Gender Beat: Indian Women Earn 25% Less Than Men; US Supreme Court Scraps Transgender Bathroom Case

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

Seven year old twins Shahana (R) and Shahala (L) walk to their school in Kodinji village in the southern Indian city of Kerala July 28, 2009. REUTERS/Arko Datta/Files

Two girls walk to their school in Kodinji village in Kerala. Credit: Reuters/Arko Datta/Files

Campaign launched to provide underprivileged girls with reusable, anti-bacterial sanitary protection

While some countries around the world are considering an official ‘period policy’ to allow female employees to avail time off during their period, millions of girls and women across India are being forced to sit out because of it.

What for many is a necessity (access to tampons or sanitary pads during their period), remains a luxury for 88% of girls and women in India due to a lack of affordability, claims a study conducted by AC Nielsen.

In poor households, a mere 5% of the girls use pads. The rest, for about five days every month, resort to unsanitary alternatives like old fabric, rags or even husk sand.

Even if affordability is not the issue, and they manage to gain access to pads, the lack of a functioning toilet in 40% of government schools, where adolescent girls can change their pad, forces them to skip school.

Thus, 40 million girls miss school for five days each month and eventually, one in five girls ends up dropping out. According to a Forbes Marshall survey, which looked at sanitation as a whole, almost 23% of girls in India drop out of school when they start menstruating.

A new campaign by the Ammada Trust – #GiveHer5 – has a straightforward but hard hitting aim – to give millions of girls those five days back. How it plans to do that is by allowing them access to an easier and cheaper alternative to sanitary pads – a 12-hour reusable sanitary protection. Dubbed as Saafkin, these ‘pads’ are bacteria and yeast killing, are washable and, hence, reusable.

The sanitary protection can be used for up to one year and costs Rs 150, which the campaign, which hit the ground on March 6, has called for people to donate in order to “change a life.”

In exchange for that donation, the campaign will ensure two of these reusable Saafkins to a girl through a network of NGOs.

According to their website, nearly 300 people have donated to the campaign till now.

Transgender Pakistani women beaten to death in Saudi Arabia

Two transgender women were reportedly beaten to death by police last week in Saudi Arabia after being arrested along with several other members of the community. According to Farzana Riaz of Trans Action Pakistan, the two women were packed in sacks before being beaten to death with sticks by the police, Reuters reported.

“We are deeply saddened by the deaths of these two innocent trans persons in Saudi Arabia,” Riaz said. “We request the Saudi government to release the information of the 35 transgender persons arrested; we want to know their details, under what charges were they arrested, what is their medical condition?”

According to Independent, a statement from the Saudi interior ministry, however, claimed that reports of the incident were “totally wrong and nobody was tortured”. However, it has been acknowledged that one Pakistani had died in custody following the arrest due to a heart attack.

Saudi Arabia does not have a law against transgender people, but according to Reuters, the Middle Eastern country has arrested people for cross-dressing. According to Human Rights Watch, the country has also ordered the flogging and imprisonment of men accused of behaving like women.

US Supreme Court scraps landmark transgender bathroom case

The Supreme Court on Monday did away with its initial plan to hear a major transgender rights case. It further threw out a lower court’s ruling in favour of a transgender Virginia student after the US president overturned an Obama-era policy protecting transgender youths under federal law.

According to a BBC report, Gavin Grimm, who was born female but now identifies as male, had filed a lawsuit against his school board over its policy preventing him from using the male bathroom.

The Supreme Court had scheduled a hearing for the case for March 28, however, the apex court has now reverted the case back to a lower court after the Trump administration issued new policy guidance concerning the case.

In late February, Donald Trump withdrew a federal guideline requiring transgender students to have access to bathrooms and locker rooms matching their gender identity. The guidelines were issued last May by the Obama administration to address the increasing concerns regarding the treatment of transgender students.

A sign is seen in the bathroom stalls at the 21C Museum Hotel in Durham, North Carolina in this May 3, 2016 file photo. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake/File photo

A sign is seen in the bathroom stalls at the 21C Museum Hotel in Durham, North Carolina in this May 3, 2016 file photo. Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Drake/File photo

“This is a mean-spirited attack on hundreds of thousands of students who simply want to be their true selves and be treated with dignity while attending school,” Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, told The Guardian. “These young people already face incredible hurdles in their pursuit of education and acceptance. With a pen stroke, the Trump administration effectively sanctions the bullying, ostracising and isolation of these children, putting their very lives in danger.”

“These young people already face incredible hurdles in their pursuit of education and acceptance. With a pen stroke, the Trump administration effectively sanctions the bullying, ostracising and isolation of these children, putting their very lives in danger.”

The appeals court had originally ruled in Grimm’s favour last April.

In a setback for transgender rights in the country, Trump’s new guidance now allows individual states to decide what bathroom facilities students may or may not use.

The proverbial glass ceilings still in place as women in India earn 25% less than men

A study conducted by Monster India on gender pay gap has revealed that Indian women earn 25% less than men. The gap has, however, declined by two percentage points from 27.2% in 2015, the study revealed.

In both 2014 and 2015, the average wage for male employees stood at Rs 288.7 per hour even as the wages of female employees fell by 4.2% in 2015 to Rs 210.2 per hour.

In 2016, waged for men shot up by Rs 57.1 – or 19.8% – to 345.8 per hour and for women by Rs 49.6 – or 17.9% – to Rs 259.8 per hour.


Representative image. Credit: Reuters

However, despite the nearly 18% increase, according to the study, on average women earn Rs 63.5 less than their male counterparts.

The survey of over 2,000 working women further claims that not only are women at a disadvantage when it comes to filling supervisory positions, but they are also underpaid by 30% when they hold these positions.

In the education and research sector, the gender wage gap stands at 15%, while the figure for the healthcare sector is 22.6%.

Among the challenges that working women in the country face are the inadequacy of safe transport facilities, lack of child care facilities and not being given responsibilities as per their calibre.

The women who were survey also listed the kind of discrimination that they faced in the workplace, including stereotypes that female employees are “unpredictable” (6.8%), not being considered for senior positions (14.7%), being titled “unnecessarily aggressive” if they are assertive (11.4%) and dealing with the stereotype that women are “too emotional” (13.6%).

Even as a majority of the women felt that the management of their companies stressed gender parity, they often failed to “walk the talk,” hence indicating the urgent need for implementation of pragmatic policies in order to bridge the gender pay gap.

Schools in New York City now required to address students by their preferred pronouns

A directive issued last week now requires the staff of New York City public schools to address students by their preferred pronouns. According to New York Daily News, the directive is one of several issued as part of a ten-page memo by the education department on transgender kids for use by school staff, students and families.

The guidelines also direct the staff on how to use non-binary pronouns like “they” or “ze” as well as how to support transgender students who might be experiencing bullying at school.

The rules further state that, “It is important for school staff, students and parents to be aware that transgender and gender-nonconforming students may be at a higher risk for peer ostracism, victimisation and bullying because of bias and/or the possibility of misunderstanding and lack of knowledge about their lives.”

According to Mic, the guidelines concerning transgender students are the latest that the city’s mayor, Bill De Blasio, has issued in support of transgender people and students. The city had previously started a subway campaign in June aimed at educating people about the rights of transgenders when it comes to access to public restrooms.

The guidelines issued by De Blasio, according to New York Daily News, also includes a list of terms that are appropriate for use in schools, such as cisgender – an adjective describing a person whose gender identity corresponds to their assigned sex at birth.

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