“For most of history, Anonymous was a woman.”
― Virginia Woolf

Women were respected in ancient India. But as the people started a settled lifestyle, work was divided as per the physical attributes of a man and a woman. So all household chores were meant to be done by women and outdoor activities by men.

There is a mention of women participation in assemblies called sabhas meant for discussions related to political affairs prior to later vedic period. But after that, as the society was stratified into different classes, assemblies were dominated by priestly class. Various texts had been written which codified different sets of norms for women. Text like Manusmriti and its  norms for women  are more about a male’s expectations from a woman rather than words of some mythological God.

We are living in a modern world today, a world, where human mind has proved its mettle, and helped humanity to come out of  the age old obsolete beliefs and ideas. Unlike olden times, today, one who has got grey matter can help in growth of the humanity irrespective of the gender. Then, what is stopping Indian women to unshackle themselves?

Like numerous other reports and findings, recent  Global Gender Gap Index by World Economic Forum reflects the plight of Indian woman. Till date, they are living in accordance with same obsolete social norms and customs. Practices like dowry system, start a vicious circle of exploitation in a woman’s life. A father doesn’t want a girl child and often kills her before she is born  because when she attains a marriageable age, she becomes a burden for him. The result is the skewed sex ratio.

In his book, An Uncertain Glory, Dr. Amartya Sen talks about a phenomenal rise of missing woman in India.

  • Using this norm , Amartya Sen sought to capture the cumulative impact of multiple forms of deprivation that women face over their lives .
  • It aims to  to understand the quantitative difference between :

(1) the actual number of women

(2) the number we expect to see in the absence of a significant bias against women in terms of food, and health care.

As per Sen, Missing women rise from 46.35 million in 2001 to 49.73 million in 2011, an increase of 3.38 million. A higher proportion of adult women(15 – 19 years ) raised the share of missing women, presumably because of higher maternal mortality. This shows that even when some of the girls survive, they are not given proper nutrition and health care. They are expected to get married at an early age and  have to go through abortions until they give birth to a male child. They are in a deplorable state, especially in some northern and western states of India.

Women in India have been facing prolonged subjugation in all walks of life. They still face  economic and political  backwardness. As Indian society represents a rumpled mix of modern and pre-modern ideologies, role and status of fairer sex has not seen any significant and positive change in most parts of the country yet.

As the traditional Indian value system says, a women is supposed to confine herself inside four walls of her house , performing her usual chores, and rearing up her children. Barring the liberated urban middle class women, who have partial encounter with modern ideas, women in most parts of the country are still performing the same traditional roles and are not allowed to become financially independent.

As  the duties women have to perform are pre defined, they are not allowed to get proper education. Despite constitutional guarantee and legislation in place, women working in informal sector face gender bias in the form of less remuneration than their male counterparts. Similarly, there are many provisions in Hindu succession Act which favour males heirs of the family.

Demand for women reservation bill is based on the ground that women in government would air the opinions of women in country and would focus on formulating female centric policies. But, studies show that almost 65 million women in India who are eligible to give votes are not part of the electorate, and hence, can not influence policy making. Skewed sex ratio further adds up to the disproportionate role of women in Indian polity .

Passage of 73rd and 74th amendment Acts, and reservation of seats in village councils and panchayats for women, led to  an increase in the participation of women at grass root level politics, but the positive impacts are not country wide. In many cases, it has been seen that taking the advantage of reservation system, males in their family enjoy the privileges meant for them. In this light, there is no point of getting solace out of slightly improved rank in terms of political empowerment of women as per recent Gender Gap Index.

The tendency to force his will over females, thinking they are weak and insecure, arises from conditioning of a child. If a child sees his father abusing or harassing his mother, there is high probability that he will also adopt same attitude towards females in future. Only an empowered , fearless and educated woman can condition her male child to respect other women.