India’s persistent, gendered digital divide

Article by Caiwei Chen: “In a society where women, especially unmarried girls, still have to fight to own a smartphone, would men — and institutional patriarchy — really be willing to share political power?

In September, the Indian government passed a landmark law, under which a third of the seats in the lower house and state assemblies would be reserved for women. Amid the euphoria of celebrating this development, a somewhat cynical question I’ve been thinking about is: Why do only 31% of women own a mobile phone in India compared to over 60% of men? This in a country that is poised to have 1 billion smartphone users by 2026.

It’s not that the euphoria is without merit. Twenty-seven years after the idea was first birthed, the Narendra Modi government was able to excavate the issue out of the deep freeze and breathe it back into life. The execution of the quota will still take a few years as it has been linked to the redrawing of constituency boundaries.

But in the meantime, as women, we should brace ourselves for the pushbacks — small and big — that will come our way.

In an increasingly wired world, this digital divide has real-life consequences.  

The gender gap — between men and women, boys and girls — isn’t only about cellular phones and internet access. This inequity perfectly encapsulates all the other biases that India’s women have had to contend with — from a disparity in education opportunities to overzealous moral policing. It is about denying women power — and even bodily autonomy…(More)”.

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