The Status of Women in India
When Adam was created, Eve was- also created. Man’s life would have been very dull and difficult. if he had had no life-partner. It will be very unjust, if she is considered merely as an instrument to satisfy man’s erotic desire. Her capacity to love, endure and serve man is very great. Tagore says, “Woman is the builder and moulder of a nation’s destiny. Though delicate and soft as a lily she has a heart far stronger and bolder than a man.” Without women, men would have become brutes.
In ancient India women had an honourable place. Their education was not neglected. Some of them composed hymns. They took part actively in philosophical discussions. The wife participated in the religious offerings of the husband. She was the queen of his home.
Gradually, the status of women declined. They suffered from several disabilities. Child marriage was common. They were denied facilities for education.
Widows were not allowed to marry. ‘Safi’ became rife. Raja Ram Mohun Roy raised his stentorian voice against this practice. He submitted petitions to the British Parliament, furnishing facts and figures. In the lower provinces of Bengal alone, there were 8,000 cases of ‘Safi’ in fourteen years. At length, Roy succeeded in getting it declared illegal by the Governor-General William Bentick (4th December1892). The necessity of some other reforms was also Stressed. But even the educated classes were not willing to emancipate their women. Their uplift was, therefore, slow in taking shape.
By the beginning of the twentieth century, the position of Indian women had begun to show some change. When Gandhiji started his non-cooperation movement, they came forward to participate actively in the life of the nation. When men were in prison, women came out of their houses courageously and took charge of the struggle for freedom.
Indian women have distinguished themselves in Several fields. Ahalya Bai, Razia and Indira Gandhi are famous as rulers. The heroism of Rani Lakshmi Bai of Jhansi thrills us. The names of Mother Teresa, Vijalakshmi Pandit, Sarojini Naidu, Annie Besant and M.S. Subbalakshmi are very famous. Bachendri Pal is the first Indian woman to reach the top of the Everest. There are several Women in the I.A.S. and I.FS. In sports and games and. academic fife, Indian women have shown great ability.
A very tragic incident that took place in the late 1980s in Rajasthan has tarnished the image of India. A girl called RoopKalmar, burnt herself in the funeral pyre of her husband. A large crowd looked on -as the fire consumed her. The government should take prompt steps to prevent the recurrence of such barbaric acts in the future.
1975, which was declared as the International year of Women by the United Nations, ushered in a new era for the welfare of women. 1975-85′ was designated as the `Decade of Women’. In compliance with the directions from the UN, legislation was made by our Parliament. Consequently, some improvement in the position of the women has taken place.
The position of Indian women is somewhat better when compared with the women of some other countries. In.-Kuwait, and several other countries, women have no voting right. Our women enjoy this right. Our Constitution guarantees equality to them with men. Japan, the majority of women have to produce certificates of virginity from a gynecologist to their prospective husbands. In the Philippines, a wife cannot accept any appointment without getting the consent of her husband.
However we have, to admit that the position of the Indian women is not satisfactory. They are not given proper education. Dowry deaths have become common. Trevor Fish lock says more than five hundred women were burnt to death in Delhi alone in 1981. According to a recent Press report, every 102 minutes a bride is murdered in India for not giving dowry. Amniocentesis is conducted in some hospitals to determine the sex of the fetus. If it is a female, it is aborted since prospective parents don’t like to be burdened with the task of providing dowry for her. A report of the WHO says in many parts of India girls are more affected by malnutrition, but are not taken to hospital for treatment. Child marriages still exist. Very often the authorities do not take any action against the persons responsible for these marriages. Gujarat is the only State where there is a Child Marriage Prevention Officer. Literacy rate of the women in some states like Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh is very low.
A lot remains to be done for the amelioration of the condition of women in our country. We hope the Central Social Welfare Board, State Social Welfare Boards and other departments of the Government will take expeditious action to promote the welfare of women. The Police should also remain vigilant and take timely action against those who perpetrate atrocities on women.