“Security in the Real World: Gender Security, Globalization, and Women In India” by Madeleine Stokes
July 26, 2015
Globalization since the 1990s has transformed the nature of international and local relations. First and foremost, it has created awareness for human insecurities around the world, through the diffusion of global norms. Globalization has spread awareness for women’s insecurity, for example. Now, global norms tout women’s rights and integration. Although women’s insecurity has always been prevalent, our awareness of the phenomenon has increased since globalization. The emergent norm of gender equality and human rights calls to attention the limits to these norms, as we continue to see overt examples of women’s insecurity. We see more clearly some inconsistencies and flaws in our system of governance, because we are aware of this problem.
While increasing awareness, globalization has not ameliorated the plight of women. The phenomenon has created new avenues for women’s organization and empowerment. But at the same time, globalization has introduced new processes and changes that exacerbate women’s existing insecurities. We see a paradoxical relationship between women and globalization with the simultaneous opening and closing of women’s opportunities. This paradox explains the contradiction between the global perspective that promotes women’s progress, and the empirical, local one, in which women bear the brunt of globalization.
Because of this disconnect, advocates have encouraged new concepts of international relations and security. The principle new approach, labeled Human Security, has introduced a novel idea: to secure individuals around the world. While this is a positive step from traditional security concepts that were only concerned with the security of the state, Human Security falls short. Because the general concept of Human Security is gender neutral, it overlooks insecurities based on gender and therefore, cannot propose solutions to this problem. Furthermore, because the concept is vague, it cannot offer explanations of global trends and local problems. For the condition of women, the Human Security paradigm tactlessly adds women’s issues as an after thought to its security agenda. Simply substituting women for men does not consider the centuries’ worth of resilient gendered perceptions and power hierarchies that limit their opportunities everyday.
Gender Security, then, is an important update to the Human Security approach. Gender represents a concept of individuals’ identities and the power hierarchies that define them and their actions. For women, Gender Security evaluates not just their position, but the position of those around them and the systems of power that affect them. While women are an important constituent to society, representing 50% or more of the population, gender affects 100% of the population. This approach, therefore, is relevant to all parts of society, not just women. The gender lens in Gender Security presents an answer to the problem of women and to a larger security problem. It addresses security problems unresolved or unobserved by Human Security, by locating and evaluating systems of power hierarchies.
In this thesis, I argue that globalization has exposed and, in many cases, exacerbated gender insecurity in the developing world. Gender Security provides an answer to the inertia aroused by the Human Security paradigm. It acknowledges that structures of power exist at many levels—the global, regional, state, and local level—and globalization permeates all of these levels. The Gender Security approach identifies the power hierarchies at these different levels to locate sources to insecurities. Using a Gender Security approach, I identify these elements by examining the connection between globalization and security through three lenses: a cultural, political, and economic lens. By tracing globalization through these security realms, it is evident that the phenomenon has intensified women’s insecurity. Furthermore, the exercise also exposes pre-existing gender insecurities.
This paper contains four sections. Overall it answers the question: What is Gender Security, why is it important and how has globalization affected the problem of gender insecurity? It accomplishes this task by establishing the status and security of women before globalization and how the new phenomenon has influenced this position.
First, the paper defines terms and it establishes the inadequacy of the Human Security paradigm and the significance of the Gender Security approach. Second, it introduces globalization as a phenomenon and as an adversely transformative process in the cultural, the political and the economic domains. Third, it presents three case studies from a Gender Security lens in India. The first case study, from the cultural domain, explores the diffusion of global media and the subsequent intensification of male dominance in middle-class India. It suggests that existing gender arrangements have not improved, despite the influence of cultural globalization, but rather have been fortified.
The second study targets the political domain of Gender Security by investigating the status of proposals for a reservation system for women in legislative bodies at the national and local level in India. These proposals have proven to be inadequate for women due to pervasive gender ideologies.
In the last case study, the effects of the mechanization of labor on women in construction highlights the economic impact of globalization. Although women have been integrated into the economy, they are unprotected and are unable to benefit from globalization’s opportunities, due to their lower status.
In the fourth and final section, implications from these studies provide recommendations on how to implement Gender Security. They also suggest further research to determine causal relationships between gender, security and globalization. Gender Security can be a theoretical agenda and a practical approach for human security issues. Because all of the domains intersect in each of the case studies, it is apparent that a security approach must be comprehensive and grounded in ‘the real world’ for genuine change to occur for both women, and other groups in society.
Gender is the socially constructed concept of the identity of man and woman, the perspectives that enforce these definitions, and the practices and roles assigned based on this identity. Gender, therefore, is not a substitute for ‘women’.
The referent object—what needs to be secured—is flexible in Gender Security, but refers generally to ‘the individual’, and in this papers refers specifically to ‘women’.
Gender Security is a security approach that concentrates on the problems created or exacerbated by concepts of gender, identity, and power. The concept acknowledges the power relations that affect individuals’ security. Gender Security aims to protect fundamental human rights and needs that are at the core of all human lives, from persistent and pervasive threats, in order for individuals to fulfill their human goals, regardless of gender or identity.
Gender security (with lower case letters) refers to the state and practice of security.
Gender insecurity is demonstrated by the social, political and economic power hierarchies that result from the socially constructed concepts of man and woman, and that generate systematic inequalities and vulnerabilities.
Security entails the safeguard of political, economic, cultural and social rights and the ability to exercise these rights freely, regardless of identity or affiliation.2 With security, humans should be able to fulfill their life goals “freely and safely” and be free from persistent and pervasive threats.3
Vulnerability and threat are equally important in Gender Security.4
Vulnerabilities refer to existing conditions of insecurity based on gendered practices and power hierarchies
Threats refer to changes or processes that affect society. Threats have the effect of highlighting and exacerbating vulnerabilities.
Globalization refers to a process of accelerated global interaction and exchange, which gained speed at the beginning of the 1990s. Globalization, in this paper, is a perceived threat and carries with it dominant trends.
The concept of ‘gender’ is what gives the Gender Security model significance, because it is not an affirmative action approach for women, and does not simply substitute men for women. Gender calls for a comprehensive analysis of power and gender relations. Because Gender Security has a larger and less delineated conception of the referent object, it is easier for the security approach to connect with the empirical realm. If the referent object is too narrow, such as if it is the state (like in traditional conceptions of security), many parts of society are excluded from the security approach. If the referent object is too broad, such as if it is the individual, the concept is not productive and generalizations result, again excluding many portions of society. The flexibility of the referent object in Gender Security, therefore, is beneficial to effectively solving local, as well as global problems.
The Gender Security approach is a bottom-up approach. It analyzes the sources of vulnerabilities that threaten individuals and recognizes that the elements that affect security are diverse and interdependent. In order to reach a comprehensive picture of Gender Security with all of these elements, three categories can be considered: the cultural, the political, and the economic. With a closer look at these domains, we can identify threats—globalization, in this case—to isolate the vulnerabilities. While these domains and threats can be separated for the purpose of reviewing Gender Security, all of them are intertwined and inextricably linked.
Gender insecurity reveals a bigger phenomenon of the permanence of power hierarchies around the world, as well as the limits of norms and governance. Our awareness of gender insecurity allows us to question traditional security studies and traditional systems of governance. Gender Security is significant for more than just women; it provides a way forward for the stalled Human Security approach.
Human Security Literature Review
Since the onset of globalization in the 1970s, processes of interaction and exchange have accelerated. These rapid changes have inspired new thinking about security; academics have sought to redefine the realm of security to better suit the transformed realities around the world. Globalization has created huge new sources of wealth, as well as widespread scarcity, instability and vulnerability, especially for certain parts and groups in the world.5 As a result, globalization has transformed relations between individuals and states, and between the local and the global. Traditional security theories, therefore, do not hold up in a changed global climate.
In order to identify the inadequacy of traditional security theories, we must understand their foundations. Traditional security, or ‘realism’, places the state as the primary referent object amidst an international system of anarchy.6 Realist threats only come from other states. Security, then, refers to the safety, sovereignty and clout of the state, irrespective of the security of the state’s constituents. Empirically, we know that the sovereignty or “security” of the state does not necessarily entail the protection its citizens. The realist agenda does not recognize any other types of threats, so other types of insecurity, such as gender insecurity, go unnoticed and unassisted. Hence, gender has been excluded from traditional conceptions of security and International Relations theory.
Human Security provides a new lens for studying international security. This concept asserts that feelings of insecurity come from anxieties and burdens of everyday life, and less so from sudden calamitous events between states.7 The definition of human security in the 1994 United Nations Human Development Report (HDR) was two-fold, “freedom from fear” and “freedom from want.”8 Here, the individual is the referent object. This concentration on individuals incorporates a respect for human life into the security paradigm. Academics agree that the objective of Human Security is to protect fundamental human rights and needs, that are at the core of all human lives, from persistent threats, in order for individuals to fulfill their human goals.9 Individuals are, therefore, secure when they can carry out their choices “freely and safely.”10
Many scholars, such as Cha, Thomas, Wilkin, and Tickner, support Human Security’s suggestion, in response to globalization, to change the referent object from the state to the individual in order to transform traditional ways of viewing security.11 Changing the referent object is significant in lieu of globalization’s changes. In addition, it helps in the understanding of sources of threats.12 Human Security benefits from this understanding and acknowledges the diversity and interdependence of elements that affect security. Whereas traditional security theory ignored the state of individuals, Human Security has the potential to incorporate the plight of women because it recognizes a new referent object, as well as different types of threats.
Yet, Human Security does not explicitly protect all individuals equally.13 Gender affects the entire population, because it refers to both women and men and the roles and perspectives associated with the sexes. The idea that security is gender neutral ignores the different experiences that individuals have based on their gendered identities. The vagueness of the Human Security concept only reinforces this type of ignorance. Vagueness hinders the ability of the concept to identify and prioritize specific sources of insecurity, and reduces the effectiveness of the approach. Thomas, Wilkin, Hampson, McKay, Chandler and Liotta criticize Human Security for its inability to produce changes for these reasons.14
The insecurity of women, for example, is neither arbitrary nor vague. Human Security’s ignorance of this reality renders the approach ineffective. The inclusion of women and children as a second-thought in human security ignores the reasons behind their vulnerability—the power relations and social realities that affect their security. This is why Human Security’s answer for gender inequities, by merely substituting women for men, is inadequate. An effective gender approach evaluates the systems that create these realities. For women, their insecurity lies in a system of identification.
Women often confront insecurity based on their identities as women, which is represented by their subordinate status in society. The idea of identity is central to an effective security approach. Kennedy-Pipe, Lucas, Buzan, and Shepherd, argue that insecurity is rooted in an individual’s identity.15 Security entails the safeguard of political, economic, cultural and social rights and the ability to exercise these rights freely, regardless of identity or affiliation.16 Gender Security incorporates identity and its affiliated insecurities, and this approach can be applied to a multitude of identities.
Gender Security is not only important for women; it can be a model for identifying many types of widespread insecurity. Griffin, Hoogensen and Stuvoy, Tickner, Kennedy- Pipe, Hunt and Posa, and Sjoberg insist on the value of a gender approach to the Human Security paradigm.17‘Women’ and ‘gender’ are not the same thing: gender does not only denote women. Gender gives us awareness not just of women’s disadvantages, but also of power relations in general. While relations between the dominant versus the non- dominant are evident in cases of race, ethnicity and class, gender is “always there,” in every situation.18 Gender, therefore, represents the most pervasive of inequalities “that exists both across and within other inequalities.”19
Gender, therefore, is necessary for a more comprehensive Human Security approach. According to Griffin, a gender approach provides a more holistic approach as it “offers a non-abstract and practically applicable form of theorizing.”20 Gender Security supplies a realistic understanding of local effects of global processes. Gender gives Human Security a “direction forward” in concentrating on a bottom-up approach, focusing on the people and their respective environments.21 The bottom-up focus grounds the concept in the empirical domain, on people’s experiences, and diversifies the concept to include non- dominant perspectives.22
Gender provides a solution to the challenges of the current Human Security model in its universality and ability to identify threats and causes. Gender security is an updated version of the Human Security paradigm. Gender Security modifies the Human Security approach and gives it a new and beneficial focus. We will see later that the three Gender Security case studies present issues that would otherwise be overlooked by the Human Security approach. This indicates the necessity of the inclusion of Gender Security in any security agenda.
Why Women? Laying Down the Facts.
As defined earlier, Gender Security does not only refer to women. To the contrary, the concept is much more complex and innovative than merely a program for the advancement of women’s rights. Yet, women’s advancement is nevertheless important. Women face systematic inequities that disadvantage and threaten their capacity, mentality and security everyday. Throughout history, women have always been insecure, but women’s unique experience with globalization, which has exacerbated their insecurity, compels us to revisit the problem. For the purpose and limited scope of the paper, women will be the concentration.
Women suffer all over the world. According to a United Nations report in 2000, there are “80 million unwanted pregnancies each year, 20 million unsafe abortions, [and] some 750,000 maternal deaths.”23 Furthermore, two thirds of the 950 million adult illiterates in the world are women.24 Women’s status has not improved since globalization. As Moghadam argues, the dismal reality of globalization is evident from the fact that the global system has prospered thanks to gendered power relations and labor.25
Women are disadvantaged the most in rural areas and less developed countries, places that struggle the most with war, development and social equity. In these areas, women dedicate long hours in fields and in the home, with no compensation, and without education, health, childcare, or access to credit. Women are also vulnerable because they consume less and have fewer benefits than men do, due to traditional household norms and inequalities. Women live in households “where the distribution of consumption and the provision of health care and education favor men or income-earning adults.”26 Moreover, traditionally, women are not treated as autonomous or productive individuals, rather as dependents who cannot own property, engage in work outside of the household or get loans without the permission of a husband or male family member.27 Gender constrains women.
The most significant example of women’s low status and vulnerability is that female babies are unwanted and unappreciated. Even though female labor has significantly contributed to industrialization in these countries, women are not considered to be valuable. In India, a dowry must be paid to the daughter’s husband’s family and it is the equivalent of multiple years of income. It is very costly to raise girls and since boys are better equipped for survival because they receive the most education, nutrition and health care, families avoid female births. This is evident in female mortality rates and in the male/female ratio in India: in 1991 there were 927 women to 1000 men.28
Rape is the most overt example of women’s insecurity. Rape has continued to be used as a weapon to control women or as an instrument of the state during war. In 2008, Uzbek women were arrested for supposed religious extremism and were raped as a state torture policy. In eastern Congo, more than 15,000 women were raped in 2009.29 According to Kennedy-Pipe, “rape seems endemic [from] the Balkans, through Afghanistan into Africa.”30 Furthermore, even in the more developed world women are disregarded. Recently female Peace Corps members have spoken out about being raped while serving abroad and about the callous responses by the Peace Corps officials to their sexual assault reports. Whether the problems are overt or subtle, women are insecure around the world and the problem can no longer be ignored.
Globalization & Women
The Change in Our Awareness
Gender insecurity is not a new phenomenon. Globalization is the new phenomenon that has heightened our awareness of an ancient story of gender insecurity. Increased global awareness and norms for women’s status are rooted in changes in the world that arose from the 1970s to the 1990s, marked by the end of World War II, the subsequent independence movements, the Cold War and the expansion of capitalism. Women were able to create a global movement, which officially gained center stage beginning with a United Nations’ women’s conference in Mexico City in 1975, and a year later with the United Nations Decade for Women.
Globalization, and its associated processes and transformations, has extended the field of security studies ‘downwards’—to individuals—‘upwards’—to the supranational, international system—and ‘horizontally’—to new security realms, economic, societal, environmental, etc.31 Politically, after the Cold War, spaces opened for new debates and new sources of power. Now, not only do states reserve power, but international bodies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and individuals have power as well. This diffusion of political power allowed the women’s movement more mobility and new avenues to gain influence and recognition.
Economically, the period was destabilizing and especially in the developing world, created much turmoil. Issues of minority and human rights surfaced during this time of social upheaval and political diffusion. Women suffered the brunt of these new changes and came together to put their shared plight, women’s rights, onto a global agenda. Thanks to the improvement of communication and transportation technologies, women from all over the world were able to convene and give strength to a widespread women’s movement. Perhaps most importantly, with the globalization of the economy, the development agenda identified economic value in women in the developing world, so women became vital to the functioning of the global market. Since globalization and the establishment of global awareness for the status of women, women have become apart of the world order and thus important to security studies.
General Effects of Globalization on Women
Cultural, Political, and Economic
Gender Security is an important new approach because of the substantial impact globalization has had on women. Globalization has generated contradictory effects on women and these effects are rooted in pre-existing conditions of insecurity. The process has created a “new constituency” of women—working and organizing women—and has unlocked new possibilities for their empowerment and for their resistance to the systems that oppress them.32 Conversely, the process has also reinforced the obstacles to women’s empowerment. These working and organizing women cannot take advantage of new opportunities because barriers to their empowerment are resilient.
Gender Security plays out in different domains that can be separated and categorized for analytical purposes into cultural, political and economic dimensions. Cultural globalization is contradictory. We see cultural standardization in the global distribution of consumer objects and images. Many times this standardization is referred to as Americanization, as a result of the expansion and domination of American consumerism and commercial business around the world, through food, clothing, music, media etc. Yet, this type of globalization has also generated cultural pluralism and ‘hybridization.’ Through the expansion in number and kinds of interactions across borders, cultures interact and intermix.
Unsurprisingly, reactions to social globalization are also contradictory. The intensification of interactions around the world promotes growing understanding between people and between civilizations, and fosters cooperation and coordination across borders. We see the creation of hybrid identities, of transnational movements, and transnational communities. Along with these processes of integration and adaptation, are oppositional forces. In response to strong cultural flows, globalization produces reactive movements: hardening identities and fundamentalisms. People around the world react by strengthening their traditional practices and by actively avoiding change.
Security, therefore, is unstable within this dimension. The changes from globalization foster slow cultural transformations, which have created more opportunities for security for women. But, when individuals have no control over their own lives due to globalization, they must cope with changes. People reinforce traditional arrangements, like gender institutions. Gender security in the cultural arena is based on local, community and familial perspectives about gender and tradition. Security, here, is informal, but significant.
The political domain is contradictory for women too. Political globalization refers to an expansion of the political realm: the spaces and channels of power. During globalization, political power diffuses across and away from traditional centers of power, i.e. national governments. States no longer have a monopoly over power. Now, international organizations and financial institutions, corporations, and even individuals can have political puissance. The world is less dictated by unilateral decisions of the strongest states. Multilateralism is the fashion in globalization. Political decisions rely on the interests of other states, on the state of national economies and the international market, and on international norms and movements. Despite the diffusion of power, states still retain salience.
Despite more access to power, the security paradigm is predominantly unfavorable for women: women represent 70 percent of the world’s poor.33 On the one hand, the security paradigm within the political dimension is enhanced with globalization due to increased access to authority and mobility with the diffusion of power. On the other hand, however, security for women in the developing world is reduced significantly, as social perspectives and norms remain in tact, and women’s increased roles within the economy are not coupled with increased authority in governance or improved security from governance. Security in the political realm then is established on formal protections by governments and organizations. Security, here, is based on women’s ability to publicly and formally secure themselves. What occurs is that national governments are inclined to pay lip service to globalized norms, such as women’s rights, but locally the façade is broken. When governments fail to act, women remain insecure.
The most notorious dimension of globalization, economic globalization, generates incongruous results. I will elaborate more on the economic context of security, as it is a highly contentious and complicated process, especially for women. Economic globalization is associated with rapid industrialization and the expansion of capitalism as the primary economic system around the world. As Boyd argues, capitalism sees the “state as protector of system.”34 The capitalist system necessitates the continued accumulation of wealth and capital at the expense of workers; the state values this economic system over its constituents. Globalization and the growth of global capitalism has created great wealth around the world, but the wealth is concentrated, and many places remain poor and even worse off than before the economic advancements of the 1990s. The disparity is explained by the fact that 40% of the world’s poorest people account for 5% of global income, while the richest 20% account for 75% of it.35
A Western agenda has guided this capitalist process. Economic globalization facilitates the flow of goods and services in an interdependent capitalist system and therefore, entails new economic policies to integrate all economies and peoples into the system. These economic policies have materialized in developing countries in the form of Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs). SAPs, promoted by Western institutions, aim to liberalize trade, privatize social services and increase the private sector, reduce domestic wages, and encourage foreign investment, and the production of goods and services for export. The most influential international organizations, such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund universally promote these free-market policies in the developing world.36
The SAPs create mechanisms and incentives to use “low valued” individuals for economic development strategy.37 Women represent the best source of this cheap labor. This confirms their prior insecurity within society and within the market. Consequently, SAPs have proven to be the most influential element of globalization for women and their daily lives in the developing world.38 Capitalists seek to cut domestic labor costs in the quest to compete with imported goods. Imported goods force women from their traditional activities growing food and providing for their communities, to working in the public sector, in informal labor, and in temporary employment, while men move to the private sector for the lucrative jobs.39 Gender ideologies have “facilitated the recruitment of women for unskilled work in labor-intensive industries at wages lower than men would accept, and in conditions that unions would not permit.”40 Developing countries have witnessed a shift from stable and organized male labor to a “flexible and feminized” labor force.
Globalization, therefore, produces economic interdependence that is based on the pre-existing uneven relationships of power. Gendered social relations disadvantage women in the market. Gender differences explain the different experiences women have had with globalization than men, as well as their vulnerability in a globalized economy. While free-market economics and structural adjustment policies assume mobility of labor, they do not acknowledge the constrained mobility of women in their family and biological responsibilities.41 This lack of acknowledgment of women’s different status limits their potential.
Economic security is both formal and informal, because both the cultural and the political dictate security in the economic realm. Security in the economic domain is based on individuals’ access to financial autonomy and freedom to chose work. While the feminization of the labor force has given women more opportunities to secure themselves economically, it has also rendered their employment dangerous, unstable, temporary and cheap.42 Culture maintains women’s lower status and the lack of governance keeps them insecure in the workplace. Economically, women continue to be insecure without freedom, protections or choice over their employment.
The overlap of cultural, political and economic dimensions is most evident in women’s acceptance of doubled responsibilities since globalization. Structural adjustment policies have dismantled institutions of social protection, formally the responsibilities of governments. So, women’s share of labor in the home has increased. Even with an increased portion of jobs, women have not observed an accompanying “redistribution of domestic, household, and childcare responsibilities,” nor a proportional increase in social protections for their new position in the economy and in society.43 SAPs hit women doubly by increasing their productive activities due to economic need, as well as their reproductive activities, due to social cutbacks.44 Women, therefore, find themselves doing double the amount of work, unprotected and unacknowledged. Without acknowledgment of the changes, since globalization, gendered perceptions do not adapt, so women remain insecure socially and culturally, economically and politically.
Focusing on the prevalence of insecurities around the world is contrary to many globalization advocates. Moghadam, for example, argues that the triumph of globalization comes in the form of the women’s movement, and its accompanying transnational networks.45 Moghadam represents a large portion of authors who argue for the positive effects of globalization on women and the power of their agency in difficult situations. While there has been a proliferation of women’s organizing throughout the world, thanks to the tools of globalization, focusing only on the positive examples of women’s experiences overshadows the still perverse barriers to their well-being and freedom—barriers that are intensified by globalization. In concentrating on examples of gender insecurity, this paper is not discounting the positive advances made by women, but emphasizes the ongoing issues that need to be addressed.
India is the setting for the three Gender Security case studies. India is the world’s second most populous country with over a billion people and the world’s largest democracy. It is a mixed population with six different religions and more than 13 different languages.46 This diversity and scope is a challenge to equity. India is a rapidly developing country, but despite its economic advances, the country remains one of the poorest in the world and the poverty is unequally distributed among the different groups in society, based on social status and location. Because of the population’s complexity, advances made in India will give great impetus for other more homogenized countries. Furthermore, Gender Security findings will be relevant to other regions or countries because India’s setting is so large and diverse.
The case in India is especially significant to other emerging countries because they are also undergoing rapid economic growth as a result of the flows of globalization. These countries, including Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa, to name a few, can learn from India’s experience and engagement with globalization. While India has taken the lead in the race for rapid economic growth, it has fallen behind these emerging economies in terms of integrating women.47 Understanding this reality is crucial to other competing nations. An analysis of India’s experiment with decentralization as its development approach, for example, or any of its other economic and political experiments, gives insight to these emerging economies.
For women specifically, India is an important case study. Gender issues are being addressed in the country. Public debates about the status of women are popular. Data suggests, however, that a million female fetuses are aborted every year in India, which explains the gender skew: in 2008, for every 821 girls born there are 1,000 boys.48/sup> The gender reality shown by this statistic proves there is a major disconnect in the country. As such, India is a suitable setting to explore women as well as gender security.
Case Studies: Gender Security in the Real World
The scope of this paper does not allow for multi-country comparisons, but situated in India, the reader gets a comprehensive picture of all of the elements of Gender Security within the same, localized context. The examples illustrate that although there is an opening within the security realm, security remains unyielding for women. The Gender Security cases also demonstrate the interdependence of the three domains and of the processes of globalization. The studies consider the question: what was status and security of women before globalization, and how has the new phenomenon influenced this position?
The first case, about the globalization of media, isolates a cultural and social context to explore the pre-existing perceptions and actions exacerbated by globalization. The globalization of media has influenced and brought on changes to most regions around the world. Even a globalized and principal global player, such as France, is troubled by the effects of globalized media, to the point of prioritizing an agenda to control it. The study of globalized media on gender in India, then, is relevant not only to the developing world and can provide some insights on the susceptibility of existing cultural traditions to globalization.
The second case study is about the reservation systems in political bodies in India. The reservation system reserves one third of seats in legislative bodies in India for women. The case was chosen because it corresponds with the political category and also demonstrates the influence of local cultural perspectives on politics. The attempts at local and national reservation systems demonstrate both the increased opportunities from globalization, for political representation and security, as well as the widespread presence of gender insecurities. Despite globalized norms that have forced India’s government to consider gender issues, gender insecurity persists. Furthermore, an analysis of a proposal for women’s advancement is a significant implication to add to our understanding on what methods are successful and less successful in a Gender Security approach.
Mechanization of construction is a controlled and narrow case that gives us ample evidence to explore many of the effects of economic globalization. While this third case is specific, it demonstrates a larger globalized and gendered process. The phenomenon of mechanization has altered most national industries, not just construction. Furthermore, most places in the world have experienced this very mechanization problem; similar studies have been undertaken in Guatemala, Mexico, Malaysia, Senegal, Kenya, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand and the United States. The relevancy of the case explains the logic of its selection as an example of a global problem for women.
Case Study #1: Globalized Media in India
Since 1990, India has experienced rapid changes from globalization. By reducing the state and increasing the market, globalization has allowed transnational firms to flood the Indian economy with different opportunities, products and cultures, integrating it into the global market. These globalizing processes have transformed local media in India. Television channels grew from one state-run channel in 1991 to 70 channels in 1999, and access to TV went from 10% to 75% in 1999.49
Global media, predominantly originating from the United States, has expanded to support the transnationalization of consumer goods. Advertisers try to reach new markets engaging with local media sources, through the expansion of satellite television and of foreign films. Globalization’s consumerist current has permeated the functioning and content of media. The industry has become market oriented. The transformation of the industry has facilitated the growth of mass media giants who, with the help of satellite, cable and Internet, have access to a vast global market to disseminate their information and products.
Local media in India has remained salient throughout globalization, however, adapting Western norms and consumerist trends to local settings. Arjun Appadurai was correct in arguing that global media flows allow people to imagine new and better ways to live life. Global media has delivered Western ideals of freedom and independence to India. Indians enjoy American concepts, TV series and films. Yet, they do not apply these progressive concepts to their own lives.
Instead, media and films provide middle-class men with not only a social activity, but also with an avenue to further bolster existing gender arrangements. Men, especially, are apprehensive of globalization’s message of change, and react by reinforcing their own security, through gender traditions. Steve Derné has championed this argument, that the global media has intensified male dominance in India as globalization of media provides new cultural resources for the advancement of existing gender relations, as well as for the support of male interests. The result is that, on its own, cultural globalization is not transformative. Indian women are unable to take advantage of the cultural openings presented by globalization because they are limited by their gender and community.
This case study focuses on the growing middle-class in India, which is in a novel position, both in contact with modernist, globalized forces and traditional cultural and familial continuities. The middle-class in India, which represents about 40% of the population, has a distinct personality.50 It derives its security from culture; the middle-class survives through social practices that revolve around family support. Unlike urban elites, they do not have English language skills or connections, and they are mostly employed in jobs oriented to the local economy, such as bus drivers, police officers, teachers etc.51 With limited opportunities in the global economy, the middle-class is restricted in its ability to succeed in the modern consumerist world. Individuals of the middle-class are not able to act independent of family, because they rely on family support—on power in numbers—in this harsh economic climate.52
The middle-class derives its identity and security from this unique socio-economic position. On the one hand, the security of the middle-class is founded on traditional familial culture. Because of economic realities, the combined strength of extended family is a means to survival. Family is, therefore, the most important unit and women are seen as the upholders of this security. Women are the symbol of the continued strength of traditional social arrangements, so they remain bound by traditional society.
On the other hand, the middle-class is inextricably linked to globalized modern trends. Cosmopolitan fashions and styles are a means of power and authority in Indian society, for example. Cultural globalization has flooded India with mass media and Hollywood films, which have altered some content of Hindi films and cable TV. Hindi films and TV portray western freedom, financial independence and young adults who dress scantily and reject their parental authority to marry for love.53 While the middle- class uses modernity and cosmopolitan indicators (i.e. fashion) to distinguish itself from the lower classes, it also rejects other elements of modernity (i.e. freedom, and independence) to detach itself from the national elite—those who have sold out to the morally corrupt West.54 Women are the symbol of this socio-economic balance as well.
Among globalization’s messages, free choice and independence through the pursuit of love marriage is most significant to Indians. Men react to this message. Men still see love marriage as a fantasy, and not a practical system of organization. The films give no guidance on how to marry for love.55 Instead they provide Indian men with an indication of the possible tensions that arise from these engagements, especially within the family, their main support system. Derné interviewed the same men in 2001 that he did in 1991 and they remained just as committed to arranged marriages as in his first interviews, despite globalization’s influence.56
Men’s commitment to this arrangement stems from their concern for their own security and comfort. Men worry about the presence of modern and scantily dressed women in the media, for example. Women’s modesty in dress symbolizes traditional society. Men are still attached to women’s modesty, therefore, because they have apprehensions about globalization as a threat to the existing gender arrangements that provide them with power and security. Responding to this popular perspective, Hindi films present situations that combine “cosmopolitan consumerism and commitment to the family.”57
Men can take advantage of certain aspects of cultural globalization, but women cannot. According to Derné, “the fact that Indian men tend to embrace aspects of cultural globalization that are consistent with their existing relations of power over women shows that the powerful can selectively use the cultural resources offered by globalization to increase their own power.”58 Middle-class men don western dress in public places, for example. Most middle-class women, however, continue to wear saris and Indian-style clothing as a signal of their commitment to the family duties that men value. Without this signal, women are vulnerable to being ostracized, rejected by their family, or sexually abused. Men vigorously defend local gender culture about women’s dress and behavior because of the “conventional male privileges those cultures entail.”59
This double-standard even concerns admired female Indian movie stars. While an Indian film can be a hit, the heroine or actress who exposes herself or is immodest in the movie will not have a successful career, because her immodesty in the movie is transferred to her immodesty as a real human being.60 This indicates that the system of cultural and gender arrangement does not allow for any divergence. Even financially independent and famous women are constrained to gender traditions in Indian society and therefore, are insecure.
The film-going experience highlights these gender barriers. Men go to the movies to escape every day realities. Movie going, like any type of mobility, is a male activity. We see this association in Hindi films that link men with transnational movement and women with local settlement. In movies, maleness is connected with the cosmopolitan and femaleness with local Indian society. Furthermore, Hindi films show men as players and women as bystanders, existing for men’s pleasure, and as victims, needing male protection. This gendered portrayal in films shows that men are attached to gender arrangements that limit women’s free movement and access to public places. This attachment propagates the gendered perspective.61
This stereotypical portrayal can also be seen on TV. Programs portray women, but like in films, the content is seeped in patriarchal understandings of women. Women have little engagement with the world outside of the house on TV. In commercials, the actors not only ignore women’s activities outside of the home, but “trivialize domestic work,” devaluing its importance to the survival of the Indian economy.62 In addition, because of the market-oriented focus of the industry, reporting in the news has shifted focus away from serious in-depth issues exploring the realities of average citizens, poverty and injustice, to lives of the powerful and rich, further concealing matters concerning women in their everyday lives. To complicate matters, TV shows that do discuss profounder gender issues are often times forbidden from wives by their husbands.63 These portrayals also proliferate women’s gender identity and insecurity.
There is disagreement over the effect of women’s portrayal on TV. Some argue that the presence of women in TV series is positive and progressive regardless of their stereotypical portrayal, because women are able to “see the possibility of questioning and resistance and to even envision some level of revolt.”64 Yet other critics argue that these types of serials do not change, but worsen cultural pressures on women. They contend that a one-dimensional portrayal of women ignores the economic and political issues that accompany and complicate their lives. Regardless of the consequences for women, inaccurate portrayals of women and their lives on TV take a toll on the entire population, undercutting any attempts to integrate and modernize the country.
The most overt example of the media’s negative effect on women’s security is in its concentration on violence and masculinity. Hollywood movies and serials celebrate male violence. Hollywood action films seem more realistic to Indian viewers, than their own Hindi action films. They have the effect of increasing male attachment to macho strength, because it seems more attainable.65 Indian men idolize Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gladiator and the WWF, and Hindi film stars now sport larger muscles to match this idolization. In an alarming example, Derné explains that reactions by a male audience to a Hindi film (Zahareela) were strongest when the character was sexually violent, abusive or raping a woman. He suggests that men enjoy these episodes, because male violence is exactly what makes women vulnerable and dependent.66
Violence and masculinity, resources supplied by cultural globalization, support gender hierarchies. These characteristics emphasize women’s vulnerability in India. Hindi films increasingly focus on inciting aggressive behavior towards women. In these movies, women observe the same threats that limit them daily from participating in public spaces without male protection.67 This secures the cycle that makes women rely on men. Rape has always been “a primary mechanism of male dominance in India,” but now rapes are attributed to and justified by women’s modern dress and immodesty due to globalized influences.68
Like this faulty rationale, reactions to rape, globalization or cultural change focus on women’s behaviors, rather than on existing cultural norms that produce these problems. As a result of globalization, middle-class traditional notions of collective identity were put into competition with Western notions of freedom and individuality. Many Indians saw satellite TV as contrary to the ideals of the Indian middle-class, promoting licentiousness and socially disruptive behavior. The ‘corrupted’ woman became the symbol of globalization in India. Protests emphasize the lasciviousness and danger of Western culture to dissuade women’s movement and transformation. Protests against rape, for example, target women’s fashion, attempting to ban jeans and skirts, rather than on men’s behavior or the gendered arrangements and perspectives that make women vulnerable to this threat.69
The negative effects of cultural globalization through media in India are made worse by the limits women face in the profession. Since globalization, the number of women in media has reached unprecedented heights, but most women in this profession do not enjoy novel opportunities for three reasons. First, women are under-represented in decision-making positions in the media and this fosters a “lack of gender sensitivity within media organizations.”70 Women are able to get into low and mid-level positions, but still are unable to breach the ceiling to acquire senior decision or policy-making positions. Women account for 18% of people in the news and are only the subject of 10% of stories.71 Second, all of the stories with women as the subject neglect to represent women’s perspectives on the topic and usually portray the situation in a stereotypical manner. Lastly, women who work in the industry are usually relegated to subordinated sectors, so their positions are limited in transformative potential.72
In an unstable and changing environment, men, driven by unimproved economic circumstances, emphasize the Indian traditions surrounding family that are the source of their comfort and security. The cultural domain shows us that men’s security is increasingly defined by women’s insecurity and dependence. As global flows signal to men a changing context, they hold on tighter to traditional means for their own security. Gender roles, then, are especially important to men’s identity. Women become the symbolic bearers of these Indian traditions. While men can engage in some modern activities, like fashion, women must remain traditional and refrain from change. The woman symbolizes not only the opposition to globalization, but also status, security and power in a society that cannot gain these elements from economic opportunity alone.
In contrast to hypotheses that champion globalization due to its transformative nature, globalization in India has intensified male dominance, further relegating women to a position of dependence. Women do not have freedom of action or choice, so their cultural insecurity endures. The infusion of male aggression and violence through global media flows directly threatens women’s security. Stereotypical portrayals of women in the media, on TV and in movies, as well as their underrepresentation within the industry more subtly limit women’s choices and movements. Despite these examples of barriers to women’s security, the Gender Security approach shows us that globalized forces, for both men and women, threaten gender security.
This example shows that cultural globalization is not beneficial unless coupled with structural changes. Gender insecurity is grounded in culture in India, and without direct efforts to secure women and men, little improvement will follow. Security for women is still based on the interests of men, even as globally, more social and economic possibilities have opened up for women. We see the overlapping of the security domains as the economic and political domains, which have failed to mitigate the effects of globalization, affect the cultural domain. The case study demonstrates that the sources to women’s security are informal: gender expectations and roles, and the organization of the family household. The power hierarchies that affect women are rooted in the local media, in global media, in cultural globalization from the West, in the community and in the household.
These findings aside, Indian women have not remained silent or apathetic to these changes. Since globalization, the number of women’s programs has increased. Women have led protests against Western influences as well as against media portrayals of women. They petition courts and regulators, as well as satellite TV and cable companies to stop allowing vulgarity and “indecent representation” of women in songs, commercials, TV shows and movies.73 They are also using the tools of media and globalization to unite coalitions of people to reform the media industry and they are creating new channels of communication with those invisible in the mainstream. Also, gender advocacy groups are advocating for change by lobbying media organizations and Regulatory bodies and developing dialogue about gender. Women are not without agency, but with a Gender Security approach their efforts would be bolstered.
Case Study #2: The Reservation System for Women in India
Globalization, via normative trends, has made governments more aware of women’s insecurity and influence. New types of legislation, such as reservation bills, aim to relieve gender imbalances. Despite Article 15(1) of the Indian Constitution, which forbids discrimination by sex, women remain subordinated in Indian society. Any attempt to empower women faces popular opposition in addition to “official disinterest in the form of lack of political will in implementation.”74 There are currently many projects to empower women in different ways, but these remain on paper only. While there was a woman appointed as foreign secretary to the government in 2002 and there are several women state governors, 270 million rural women remain “poor, illiterate and disadvantaged.”75
Although little progress has been made, India has experimented with gendering politics. In 1992, for the first time, India created a reservation system for local administration, through the Panchayat Raj system, to give women greater participation in local decision-making and development. Following, the Indian government attempted to extend these reservations to the national level, in the Parliament and in state legislatures. The success of the implementation of the reservation system in the Panchayats has been hampered and the failure to pass the Women’s Reservation Bill (WRB) in parliament demonstrates women’s continued insecurity. These experiments “typify the socio- economic-cultural hindrances to women’s empowerment.”76 Studying the political reservation system for women highlights women’s insecurity and the need for a Gender Security approach.
Enhancing security means increasing the influence that actors have on their own lives, which entails increases in resources, freedom and power. Security can be obtained through decision-making, which is why a reservation system can be advantageous for women’s security. In 1992, the National Parliament (Lok Sabha) reinstated Panchayats in rural India with a one third reservation of seats for women. The Panchayat refers to a village council, with local judicial and administrative capacities. The Panchayat system decentralizes power from the central government to local contexts.
Decentralization is a tool for economic development as it allows citizens to take responsibility for their own well-being and make changes to the issues they find most important. According to Erik Bryld, decentralization helps to empower “the weaker sections of society to become agents of their own development” as it diffuses power.77 Changing the government structure of society and enabling local entities makes possible an increased role for civil society in development and for those who have usually been excluded from decision-making. Decentralization through the Panchayat system has been successful in bringing 1 million rural women into decision-making.78
The Panchayat system has unlocked opportunities for women. Women have managed to run local government and administration despite inexperience, illiteracy and poverty. They have also gained confidence and a sense of self-worth from these experiences with public responsibility and power. Yet, the positive aspects of this bill for women’s social mobility have been accompanied with overt challenges and limitations. These challenges demonstrate the problem when decentralization is used only as a tool for economic development, regardless of the socio-political context in which it is implemented. Its failure to acknowledge these cultural contexts has made evident the existing gender insecurity that restrains women’s ability to fully benefit from these prospects.
Society in rural India is based on a patriarchal structure and men make it difficult for women to take advantage of the Panchayat positions. Through the reservation system in the Panchayats, husbands tend to take over the jobs of their wives or they place their wives as proxy candidates in order to gain power. Even though it is women who have the official authority in the Panchayat, husbands are considered to be the de facto decision- makers and leaders. Men feel humiliated having to address a woman with their challenges and will direct their questions to their husbands.
Furthermore, women face brutal judgments and cultural challenges. If unmarried women assert themselves publicly, they are accused of being frustrated in their private life, only to be solved by marriage. If married women assert themselves, they are accused of having frustrated relations with their husbands.79 Gender biases make women’s efforts to gain authority difficult, regardless of the reservation system.
Because gender biases constrain women’s mobility, women are not equipped with the skills necessary for public life. Traditionally, women do not participate in the councils or local politics because their husbands monopolize that job. Moreover, husbands do not discuss the topics with their wives—topics that would be relevant to women’s everyday lives. Women remain ignorant and disadvantaged in local decision-making without knowledge of local politics. Additionally, there is a connection between the level of woman’s participation and her level of education: 67% of female Panchayat members interviewed had five years or less of school education and 25% percent with none at all.80 Since women tend to be less educated than men, especially in rural India, they participate less in political life. They are also less comfortable in the public sphere, so men of their same educational level will be more able to perform public undertakings.
Women’s insecurity is worsened by the lack of orientation or support for women’s new Panchayat positions. Neither the men who manage the power transitions, nor the state or regional institutions work to provide the women with adequate orientation and training. Efforts at social sensitization on gender issues would aid in these power transitions, for example.81 Male members of the Panchayat do not respect women members, so most women are not encouraged to participate in meetings.
In addition to a lack of orientation, there is no support for women Panchayat members. Women, still retain their old responsibilities, in addition to their new political posts. There is no support for women Panchayat members. With the same amount of domestic chores and responsibilities, women have a “double burden” generating difficulties for her to be effective.82 Men will only agree to their wives being in public positions if it does not affect her domestic work. Male commitment to women’s roles in society produces impediments to women’s effectual leadership. Again, like in the cultural example with media, men’s security is based on women’s subordinated position: their insecurity.
It is not solely men who restrain women; women also pose a challenge to each other, as they, just like men, are fixed in the same gendered perspective. Since women are assigned the role of guarding tradition, they oppose untraditional lifestyles. Women oversee other women and their actions, and present barriers to them benefitting from opportunities, such as in the Panchayats. In this current security paradigm, women are reliant on the kind of security that their husbands provide, because they are dependent. So, women perpetuate the problems of their own insecurity, because it is the only way they know to secure and protect themselves and their daughters. When women reproduce the same repressive gendered ideologies, they limit their own empowerment and participation in local decision-making.
In sum, the Panchayat system, which aimed to integrate women into decision- making positions, has not fulfilled its promise. Women have not been able to be effective leaders. Most women are unable to make improvements. Many women are ineffective because of men’s actions and the strength of gender ideologies within the governance system. Women who are able to make improvements are ignored, because their improvements do not resemble male achievements; they deal with different issues, such as water, sanitation and childcare facilities. Some argue that the inclusion of women alone can be positive in giving women a sense of how the system functions and in being role models for other women, encouraging them to enter political debate.83 Unfortunately, since women are picked specifically because of their illiteracy, in order for men to control them, they usually project bad examples.84
Despite barriers to women in the Panchayat system, it is still an important step for gender equity in decision-making; the continued failure of the national WRB, on the other hand, reveals a more morose reality of gender insecurity. In 2007, there were only 49 women members of parliament (MP) among 543 seats, representing 9% of parliament.85 From 1996 until now, a bill reserving 33% of seats for women in the national government body has been stymied. Women’s participation would rise to 181 seats if the bill passed. Yet, despite public assertions supporting women’s advancement, the bill’s passage has been stalled for fourteen years.
The reasons given by male MPs to stall the bill are the primary examples of the prevalence of gender barriers for women. Narasimhan notes some of the male MPs’ statements. A former prime minister, Chandra Sekhar, asserted that “if women come to Parliament, who will cook our food?” and another minister superciliously spoke about “women with cropped hair” as “un-Indian.”86 The statements show that gender ideologies pervade the socio-cultural perceptions that inform opinions about women’s empowerment bills and that limit women’s opportunity and social mobility. In addition, women MPs noted that the women’s advancement bill is a threat to male hegemony and men are fearful that they would lose their seats to women.87 Political parties support the bill in order to get women’s votes, but do not implement it because they are not willing to give up their seats.
Political parties’ minority and affirmative action arguments serve to obstruct the bill’s passage. The WRB for parliamentary seats has encountered strong opposition from the same people who supported reservations in less valued local bodies, the Panchayats. Affirmative action for women is accepted in local bodies for its development purposes, but is snubbed in the national arena because many argue that women do not constitute a legitimate category.88 In addition, political parties have opposed the bill because it lacks caste or minority reservations. According to Narasimhan, “class-caste factors” are employed as excuses to avoid gender equity and for continued male dominance.89 Gender, not caste or class, is the highest determinant for security.
It is gendered attitudes, more so than minority discrimination that accounts for rural women’s hurdles. A 1997 survey of elected women representatives confirmed this as women, “irrespective of social, cultural, economic and geographical differences,” experienced the same challenges. It is not necessarily their inexperience, illiteracy or poverty that hinder women’s efforts, but rather their gender.90 With Human Security we would only detect the positive aspect of the reservation bill —the increased presence of women—and not the underlying gender insecurity that frustrates women’s access to decision-making. Men use normative tactics to be publicly viewed as “champions of women’s progress” without having to relinquish control for gender equity.91 This is why the Gender Security approach, which considers women’s context and men’s interests, is necessary to implement these types of bills, because men in power, otherwise, are able to bypass them easily.
In this Gender Security case study, it is possible to detect the strength of traditional gender ideologies that limit women’s actions and potential. Power in the form of status, networks and the privileged gender is necessary to utilize formal power and women lack all forms.92 Other power hierarchies that trap women are based in the national political system, local political systems, local cultural and gender traditions, as well as the hierarchy of the household.
The sources of these insecurities are rooted in gender expectations at the cultural community level and the organization of the family household, as the building block for society. Another source of women’s insecurity is formal governance. State support and guidance in terms of orienting men and women to this new type of political organization is necessary to foster collaboration and to create effective leaders. Additionally, and most importantly, women have fewer opportunities and more obstacles because they are not educated. Education is vital to opening up opportunities to women.
Because of these barriers to women’s successes, all parts of society must understand the importance of the reservation system for it to succeed. The state and social institutions, women, and civil society in general, all need to be involved. Unless the reservation system is supported by increased public education, networking and training it will not succeed in fostering gender security. An awareness of local context is necessary for alternative governance schemes to work. Despite being half the population, women cannot amass their numbers without political mobilization or interest of political parties to nominate women.93 Pressure from constituents is necessary, then, in the form of female coalition building to demand application of the Gender Security approach to ameliorate and implement reservation bills. Gendering governance will not be successful without civil society support and this will not occur until women actively participate in the political arena. Without a Gender Security lens, the dismal state of the reservation system may have otherwise been ignored.
Case Study #3: Mechanization of Construction in India
Women have gained some new opportunities from economic globalization, but long- term benefits and gender security have not materialized. Despite terrible working conditions, women have gained an increased portion of jobs and some freedom due to their income. Women in developing countries, especially in India, have seen an increase in opportunities to work outside of the home and earn money. This has enabled them to gain some autonomy within their households and communities, and to challenge traditional familial relations.
They have not witnessed long-term benefits, however. Women are laid off first due to gender bias and their lower positions in the workplace. They also rely on public sector jobs, such as in the construction sector, because they are discriminated against in the private sector. SAPs disproportionately disadvantaged women, as they reduce public sector activities.94 Women’s work, therefore, remains unprotected and unstable.
International agencies are at the source of the problems women face in the globalized economy. Since, globalization there has been an explosion of international agencies. These agencies push a Western agenda that does not acknowledge local contexts that concern individuals’ security. The Western models of development support the mechanization of all industries and the reduction of state intervention in domestic affairs.95
In the early 1990s, these Western institutions encouraged India to deregulate the domestic production sector; construction was especially affected. For Indian companies to engage in large-scale infrastructural projects, for example, they rely on the help of foreign participation. The objective of the contracts provided by these foreign companies is to finish the job quickly and this encourages machinery over employment.96 Construction is labor intensive. Introducing machinery to this sector, therefore, creates large amounts of unemployment.
Mechanization in construction, due to globalization, generates a negative outcome for women. Women represent one third to half of construction workers in the industry in India.97 They are not considered permanent workers, however, and no legislation protects them. Women construction workers have been involved in all of the most important national developmental projects in health, education, food production and transport.98 But even though construction is considered to be one of the main industries in India, its workers are still unskilled, exploited and discriminated against.
Women are disadvantaged in the construction industry because of their gender. They are not recognized as workers. Typically men are the masons, and tasks assigned to women construction workers involve carrying mortar and bricks to the men. The state does not consider this job to be primary. Statistics also do not represent women as workers, so they are not documented in society as productive and valuable individuals. Without this recognition they do not have the same protections as male workers against dominant industry forces. Women’s informal labor in the construction industry increased, rather than decreased, going from 88% in 1983, to 95% in 1993.99 Because of this instability in the workforce, women are not autonomous workers. For their work, they get paid per household, so it is the male head who collects the wife’s wages.100
Since women have entered the industry, work in the construction sector resembles temporary work.101 The lack of formal worker protections has caused women to be doubly disadvantaged by changes in the industry. At the same time as mechanization increased, women were introduced in masses to the labor force. So, as women’s employment in construction has increased, construction has become more mechanized. Mechanization requires fewer units of labor. So, the process of mechanization resulted in unemployment or short-term work.
Temporary work makes women more vulnerable. It is harder for women to find jobs and the jobs that they do find last for a shorter period of time. Price notes that the variation in work opportunities in the industry forces women to act more like a “reserve army.”102 With less job security, due to the changes in the economy brought on by mechanization, women are not profiting from their integration
Women need to work, however, in order to support their family in a globalized economy. Their traditional activities, such as growing food, for example, have disappeared. With mechanization, women workers are more desperate to find jobs and end up engaging in unsafe, temporary and low-paying work. Women are paid a great deal lower than minimum wage, for example. Temporary work, such that construction is now, disadvantages women because it does not have the same worker protections or stability as do full-time jobs.
Women are not the only ones who do not benefit from these jobs. Just like gender, caste also dictates the type of job that will be available to workers. So, poorer men, from lower castes, as well as women do construction work.103 Since lower caste members do not possess connections to move up to skilled labor, they are similarly trapped in the unprotected labor force, as are women.104 As Price reasons, “Globalization and accompanying neoliberal economic reforms affect construction workers adversely in two main ways: first, mechanization without job growth for the poor causes unemployment, and second, the retreat of the state from intervention in the workplace reduces workers’ power.”105 Price shows that the concurrent changes in the market, from mechanization, and in governance, from liberalization, negatively affect the less powerful.
Out of the less powerful, women are the most vulnerable and even implemented solutions have made minimal progress for them. In response to globalization, women’s organizations, NGOs and activists have focused on skill training for women in construction. While some women get trained, they still do not get hired for skilled work.106 Social biases pervade, as men are skeptical of women’s abilities despite skill training. Men’s rejection of women’s work, notwithstanding skill level, shows that gender perceptions remain resilient. Workers’ informality is not the only limiting factor, then. It is social and gender biases that produce a barrier to women workers’ security and progress. Economic globalization perpetuates gender subordination and exploitation.107
Without state pressure on the market, these gender biases remain intact. Women will not be hired, regardless of credentials, if states do not intervene. It is up to the state to protect its workers from global changes. The state should create a system of financing these training programs and encourage local communities to resist social prejudice.108 It should also create incentives to hire women and protect their industries. Governance has a role in making sure women (as well as other disadvantaged groups) have access to training, get employed and are accepted into skilled jobs.109
Women workers need new technology to support sustainable development and political empowerment. Without protections for women based on their gender or based on their type of employment to complement the introduction of technology, women’s vulnerability persists. The state could fund programs, create mandates, and provide transitional methods to introduce mechanization to the industry, so that women are not left suddenly jobless and more insecure.
Mechanization is not the only problem for women. Their problem lies in how labor is organized, who decides the type of organization, why and when labor is regulated, and what alternative employment is available.110 The answers to these questions challenge the kind of economic growth and development in India that has the effect of increasing the suffering of the poor and disadvantaged.111 The Gender Security analysis for women in construction makes evident socio-economic power hierarchies and the vulnerability of the less powerful.
The Gender Security paradigm in the economic realm reveals a larger problem than that of women or globalization—that the state upholds economic growth over social health. There is a system of power hierarchies in the global market, in local industries, and in local social organization that allows the state to prioritize state interest over human interest. The Gender Security paradigm allows us to see this problem from both a local and global perspective. Contrary to norms and hypotheses that declare the arrival of gender equity since globalization, the Gender Security approach exposes the reality. In this case, the reality is that women’s employment since globalization is not increasing women’s security, but instead is aggravating it.
This reality is evident all around the world. As outlined in the “Sneak Peak” section, most places in the world have experienced this same mechanization problem; similar studies have been undertaken in Guatemala, Mexico, Malaysia, Senegal, Kenya, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand and the United States. The relevancy of the case demonstrates economic globalization as a global problem for women. By focusing on the economic side of globalization, we can see the barriers that women face despite their integration into the workforce around the world. As the case shows, the political and social domains are at the source of this economic problem. The increase in variability of women’s job opportunities and the reduction of state social action brings to light women’s insecurity, not only because of economic globalization, but also because of existing social and political relations.
Globalization, through liberalization and mechanization, has made evident women’s vulnerabilities in India. While globalization has changed the appearance of the division of labor and offers more opportunities for women to work outside of the home, social norms and gendered hierarchies have not dissolved. The transformation of gender roles in the economy “has not resulted in greater emancipatory power for women to demand equal justice” because economic globalization has reinforced their insecurity.112 And, while politicians and academics argue that women’s increased access to work improves their security, the reality is that because only men are recognized workers, women do not gain economic independence and empowerment from their integration into the economy.
In evaluating this reality, we can make some conclusions about the roots of women’s insecurity. Women in the economic sphere are affected by informal and formal trends: by the global market, which incentivizes cheap labor and liberalization of national economies, and by culture and governance. Culture sets women at a low status and this affects their job opportunities; and governance is inadequate for women, as it does not take responsibility for mitigating the impact of global economic forces. In this sphere, then, the three domains are inextricably linked. Furthermore, power hierarchies that effect women’s economic capabilities exist in the global capitalist system, in national governance, in the construction industry, in local cultural and gender traditions.
In spite of the lack of progress in this domain for women, there are some positive examples that should be examined. Unions and NGOs are advancing legislation to regulate construction work and these types of policies. Unfortunately, only one third of women construction workers are aware of union activities and only one out of ten of them are members of a union.113 This is due to lack of knowledge about the role of unions. Unions are usually the organizations that improve diversity in construction and challenge discrimination, so they are important tools for women.
The other important tool for women is organizing. Mathew encourages women to participate in women’s associations. She argues that this would help with women’s lack of awareness of social issues, which results in low self-esteem and helplessness in regards to their economic and political rights.114 One of these organizations, the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) in India, is at the forefront of mobilizing women and fighting to protect their rights. The next section will describe SEWA’s progressive activities.
The Gender Security analysis of the effects of globalization on women in India identifies serious problems with gender security. Our awareness of the problems makes us question our norms and our system of governance. Correspondingly to the existence of different levels of power hierarchies, this section identifies different levels of implications from this study. First, this section will outline some practical implications from the three case studies. Second, it will outline some practical and theoretical recommendations for the Gender Security approach. Third, it will propose necessary research to bolster the Gender Security approach.
Women and Media
Media organizations that seek to alleviate gender problems and promote a realistic representation of women need to make some changes internally and these should be supported by the state. They first must instate self-regulatory mechanisms. They should also promote awareness for professional codes of conduct and make sure these codes are gender sensitive. In order to attain some gender balance, target setting in different categories of the profession is important. In this vain, they should adopt policies and procedures for fair and equal recruitment for employment in the industry. Creating measures to foster a gender friendly work environment with flexible work schedules is helpful as well, to integrate women into the workplace. Lastly, and most importantly, the companies should provide training in management and leadership, especially to promote collaboration in the workplace and for women unaccustomed to public leadership roles.
Beyond the media organizations themselves, the main problem with media misrepresentation and women’s underrepresentation in the field lies in the political realm. The study shows that cultural globalization has not been transformative because structural realities and institutions have not changed. According the Derné, “structural realities [are] fundamental in shaping cultural imaginations.”115 The state can relieve this disconnect by adapting national institutions to global realities. First, states must support public education about gender sensitization and about the functioning of the political system and markets. Second, states must assure that economic opportunity is equitable, so that different parts of society are not disproportionately affected by globalization.
Fortunately, there are positive implications for the use of media for the benefit of women’s advancement. There is potential for the tools of media to be used for women’s empowerment. We see this beginning in the increase in the number of women’s media programs around the world.116 Furthermore, the media can launch education initiatives by using its networks and technology. Some NGOs have initiated community media projects that deal with issues not presented in the mainstream. Government support is vital for the survival of meaningful and entertaining programs like this. Joseph argues that these media experiments are limited to small-scale production and less dissemination without official support.117 This state support can come in the form of NGO collaboration with government entities.118
Women and the Political Reservation System
The reservation system in India is a positive step in the interest of integrating women into the mainstream. The lack of progress of these initiatives, however, suggests some implications for improvements. First, there needs to be a public education campaign to sensitize male constituents about women’s integration and capabilities. As Bryld implies, “unless reservation is backed by increased education, networking, and training, it will not succeed in reaching the most needy.”119 Education, training and orientation are vital to integrating women into politics and states have the ability to introduce mechanisms and incentives for these types of programs.
Despite being half of the population, women cannot amass the numbers without political mobilization or interest of political parties to nominate women.120 This is why constituents need to pressure the state to support women’s integration. Female coalition building as well as civil society networking is necessary to demand passing of the WRB.121 We saw in the study that women do not traditionally participate in the public sphere. It is essential, however, that women actively participate in public activities and in local and national politics. As Narasimhan argues, for example, women must visit campaign meetings to get educated about the issues, the candidates and the political system.122 In addition this will help build a coalition of women voters. In being more present in public and political arenas, women’s integration may be less resisted.
Women and Construction Work
In the economic domain, there are many positive examples of women’s organizing. Workers’ associations have mobilized to demand their rights. One important workers’ association, Nirman Mazdoor Panchayat Sangram (NMPS), helped to implement gender- sensitive bills by the state and initiated national campaigns to consolidate the organization of unprotected workers. Coalition building is an important practice to protect underrepresented groups in society. Another important organization, the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) is at the forefront of challenging informal labor. They successfully unionized informal women workers who had been prevented from organizing previously. These examples show that women are not simply victims of the systems and have agency towards their own security, despite sizeable barriers to their success. It should not only be up to the workers’ associations, however. The state should protect its workers and regulate industries. It is in its national interest to maintain a healthy workforce.
Unions and NGOs are also pushing legislation to regulate construction work. The power of unions and NGOs represents new spaces that have been opened by globalization. Women should join unions to protect themselves. Unions represent the organizations that improve diversity in construction and challenge discrimination, so they are important tools for women.123 Women, however, do not have knowledge about the unions’ role. Again, the role of public education is important to inform women of their options.
The case study also demonstrates that training alone does not help women. There is no incentive for women to undergo training, because it does not result in jobs and it is an opportunity cost. Here, the state must intervene to incentivize companies hiring trained women.
How Does India Compare?
In comparing gender equity in India to other countries at comparable levels of development, implications for improvements are evident. Among the frontrunners of rapid economic growth of emerging economies, India has made the least progress in terms of gender equity. Other comparable countries—Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa—provide a basic right to education and health for both sexes. This universal provision gives all citizens more access to future opportunities. There is a “lack of gender investment in India,” apparent in the fact that 74% of girls are literate in India, in comparison with 98% or more in the other countries.124 Furthermore, the UN requires 6% of GDP for dealing with gender issues and India only puts in 1.3% of its GDP.125 India can make an investment to level the playing field for women.
Despite lagging behind other countries in this example, India can be a leader for women’s empowerment. Implications gathered from this paper and from the Gender Security approach in India are relevant to the rest of the world because of India’s experience with globalization, its resilient cultural traditions and the diversity of its populace.
General Implications for Gender Security
There are some general implications we can take from this example and the three Gender Security case studies. A successful Gender Security approach should to the following:
Promote provision of a basic right to education and health. This is the most important next step for India. Women cannot contribute to society if they are not as healthy as men. Additionally, they cannot participate in society, in politics or protect themselves in their workplace if they are not as educated as men. This is fundamental for women’s autonomy and empowerment.
Encourage women to participate in women’s associations. This will help with their lack of awareness for social issues, which result in low self-esteem and helplessness. In addition, it will sensitize them to subjects related to them, like sexuality, gender, family roles and empowerment.
Encourage women to participate in public life. Women will gain knowledge of political and social systems; they will gain social and leadership experiences; and they will become aware of issues that affect them most so that they can empower themselves. Pressure states to intervene on behalf of less represented groups in society. As a 2000 World Bank article suggests, state interventions for women are successful.126
Identify sites of accountability at the national and local, public and private levels. This will aid in determining which levels of governance are responsible for various conditions of insecurity.
Create independent regulatory bodies and expert groups to determine and monitor the effect of state policies on women.
Understand that global forces and trends impelled by globalization are not transformative without concurrent structural changes.
Understand that globalization affects different groups in diverse ways and to different degrees.
Employ a comprehensive assessment of issues by considering the social, political and economic context. Policies enacted without this consideration for implications in other domains or community levels will result in excluding or threatening certain groups.
Focus on systems and networks of power. Avoid unilateral vision, targeting only one group or problem.
Determine how a problem affects different groups; identify who profits and why?
Consider the influence of threats on existing vulnerabilities.
Elaborate on Gender Security as a practical framework for socio-political analysis and for policy-making.
Elaborate on how Gender Security fits in with the Human Security approach.
Develop methods to monitor and evaluate the Gender Security approach.
Suggestions for Future Research
Further research should be conducted to determine causal relationships between gender and security, and between security and globalization.
Collect data on media content and media organizations, including representation, perspective, targets, recruitment procedures etc.
Track women’s initiatives and their use of tools of globalization.
Research why women drop out of the media profession or political office.
Conduct further research on business-gender benefits.
Conduct further research on the different ways globalization affects different parts of society.
Is there a global approach for these kind of gendered issues?
Compare Indian experience with other developing nations.
Determine why men are attached to gender ideologies.
Research in more depth how globalization affects men in the developing world.
Explore the use of Gender Security approach for disadvantaged minority groups.
Findings in this paper are troubling. They reveal that studying globalization allows us to distinguish women’s insecurity and that women’s already precarious position in society has been adversely affected by the phenomenon. Fortunately, women, NGOs and civil society are conceiving of new and innovative ways to combat insecurity. Women are not without agency. Yet, we must remember, as a United Nations Media report stated, “the success of a small number of highly visible [women] sometimes obscures the fact that, for the majority, opportunities remain severely limited.”127
The obscurity between a visible minority of women and an invisible majority is matched by the disparity between the dialogues of the state and global institutions that preach about women’s advancement and the reality on the ground—‘the real world’. Women’s experiences, caught between the major forces of globalization and their local environments, demonstrate the interactions between different systems of hegemonies.128 The study of women reveals a bigger phenomenon about the significance of power hierarchies and the limits to our norms and our systems of governance.
The experience of women in globalization is, therefore, pertinent to other groups. Sources to women’s insecurity found in the case studies implicate other groups of society. For women, gender hierarchies are the foundation of their insecurity. These gender hierarchies are at the source of women’s lack of education, health services, mobility and decision-making power in the household and in society. These types of hierarchies are at the source of the insecurity of other constrained groups. Even men are confined to these informal gender hierarchies, unable to come to terms with life in a changed and unstable environment. This paper establishes the significance of a gender lens not just for women and men, but also for other groups limited by power hierarchies.
The relevancy of the Gender Security approach gives the concept significance in the field of security studies. What is at the heart of Gender Security is a concentration on systems of power. This is what the Human Security approach lacks in its ambiguity. The gender lens establishes a connection between the global and local, a relationship, which is central to the persistent transformations that influence individuals’ everyday lives. The Gender Security analysis has the potential to locate sources and identify comprehensive solutions in its consideration of the intersection of power hierarchies, and policies and processes. By distinguishing three domains—cultural, political and economic—to locate empirical problems, we establish the domains’ inextricability as well. This continual return to the interdependence of systems confirms Gender Security as a comprehensive and innovative approach.
Women have historically been disadvantaged. Their insecurity is not new. As a theoretical approach and a practical agenda, Gender Security offers a fresh view into the understanding of the current world order. The approach reveals to us the bleak reality of women’s position and forces us to re-evaluate our systems of governance that permit and preserve insecurity. Still, this new gender lens has the potential for providing innovative ways to understand old problems and envision solutions to fix and mediate new threats. Thus, it gives a positive outlook for future improvements and advancement. When women can break through the barricades, globalization will resemble the exalted and transformative process that we hear about today. In the words of a model for Gender Security, U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton declared:
“In country after country women have demonstrated that when given the tools of opportunity—education, health care, access to credit, political participation and legal rights—they can lift themselves out of poverty, and as women realize their potential, they lift their families, communities and nations as well.”
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