Srinagar: Many women professions in Kashmir believe their gender count against them during their career.
The INS spoke to a number of fairer gender professionals—doctors, engineers, policewomen, lawyers and journalists and here is what they have to say.
Dr Masrat, a senior gynaecologist, at a government hospital here says that gender bias for female doctors at workplace a “reality.”
“I have been into this profession from more than six years now and I had gone through discrimination a number of times. No matter how much hardworking and efficient a female doctor is she faces discrimination.”
A number of doctors defined discrimination as “disrespect from support staff, exclusion from administrative decisions, bias against pregnancy, maternity leave or breastfeeding, and lack of equal pay.”
“We only have 45 days maternity leave, and even during pregnancy, we are supposed to have night shifts. Even Supreme Court had forwarded resolution that employee who had been working in any organization will be provided six month leave along with benefits. Forget about extra pay, we are never appreciated for our efforts,” said a junior Doctor at SKIMS Soura.
“Doctors are never able to give proper parental care to their children and we always struggle to be good mothers.”
Some female doctors claimed that it was very difficult to be in medical field as “social life is completely cut off.”
“We even struggle to get time for lunch or dinner. We have to be available for all the time. We even don’t know the meaning of vacations,” says doctor Asma who works in the Valley’s only tertiary care hospital here.
Female doctors, she says, mostly marry doctors and “this is not due to our attitude, it is only because we know only doctor can understand what our profession demands.”
To promote gender equity and retain high-quality doctors, she says, employers should implement policies that reduce the discrimination and support gender equity such as longer paid maternity leave, backup childcare, lactation support, and increased schedule flexibility.
Subreen Malik, 27, is a lawyer. She has been is in the profession from last eight years.
“The gender discrimination is in every field and courtroom, where we fight for rights, is no different,” says Sabreen.
Sabreen is a settled lawyer but she too faces what she firmly believes is discrimination. According to her, discrimination is “apparent” and now female lawyers take it routinely.
Other female lawyers claimed that the clients ‘think ten times’ before handing over the case to them.
“Our male colleagues are making better than us. It is not we lack in competence but they are able to make more contacts then we do. Some of them would contact police officers who provide them cases. And if we try to do same just to compete with male colleagues, we are called dubbed as ‘characterless’,” said a female lawyer wishing not be named.
Advocate Mehwish says that due the male dominant nature in courtroom, “not only females suffer but clients suffer too.”
“An accused and parties in a civil suit invariably prefers male counterparts because of the obvious reasons.”
Discrimination, they say, is not restricted to courtroom only and in other facets of life. “Our parents are finding it hard to get us married,” a lawyer said.
Advocate Nusrat says they there are excuses which sometime make her laugh. “They say I am well versed with my legal rights and after marriage I can make use of my power and can drag my in-laws into the court.”
Shahzada Bano, clad in Khaki salwar kameez and tight pinned hair, talks about the challenges she faced in profession.
“A policewoman in a male dominant society in Kashmir hardly gets credit for the good work she does,” says Shahzada. “I joined the force many years back and have handled angry mobs during turmoil and got even hurt during stone pelting. Woman police is not less than male police but we never receive a pat on our back.”
Shahzada says women never get respect in the profession, even their male colleagues talk to them in “disrespectful” manner.
“They always use high pitch for us. We never get chance to show our capabilities in this department, men in our department stand like a wall between us and outside world.”
Whenever any female constables do remarkable work in the department, she says, male colleagues usually take credit and “we are left with nothing.”
Shahzada Bano always covers her half face with khaki dupatta so that relatives of her in-laws won’t see her. “I don’t know why people call it dirty profession just because sometimes it requires us to work with criminals and strangers till late hours.”
In Kashmir more and more females are entering in journalism field, a profession long reserved for men. Female journalists claim that they are not given equal chance to explore their capability.
“It is very difficult to work in conflict zone and as a female, the challenge is virtually twofold. We have to convince our parents for going into field after that we have to compete with our male colleagues and at every stage, we have to prove yourself,” said a female journalist working in for a national newspaper.
She has been into this field from past four years and she thinks it will still take many more years to her to make her name.
“There are many hurdles in a path for a female in this profession. Even you talk of basics; there is not even separate washroom in offices.”
In male dominant profession, she says “your way is of course not smooth. There are certain stories where I can’t go and my male colleagues can go.”