“Showing how prevalent and pervasive gender based violence is, runs the risk of normalising it”, according to the Economic Survey 2018-19 which advocates an approach that shows how “many people are not perpetrators”.
This is one of the policy prescriptions of the Economic Survey for a new BADLAV (Beti Aapki Dhan Lakshmi Aur Vijay Lakshmi) campaign on gender equality. Outlining how behavioural economics framework can be used for BADLAV, the Economic Survey states, “showing how prevalent and pervasive gender based violence is, runs the risk of normalising it; instead emphasising on how many people are not perpetrators or reinforcing injunctive norms against it can be more helpful in shaping correct norms towards gender equality.”
To reinforce the message of BADLAV, it suggests the use of role models from Hindu mythology, including Goddess Lakshmi. It reads, “By drawing on the imagery of the forms of Goddess Lakshmi that symbolises wealth (Dhan Lakshmi) and victory (Vijay Lakshmi), the message of treating women as the forms of Lakshmi needs to be emphasized.”
It also holds up the veneration of women as mothers and wives as an instance of gender equality in ancient India. “Men in ancient Indian society were identified with their mothers, Yashoda-Nandan, Kaushalya-Nandan, Gandhari-Putra, as well as their wives/consorts, Janaki-Raman, Radha-Krishna. Since such positive mythological insights about gender equality are readily available and deeply understood in Indian society, these can be used as part of a revolutionary BADLAV programme,” states a section on ‘Drawing on Mythological role models to reinforce the message of BADLAV’.
On the use of “positive mythological insights about gender equality”, the report draws a parallel with how the United States government, as part of its war-time efforts “to recruit women for “men’s jobs” in factories”, used the cultural icon Rosie the Riveter — “a female taking a ‘man’s job’ without losing her femininity”.
Acknowledging the global MeToo movement which challenged gender equations at the workplace, the survey makes a significant policy prescription of “mandating organisations to report the gender pay gap” and putting it in the public domain. It also suggests that “instead of highlighting the number of top companies that have few women on their boards, it is more effective to highlight how many do”.
Last year, the Union government released the Economic Survey with pink covers in order to “send the message of empowerment of women and gender equality”.
Calling for the use of behavioural economics to bring about change, this year’s survey lays out an agenda to go from Beti Bachao to BADLAV, Swachh Bharat to Sundar Bharat, Give It Up for the LPG subsidy to Think about the Subsidy, and from tax evasion to tax compliance.
Citing the success of Beti Bachao Beti Padhao and Swachh Bharat Mission which employed a similar technique, the Economic Survey talks of how “drawing on the psychology of human behaviour, behavioural economics provides insights to ‘nudge’ people towards desirable behaviour”.
For the purpose of operationalising such an approach in public policy, it has recommended that a behavioural economics unit must be set up in the Niti Aayog and that every programme must undergo a behavioural economics audit before it is implemented.
“In India, where social and religious norms play such a dominant role in influencing behaviour, behavioural economics can therefore provide a valuable instrument for change,” it states.
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