Gender

Gender Beat: Sex Ratio Declining in India’s Cities; Rouhani Urged to Appoint Female Ministers

A round-up of what’s happening in the worlds of gender and sexuality.

Iranian president Hassan Rouhani. Credit: Reuters

Iranian president Hassan Rouhani. Credit: Reuters

President Rouhani under pressure to appoint female ministers

Ahead of Hassan Rouhani’s swearing-in ceremony on Sunday, August 6, the Iranian president has come under pressure to appoint female ministers as he is mulling a cabinet reshuffle, The Guardian reported.

Rouhani had in February come under fire for choosing an all-male entourage while hosting a predominantly female delegation that was visiting the country from Sweden.

The Rouhani administration’s spokesman, Mohammad Bagher Nobakht, said on August 1 that “the number of women in the cabinet would not go down.” He, however, remained vague on the subject of ministerial appointments. “If there would be no women ministers in the cabinet, that does not mean we’re not using the potential of women [in the government],” he said. “Women will still play a significant role. It’s an injustice to women to think that they should only be used to fill ministerial roles.”

But according to Fatemeh Sadeghi, a women’s rights campaigner, the token appointment of women to the parliament would not create a dent in the country’s fight towards women’s empowerment. “Until we pursue gender [equality] policies, we won’t see a massive change or transformation for women.”

Another right’s activist, Ghoncheh Ghavami, stated that Iran’s political system was “too male-oriented,” hence there was an urgent need for female representation in parliament, apart from gender-sensitive and feminist policies.

“Appointing female ministers is symbolically important and would send a powerful signal in a country where politics still originates from men.”

Union minister advises transgender people not to wear sarees because “they are not women”

While promising that the Narendra Modi government would make efforts to soon pass the Transgender Bill – which seeks to empower the community by providing them a separate identity – Union minister Ramdas Athawale has landed himself in a controversy by at the same time advising members of the community not to wear sarees – because they are not women. “They are not men, they are not women, but they are human … why should they wear a saree when they are not women?” the Huffington Post quoted the Union minister of state for social justice and empowerment as saying.

When asked what transgender persons should wear, he said: “They can wear pant and shirt. They should be wearing men’s dress.”

Ramdas Athawale was speaking at a workshop for the sensitisation of transgender people and other stakeholders. Credit: Reuters

Ramdas Athawale was speaking at a workshop for the sensitisation of transgender people and other stakeholders. Credit: Reuters

Refuting one of the basic underlying components of empowerment – the right to choose, including how to dress – Athawale was speaking at a workshop for the sensitisation of transgender people and other stakeholders.

Athawale also expressed his regret over the “discrimination and injustice” towards the community, and said men and women have their rights, and thus transgender people should get their rights.

The Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016, was introduced in the Lok Sabha last year, and was referred to the parliamentary standing committee on social justice and empowerment for examination and report.

Top US military officials slam Donald Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in military

Over 50 retired US generals, admirals and other senior officers have voiced their opposition to President Donald Trump’s proposed ban on transgender people serving in the military, saying that doing so would degrade military readiness and harm morale, The Guardian reported.

Last week, the US president had cited “tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail” for his call to disallow “transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the US military,” claiming that the military must instead be focused on “decisive and overwhelming victory.”

Amid mounting pressure against Trump to back away from the discriminatory policy from LGBT rights groups, US defence chiefs and conservative politicians, the top officials in a letter published on August 1 stated that the proposed ban would “compromise the integrity of transgender troops who would be forced to live a lie, as well as non-transgender peers who would be forced to choose between reporting their comrades or disobeying policy.”

President Donald Trump has last week proposed a ban on transgender people serving in the military. Credit: Reuters

President Donald Trump has last week proposed a ban on transgender people serving in the military. Credit: Reuters

The officials also found no merit in the Republican president’s claim that healthcare to transgender service members would add to the financial cost, which they estimated at $8.4 million per year – a fraction of military’s $6 billion annual healthcare budget.

Trump’s ban has reversed former President Barack Obama’s policy last year ending a longstanding ban on transgender people serving openly in the US military.

Sex ratio declining in India’s large cities

An IndiaSpend analysis of government data has revealed a sex ratio imbalance in India’s major cities, hence countering the commonplace perception that social prejudices against girls are confined to rural areas of the country.

According to 2011 data – latest publicly available on sex ratios – for every 1,000 boys aged zero to six years, there were 852 girls in Mumbai, 832 in Delhi and 942 in Hyderabad. Mahesana in Gujarat showed the worst numbers with 762 girls for every 1,000 boys, followed by 772 for Agra in Uttar Pradesh, 778 for Modinagar in UP and 781 for English Bazaar in West Bengal.

India in 2015 was among the five worst countries in the world in terms of sex-ratio at birth. Credit: Reuters/Ahmad Masood/Files

India in 2015 was among the five worst countries in the world in terms of sex-ratio at birth. Credit: Reuters/Ahmad Masood/Files

Ratios in Indian cities were as bad or worse than those found in rural India in 2011, which has an average child sex ratio of about 923.

At 903, India in 2015 was among the five worst countries in the world in terms of sex-ratio at birth, according to the World Bank, falling below Pakistan, South Korea, Nigeria and Nepal.

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If you have any comments or suggestions on what could be carried in this column, write to me at [email protected].