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Equality of opportunity
I had once gathered unexpected flak from an elderly gentleman who'd confronted me for smoking while my male friends watched, and smoked. The wound was fresh and I was tearing my lungs apart for a long time about the impervious need for equal treatment of the sexes.

As I went through a soft copy of our draconian Constitution I found a curious phrase sitting proud in its preamble, 'Equality, of Status and of Opportunity' presumably inserted with sustained hope by our forefathers. Keeping in tandem with the socialist principles that the young nation was founded upon, we were fed with the assumption that in this great union of states, we stood a chance at equal opportunity.

The triad of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity is a French Revolution original and in the 350 years of the Westphalian state system this construct has been fairly used and in parentheses, equally abused. Ad hoc human security arrangements around the world have listed the subject of equality of status and opportunity as a top priority in relations among actors. 

Chapter 1 of the United Nations Charter gives doctrinal importance to equality as equal opportunity remains a key postulate behind the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Articles 14 – 18 of the Indian Constitution reiterate the right to equality before law notwithstanding religion, race, caste or sex ensuring in theory, equal opportunity to employment and access to resources. 

The American Bill of Rights makes a strong case for fundamental fairness and equal opportunity to every individual for achieving the best of his/her abilities. British Customary Law makes it a constitutional principle.

So why is it that the more we talk about equal opportunity the more we're reminded of its antithesis, unequal opportunity? Why are interest groups around the world, from Islamic fundamentalists to Asian peasants to Western sophisticates fighting to claim it? From classical economists like Smith and Ricardo to Marxian socialists to libertarianism to Aristotelian justice, political theory has generously valuated its inclination to develop (widely) an economic theory of equality of opportunity to best suit the rational of distributive justice.

George Orwell in his title The Animal Farm, entirely a social satire comes back to me. "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others", he writes in his fictitious Declaration of Independence. Orwell makes the cruelest joke on a phrase that the welfare state takes pride in. Does it mean that modern leaders, who create conditions of equal opportunity within interactive space, are more entitled to it than their peoples? The phrase 'First among equals' when juxtaposed to this context makes a complete mockery of the idea of equality. In fact, mockery is exactly what a poorly drawn up social contract has made of the concept of equality of opportunity.

So every time a girl child is pulled out of school in favor of her brother in a financially ruptured household in a patriarchal society, equality of opportunity is mocked. Every time an exec-level female employee is offered a salary three quarters shy of that which her male colleague draws, equality of opportunity becomes a false constitutional promise. There are times when she's denied opportunities on flimsy pretexts like pregnancy which are then passed on to him or each time she's asked or expected to pull in favors only to ensure that the opportunities stay.

Debatable as it may sound, equality of opportunity is made fun of when merit-based examinations are heavily intervened by selective quotas and a deserving candidate loses out on college. In developed countries with three times more food than mouths to feed, immigrant neighbors are turned down equal opportunities. Every time the LGBTQ community has to take to the streets demanding that their rights or worse respectability be restored, equality loses out to prejudice.

Equality of Opportunity is sadly understood only in relation with Inequality of Opportunity. Personally, it will make sense to me the day a new born hermaphrodite is no more taken away by social services from its hapless mother.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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