Indian protesters hold candles during a rally in New Delhi. (AFP/Getty Images)
As we celebrated the coming of 2013, our country was being shaken by another shocking reality. The Delhi gang rape of a 23 year old woman, which led to nation wide protest brought to light deeper questions on the plight of women in our country – violence, discrimination, subjugation and more. We still continue to ponder about the real position of women from the past to the present day.
Contemporary Indian Women: The Ground Reality
Women are the noblest creation of God Almighty on this earth. Men and women are like two wheels of a carriage. One is not superior or inferior to the other. The life of one without the other is incomplete. Men and women both contribute to the development of each other’s personality.
In Ancient India, women were accorded equal status and considered better halves of men. No ceremony, prayer or Yajna was complete without women’s participation. They enjoyed full liberty to prepare themselves in their own manner to face the arduous battle of life.
Unfortunately in the later period the status and honour women enjoyed in the past declined. During the medieval period, women were deprived fairly wide measures of freedom and were considered ‘unpaid slaves’. Purdah, child marriage, female infanticide, sati and other social evils were practiced on a wide scale. The condition of women remained quite miserable through out the middle ages.
In the 19th century, social reformers fought for the emancipation of women. The efforts of social reformers, impact of western thought, liberal education, socio-economic consciousness and all-round reawakening in the country paved way to liberate women from the shackles of age-old slavery. Women actively took part in the freedom movement of the country along with men. The world witnessed a host of Indian women making a mark at the international arena in various fields during that particular phase of time. As a result of their contribution, the status of women in India kept on evolving. Soon after independence, Indian women got back their honour and dignity. The constitution granted them equality of status and opportunity with men. The government made efforts to remove disparities providing conditions for women welfare by enacting laws which include-Widow remarriage Act (1856), Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act 1956, Dowry Prohibition Act (1961 Amended in 1984), Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act (1971), Child Marriage Restraint Act (1978), Commission of sati (Prevention) Act 1987, Domestic Violence Act (2005) etc. Further, programmes and plans were made providing access to women in education, skill development, employment, gender sensitization, reservation (33% in Panchayati Raj & Municipalities).
Today, quite a large number of women have made remarkable progress contributing immensely to the development of the country. Women have not only woken up from the slumber of the millennia, but are actually attaining commanding heights in every field. We have women doctors, engineers, lawyers, architect, pilots, cops, politicians, scientist, professor and sportsperson. Result also shows that women capture most of the merit in university and other exams. Gradually the condition and status of women in India is slowly changing and rising. Women whether high or low, rich or poor, educated or illiterate, working women or housewives have become bold and ready to face all challenges. They have begun to take due place in free India.
However, a closer look at the condition of women in general will show that the so-called women power is more a myth than a reality. The challenges faced by women in dealing with issues relating to their deprivation are manifold in our society. Although the process of women’s empowerment has been successful to a certain extent, gender-related socio-economic biases still exist. Prenatal medical test are being increasingly resorted to abort female foetuses. Female infanticide is still being widely practiced. Majority of women still remain poor, deprived and illiterate. Young brides are kept like hostages in the house of their husband and held to ransom, extorting more and more dowry. Crime against women is on the rise – child rape, child prostitution, incest, abduction, dowry deaths, physical domestic violence and other forms of atrocities. Even as we were welcoming 2013, the Delhi rape case was a stark reminder of how the women of our country continue to be appallingly treated. In politics, even merit and personal talent of a women aspirant have become a liability. Women, who constitute about 49 percent of the vote bank in India, are yet to assert themselves on the Indian political Scene. Only few have gained eminence because of the sweat of their brow and personal talent.
According to the global poll conducted by Thomas Reuters “India is the fourth most dangerous country in the world for women, and the worst among the G20 countries”. Surprisingly, India ranks as the country with the maximum number of social legislation for women. What a Shame? Inspite of so many laws, women in India continue to face many social challenges “making their lives a living hell”. In a male dominated macho, it is difficult to make an objective evaluation of women’s place in the society. Sadly, inspite of tall claims about the advent of women power, women still remain vulnerable to men’s exploitation. Nevertheless, women should also know their duties and responsibilities towards their family, society and nation. We, the people, are the ambassadors of the country, it’s time we understand and redeem the system from serious sluggishness of evils. Let’s live well as citizens of heaven in a fallen world?