Gender Issues

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Gender Issues
general, when considering third world countries, most would say that they have
some very similar characteristics. Third world countries are often thought of as
places that are impoverished, have significantly high birthrates, are
economically dependent on advanced countries, and have not evolved socially in
regards to equal rights issues. Although many of these characteristics do apply
to Sri Lanka, the latter has definitely evoked some discussion on the topic of
gender issues in underdeveloped countries. Issues such as decision making in the
household, educated women and their role in society, and attitudes towards women
in employment will be discussed. As stated earlier, most would agree that from a
distant perspective Sri Lanka would seem to be socially underdeveloped in
regards to equal rights. One way that this misconception is debunked is by
looking at the roles of male and female in the household. There are many
variables to take into consideration when looking at roles of family members and
who has the balance of power; for instance, if the wife is working or not could
be considered at both ends of the scale. If she is working than her husband may
feel that because she is making a financial contribution she has more of a right
to make important economic decisions that may effect the family. On the other
hand he may feel as though her being away from the children is a detriment to
their upbringing, and in turn is placing a burden upon the family leaving the
wife with few domestic decisions. Another variable that has to be considered is
if the residence is with the husband's family or if it is with the wife's
family. In this case one would assume that whichever house was being resided in
would have the balance of the say towards family decisions. The last variable
that will be considered is that of marital duration. Does a longer marriage
necessarily mean that the financial and domestic decisions of the household will
become split evenly between the husband and wife? The answers to these questions
were the focus of a study conducted by Anju Malhotra and Mark Mather in 1992.

The study showed that when the wives were working, regardless of whether or not
they shared their wages or kept them, they had an increase say on financial
matters. However, the domestic decisions were not nearly as great, especially if
the wages earned by the wife were kept for herself (Malhotra et al. 1997: 620).

When looking at the balance of power in regards to household arrangement, the
study found that the wife had almost no say on financial matters when living at
the husband's parents house but did have some say on domestic issues. The
opposite it true for when the family resided at the wife's parents house. The
wife typically had a significant say on financial and domestic matters with the
latter outweighing the two (Malhotra et al. 1997: 620). As far as marital
duration is concerned, it seems as though as the family grows together there is
somewhat of a role reversal. The husband becomes more concerned with domestic
matters and the wife takes some responsibility for the financial decisions (Malhotra
et al. 1997:620). These findings led my research group to believe that the
people of Sri Lanka are generally very similar to those of western societies in
regards to household decisions. Education is not something we think about when
speaking about developing countries, many assume that it is just not an option
for underprivileged people. Although that is the unfortunate truth that effects
many third world countries, it does seem that Sri Lanka is on its way to
recovering itself. For many years the gender gap between male and female
scholars needed to be decreased. In the early 1980's the percentage of the total
amount of people with university degrees that were women was barely above 40%. A
more alarming fact might be that the percentage with post-graduate degrees was
barely above 25% (Ahooja-Patel K. 1979: 217). The majority of women pursuing a
degree usually did so in the fine arts category or the education and teacher
training fields, many staying away from disciplines such as business or
engineering. Although these numbers may seem staggering Sri Lanka has shown some
promise in terms of social welfare. Programs are now in place to encourage
female education and to decrease the inequalities women face today. In the early

1990's the gender gap between literate males and females was only a 5%
difference (Malhotra et al. 1997: 602). Many

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