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Girls are Weighed Down by Restrictions, Boys With Demands — Two Equally Harmful Disciplines

  • 05 Dec 2023
  • 9 min read

"Empowering Women is a Prerequisite for Creating a Good Nation"

— Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam

Societal expectations and norms have historically played a significant role in shaping the lives of individuals, especially concerning gender. Throughout history, girls and boys have been assigned distinct roles and responsibilities, leading to the perpetuation of gender stereotypes and inequalities. While it is evident that both genders face challenges.

Girls have long been subjected to a plethora of societal expectations, many of which restrict their freedom and opportunities. From a young age, they are often taught to be obedient, nurturing, and accommodating. These expectations can stifle their ambitions and limit their choices. In many parts of the world, girls still face barriers to education. Discriminatory practices and traditional beliefs that prioritize boys' education over girls' limit girls' access to quality learning environments, ultimately restricting their intellectual growth.

Cultural and religious restrictions on girls are pervasive and have been a longstanding issue in many societies around the world. These restrictions are deeply rooted in traditional beliefs, customs, and religious interpretations, and they often limit the autonomy and opportunities available to girls. 

In some cultures and religious communities, arranged or forced marriages are common. Girls are often married off at a young age, sometimes against their will, and are denied the right to choose their own partners. This practice can have serious consequences for their physical and emotional well-being.

Female Genital Mutilation is a harmful cultural practice prevalent in certain communities, particularly in parts of Africa, Middle East, and Asia. It involves the partial or complete removal of a girl's external genitalia and is usually performed without her consent. It has serious health implications and violates girls' bodily integrity.

Strict dress codes and modesty rules are often imposed on girls and women by many cultures and religions. These restrictions are often enforced to require the covering of their bodies, including their hair and faces, in order to adhere to perceived notions of purity and virtue.

Limited access to quality education for girls is often prioritized over boys' education by some societal norms and beliefs. Their intellectual development and future opportunities can be severely hindered by this restriction.

Specific gender roles and responsibilities within the household are often assigned to females. This may entail expectations for girls to engage in domestic chores and take care of younger siblings, potentially constraining their capacity to pursue education and other interests.

In certain societies, girls may face restrictions on their mobility and freedom to travel independently. This limitation can impede their access to educational and economic opportunities and hinder their personal development. A report published by the United Nations titled Progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG): The Gender Snapshot 2022 indicates that it may take close to 300 years for full gender equality to be achieved.

The issue of limited or no inheritance and property rights for girls is a significant concern in certain cultural and societal contexts. Within these specific cultures and religious traditions, girls often find themselves in a precarious situation, as they may not have the legal or customary entitlement to inherit property or assets. This situation can have profound implications for their financial security and overall well-being. When girls are denied the right to inherit property, they face a greater risk of financial vulnerability. This vulnerability can manifest in various ways, such as limited access to economic resources, reduced bargaining power within the family, and a heightened dependence on male family members for financial support.

The concept of "family honor" is tied to the behavior and actions of girls and women in certain cultures. Violence, including honor killings, can be triggered by any perceived transgressions of these norms and is often justified as a means to restore family honor. This practice is deeply ingrained in the societal fabric, perpetuating a cycle of violence against women and girls. Efforts to address this issue should focus on challenging and changing these harmful norms while ensuring the safety and well-being of those affected.

Restrictions on girls' autonomy and choices can be justified in some religious communities through conservative interpretations of religious texts. These interpretations may give precedence to adhering to religious norms over individual freedoms. Religion plays an important role in demarcation of societal norms and societal expectations.

Having discussed the constraints imposed on girls, it is pertinent to shift our focus to the challenges faced by boys.Boys are burdened by societal expectations and norms that impose a multitude of pressures and demands on them, spanning a broad spectrum of responsibilities and behaviors that society anticipates them to adhere to.

They are often encouraged to perform exceptionally well in their studies, with an emphasis on achieving high grades. This pressure begins early in their educational journey and continues throughout their schooling. The expectation is that they will excel in subjects such as mathematics and science, as well as other areas considered vital for future success.

From a young age, boys are exposed to career role models and societal messages that highlight certain professions as more desirable or prestigious. These careers may include fields such as engineering, medicine, law, or finance. Boys may feel compelled to pursue these paths to meet societal expectations.

In many cultures, there exists a significant emphasis on financial stability and success as an expectation for boys. They are frequently instructed to pursue careers that not only ensure a comfortable income for themselves but also secure financial stability for their future families. In some societies, traditional gender roles dictate that men are the primary breadwinners for their families. This further reinforces the expectation that boys should pursue careers that are financially lucrative.

Societal expectations and norms have undeniably played a pivotal role in shaping the lives of individuals, particularly concerning gender. Throughout history, these expectations have molded distinct roles and responsibilities for girls and boys, perpetuating entrenched gender stereotypes and inequalities

Recognizing the distinct challenges faced by both girls and boys is fundamental, and gender equality brings about a multitude of benefits for everyone. To achieve this, we must actively challenge societal norms, foster inclusive environments, and passionately advocate for equal rights and opportunities. Breaking free from the constraints of historical expectations not only enables individuals to pursue their aspirations but also empowers them to contribute significantly to their communities. Removing restrictions from girls and redefining expectations for boys are indispensable steps toward creating a truly equitable society, underpinning human rights, social progress, and sustainable development.

"Gender Equality is Not a Women's Issue, It's a Human Issue. 

It Affects Us All.".

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