote and contest for public offices. Gradually the gender issue was raised in politics.

Women in different parts of the world organized and agitated for equal rights. These were agitations in different countries for the extension of voting rights to women.

These agitations demanded enhancing the political and legal status of women improving their educational and career opportunities. More radical women’s movements aimed at equality in personal and family life as well.

In Nepal women still lag much behind men despite some improvement since after the public movement of 2062/63. Ours is still a male-dominated society. A smaller proportion of girl students go for higher studies.

When we look at school results, girls perform as well as boys, if not better in some places.