Empowerment of woman in modern society
“An enlightened woman is a source of infinite energy.”
Twenty first century has brought in its trail a new hope for women. Dramatic changes had happened in the role, ambitions and attitude of women during the last few decades of twentieth century and are happening quite fast even now. Women have departed from their traditional role of reproducers, mothers and wives only. Till now, they were living under the shadow of father, husband or son. Now from a non-entity, they have been able to establish their independent identity.
But still, women feel insecure, unhappy and dissatisfied with their position and social status more than their predecessors? They are confused about their role and position in modern society? Is employment making women economically strong, but socially and emotionally broken? Why women have been relegated to secondary position, though they possess diverse capabilities and are participating equally in nation-building activities? Is it because they belong to weak, incapable of shouldering responsibility or intellectually incompetent? Nay, it is not so.
Then why modern women feel insecure and unhappy, despite attaining so much success in almost every sphere of modern world. Women have played multiple roles in life and in each role their performance is par excellence. Why women have to suffer innuendo kinds of physical violence, discrimination and emotional problems? The position of women is still far from satisfactory. There is still a deep entrenched discrimination against them almost in every walk of life. It crosses all the borders, age, region, race, caste, class or community.
Feminist Movement for empowerment
With times, women have risen up to situation – Modern women have proved that they are second to none, even outside home at their workplace, even in areas, which were far away from their traditional role of a house-maker or a mother. With changing times, they have risen up to the occasion and managed the work both inside and outside the home at their work place – such as in industry, media, IT, politics, technology, administration/ management, armed forces or civil services.
At home, they rear children with love and affection at home and manage household activities. They have shown their capability to deal with the recent economic depression – a situation of – with ingenuity. Like a financial expert they meet the challenges of the present times of ever rising prices in their own income.
Outside, they work shoulder-to-shoulder with men almost in all the areas. They are educated. Many of them are financially independent.
Modern women are more aware than their predecessor of their rights and are keen to exercise them. They know their worth in within the family, in the society and in the world.
It did not happen overnight. Women fought a fierce battle to reach up-to present position. They continuously worked hard to get equality, liberty and opportunity.
Movement for empowerment of women
Woman’s movement for empowerment in India is quite different from the similar movements in Western nations.
Women in western world
In the West, since beginning its focus was on establishing an independent identity of a woman free from male domination. The feminist movement in the West laid great stress on the freedom and liberty of women. It resulted in reacting aggressively against patriarchal system of society and male chauvinism.
Since Feminist movement for liberation and other revolutions took place in western world, the western society realized much earlier the need to improve the position of women in society. There the governments and the society made many efforts/reforms – legal, social, economic and political to gave to women more and more freedom and liberty to take their own decision without being influenced by the men-folk.
Women of Western world today enjoy more privileges in matters of education, employment, freedom, liberty & equality than their counterparts in eastern world.
Margaret Thatcher, the Prime Minister of United Kingdom during late eighties led her country from a bad economic condition to success. She has shown to the world that in a democracy, it is not necessary to bow down before the unreasonable demands of pressure groups or abandon useful but unpopular policies in order to win an election. Gorabachov’s Soviet Union watched with interest her efforts for economic development. She has shown to the world that women are capable of wielding political power even in a “Developed country” like England.
But the erosion of family values and decay of day today ‘social life’ has always been a matter of concern USA and the West. There people and leaders regularly call for the restoration of social/family values and systems, which basically depend on culture of ‘inclusiveness’ and not on the concept of ”exclusiveness’, which Western societies glamorizes.
Women in Eastern World
The eastern world, especially nations in Asia are still struggling to give to its women their rightful place. Problems of high female mortality rate, sexual harassment, deaths during childbirths still exist there. There are millions of women who have go through sexual harassment, domestic violence, discrimination, abuse or are denied of pleasures of life because of their gender. Their problems are deeply ingrained in the history, laws and cultures of complex and sophisticated Asian societies.
Beauty of Indian movement
In India, initially the focus of the movement for emancipation/empowerment of women-folk was to improve and not to denounce the traditionalvalues and systems. It was to lead women to freedom and remove darkness spread allover due to the apathyof powerful lobbies of the society, that crushed the spirit of men and women alike. It aimed to impower not only the women, but the nation as a whole. Therfore, under the guidance, encouragement and support of eminent male leaders like Gandhi, Nehru, Patel and social reformers like Raja Rammohan Roy, Ishwar Chand Vidyasagar, Vivekanand etc., women in India also challenged those quarters which were interested in holding all backwards.
Being under the foreign domination, India suffered for a long time due to multiple ills – poverty, illiteracy, ignorance due to superstitions and blind following of outdated customs and social practices, women being the worst victim. Therefore, the movement for empowerment focussed on education, social and legal reforms like like equal civic, personal and property rights to men and women. Stress was laid on ‘Stree Dharma’ (fundamental duties of women). The strength of the whole movement was based on its being above party, caste or communal politics.
Confusion in women’s mind about their role in life
There is a confusion in women’s mind as well as to what should be their role in life – that of a home-maker or a career woman. On one hand they are under constant pressure, because psychological strains are created by the need to conform to socially induced images of femininity – to be a good wife, perfect mother and efficient home-maker. On the other, desire to establish their own identity or financial strains in family life force them to become career women.
Why Indian women feel insecure in general?
Generally women suffer deprivation, discrimination, humiliation and denial of basic human rights in varying degrees at some point or the other. Discrimination against them is at every stage of life and every where. It may be a girl child, a married woman, a single woman, a working woman, refugees or women belonging to lower, middle or upper strata of society.
In India, women in general form one of the most vulnerable sections of Indian Society. Women are at disadvantage due to:
- Class oppression due to poverty,
- Economic dependence on male counterpart,
- Caste oppression due to inter caste clashes
- Social taboos and
- Gender oppression
- Increasing number of crimes.
Many transitions in one life for a woman
A woman faces many transitions in one life. Almost every tenth year brings a major change in her life. With each transition, her role and position in society changes drastically. She needs attention, support, care and love of her near and dear ones during transition from one phase to another – in her childhood of her parents and close relations, in her youth of her spouse, in her old age of her sons and daughters. It is usually apathy of people concerned, at every stage of her life, which makes a woman’s life miserable. Discrimination against her starts much before she is born- in the form of feticide and continues till her last breadth.
Unfortunately, most of the times, it is her own family and people, who are responsible for her sufferings. Women generally prefer to suffer silently than to go to courts or seek justice in the courts/state authorities or any outside agency. The consumerist culture has increased atrocities, domestic violence and physical assaults on women.
Position of women in the ninetteenth century
Up-til the beginning of twentieth century women in India along with other women all over the world were hedged in by many social, economic, legal and religious restrictions. Most on them were illiterate, ignorant and confined them within the four walls of the house for centuries. They were not aware of their rights. Ignorance and deprivation were accepted as their lot. They were far away from the mainstream, cut of from all the communications with outside world and generally confined within the four walls of their house.
Still victims of social evils and discrimination
A large number of women are still victims of many evil social customs and traditions, which are ingrained in the history, culture and laws of the patriarchal system of society. Most heinous crimes are still done against women irrespective of caste, creed, time or place such as infanticide, feticide, physical abuse, early marriage, illiteracy, unequal rights in marriage, divorce, rape, molestation, dowry deaths, inheritance, polygamy, inauspicious widowhood with severe disabilities and restrictions, restrictions on widow remarriage or Sati etc.etc,. The list is endless. Crimes against women are increasing everyday.
Societal bias against women continues as revealed by falling sex-ratio. India may be progressing economically, but socially it is on its back gear. On gender issues it lags behind alarmingly – be it sex-ratio or number of crimes, as statistics show, against women. On paper there are enough laws to tackle the issues, but without much positive results. The sex ratio has steadily declined over the 20th century. The sex ratio in 1901 census was 975 female to every 1000 males. Now according to pprovisional data of Census 2011, released on 31st April 2011, national sex ratio is 940 females for every 1000 males in 2011, child sex (0-6years) has worsened to 914 in 2011 from 927 in 2001. Decline is unabated since 1961 Census.
Poor statics in other spheres as well
As for health-care, the National Sample Health Survey showed that over 50% of women are anemic. India’s maternal mortality ratio is highest in South Asia: 540 deaths per 1,00,000 live births.(TOI, 8.3.07, P.18) Though 70% of the female labor force works is in agriculture, less than 10% of women farmers are landowners. Nearly half the women in India are still illiterate. Literacy rate 65 years after independence has reached for females only upto 65% (total being 74% and for males 82%).
Reasons for sufferings/insecurity of women-folk are many like –
- Indifferent attitude – The male-dominated society and callous government usually turns a blind eye to the gender issues. Mr. P.A. Sebastian, Secretary of the Committee for People’s Democratic Rights, says, “Women have to face an uphill task for taking women’s issues as, firstly most people are indifferent to atrocities that do not affect them, it is only a microscopic minority, which reacts. Secondly, the administration and judiciary are very slow in reaching and taking any kind of measure and sometimes even stall the proceedings.”
- Strains on modern families – A modern woman, when in need, does not find enough support systems to fall back on, which usually her own family used to provide earlier. Due to fast-pace of modern life, busy life-style, lack of time and other constraints on modern families, it has become almost impossible to get earlier kind of emotional or physical support. Many surveys show that a significant number of women leave workforce when they start a family. Maternity is usually seen as a disruption in career. There is a dramatic decline in the share of women as they move up the hierarchy.
- Growing intolerance amongst youths – The tolerance level of people is continuously decreasing. Aspirations and ambitions have increased beyond limits. Everybody wishes to touch the sky with least effort and with no loss of time. Failure in achieving one’s targets due to one reason or the other, make a person intolerant and angry.
- Liberal ‘divorce’ laws – In metros and modern families, marriages are no more considered to be a lifelong commitment. Intolerance amongst youth is increasing. A woman can not be sure due to lack of mutual understanding, how long her marriage will last. It does not take much time or effort for both the couple to walk out. A little bit of intolerance or misunderstanding puts her married status in danger and compels her to cope up with all kinds of problems and difficult situations single-handedly.
- Adversities of life arising out of economic, social, psychological and environmental situations hit women’s world worst. During times of war, struggle, unstable economy, natural calamities and infighting amongst various sections of society or inter-group or intra-group clashes, women along-with children are the primary victims and are worst hit.
- At times in an attempt to safeguard/uphold their independence/authority within the family or at working place, some women become insensitive, narrow minded and sometimes ruthless. Too much of assertion of their independence or authority create complications in their own life and in others’ lives as well, which ultimately develop insecurity in women’ s minds.
- Government of India has made some draconion laws in favour of women with an intention to protect them from violence and discrimination. Instead of gaining the sympathy of society or the opposite sex, they have earned the wrath/ire of menfolk and the society. Such laws are being misused by some shrewd women to teach men/society a lesson. Male members or his relatives can not even raise their voice against the misuse of such legislations.
- Government’s inefficiency/failure to implement honestly and sincerely the laws passed to protect the interests of women.
Disoriented psyche of Modern Woman
It has been observed that too much stress on women’s liberty has developed in women a disoriented form of psyche, where nothing but ‘self’ matters – ‘I, my and me’. Women too like men are now in a rat race for power, position and money. Self-gratification and heroism (feeling of being super women) is taking prevalence over social responsibilities. Breaking down of value system is affecting adversely familial bonds or bonds of marital loyality. They are in a hurry to fulfil their desires and in the process end seems to justify means. Such an attitude has led to a situation, where they do not want to compromise in any way their time and resources, most of the times not even for their own children. Modern women many a times do not find or devote enough time to inculcate positive values in the minds of growing-up children. Rising number of different kinds of crimes and lawlessness in the society as well as in the nation is to some extent .
Position of women in ancient India
The position of women was not always so bad in India. In ancient India, during the Vedic period, women were placed on a high pedestal. In her role of a good wife and a worthy mother, she commanded a great deal of respect and honor in the society. They were known for their mental alertness, intuition and spiritual qualities of love and service. The best of qualities a human being can possess like knowledge, wealth, strength and ability to provide food and shelter were all visualised in the form of woman – Saraswati, Laxmi, Durga, Annapurna respectively. She had freedom and access to education and knowledge. Gargi and Maitreyi are well known for their pursuit of knowledge. Maharshi Manu, who set the code of conduct for Indian society, said, “Yatra Naryastu Pujyante, Ramate Tatra Devata”, meaning where woman is worshipped, there resides god.
During later period of Vedic age, as described in Brahamanas and Sutras, women lost their independence and their status was degraded to that of ‘Shudras’. Women were regarded as unfit for independent life. After the revival of Hinduism, according to Chinese travellars, marriages between men of higher castes and women of lower castes were permitted and their offsprings were given a recognised position in society. Marriages of widows was dis couraged, custom of Sati was established, but child marriage was unknown. Women were taught Arts and Shashtras as well. (Tara Chand, p. 82)
Position during medieval period
Seventh century onwards, with the downfall of Hindu Raj and continuous invasions of Turks, Afghans and Mughals, the position of woman deteriorated fast. Right to education was taken away from them. They became the victims of illiteracy, ignorance, complete male-domination and many kinds of religious and social restrictions. Patriarchal system institutionalized unequal nature of family laws and traditions. Property was inherited only by sons.
In some parts of northern India, Bengal and Rajputana, women from families of Rajah, Chiefs, Zamindars and upper castes suffered from social evils like ‘Purdah system’, ‘Sati Pratha, ‘dowry’ ‘poligarnmy’ and ‘infanticide’, renunciation of all the comforts and happiness by widows (young or old). In Maharashtra, these evils were curbed to some extent by the energetic steps taken by Peshwa.
Nevertheless, this does not mean that there were no exceptions to this rule. Even during those days, there were a few great women like Rani Laxmibai, Chand Bibi, Milya Bai, Razia Sultana etc. who came into forefront, led people and earned fame and respect of people.
Position of women in modern period
During the second half of the nineteenth century, modern education drew the attention of some sensitive Indians and reformers like Swami Dayanand, Maharshi Karve, Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Gandhiji etc. towards the oppressive and evil social customs, practices and traditions. They tried to put to an end those evil practices. They worked for the better future and emancipation of women community. Inspired by Gandhiji, many women from well to do and middle class families not only received education, but also came out to take part in public life.
Women’s Associations were formed allover the country. All India Women’s Conference was formed in 1926 and is working since then to support legitimate demands of women. All India Muslim Ladies Conference was started in 1914. Leading Muslim ladies demanded abolition of Purdah system, restrictions on polygamy and spread of education for women. They were supported by reformists.
Wives of some viceroys showed interest in the uplift and education of women and helped in opening some colleges and institution for them. In 1923, due to sincere efforts of Mrs. Ramabai Ranade, Women India Association was formed with branches allover the country. It rendered valuable service to the cause of women.
Position after Independence:
Brighter Side of Women’s development
Since Independence, India is passing through times of rapid changes in social behavior. It is still in transitional phase. Government took upon itself responsibility of protecting its women, providing them better conditions of living, better education, better medical facilities, better job-opportunities and opening up enough avenues for them to grow to their fullest stature.
Constitution of India gave them freedom, equality and access to education and employment. Government of India issues guidelines, from time to time, to Central and State Government for formulating and implementing action programs for women. It has identified areas of health, family planning, nutrition, education, vocational courses for women, employment, legal provisions and social welfare for its future action plans.
Woman herself has become aware and confident of her mind, capabilities and rights. She started questioning the stereo type assumptions that went with womanhood. Gradual and greater awareness has led her to make her own decisions. She made her own efforts for welfare of women and secured more space in economic, political and social spheres for them through the intervention of government’s authorities. The older typical image, slowly and slowly, started getting diffused. Women got a foothold in modern world and started leading active life.
A separate Department of Women & Child Development
In 1985, a separate Department of Women & Child Development was set up within the Ministry of Human Resource development to implement/monitor the comprehensive programs and to ensure all round development of Women. National Perspective Plan (NPP) 1988-2000 A.D. prepared a base for future strategies. It put a major thrust in the programs for women development, particularly to raise the social and economic status of women. It also instructs the Government to ensure that women are properly covered by developmental schemes.
There had been many changes during last few decades of twentieth century. Many bright and dynamic young women came forward and joined the national mainstream through working and reaching at decision making levels in different disciplines like politics, administration, economics, technology, industry, journalism and other developmental fields, which are far away from her traditional role of a housewife. Many of them made their presence felt in Indian society. The name of Mrs. Indira Gandhi, former Prime Minister (1965 to 1984) is worth mentioning here. At present, everybody is well aware of the important place occupied by Sonia Gandhi and her role in Indian politics. However the number of women who have joined the main-stream is very small.
Twenty first century has brought a new hope for women. Many women have joined the workforce and become quite ambitious about their own career in the same manner as men are. However the number of women who have joined the main-stream is very small.
Darker Side – In general, women are still victims of discrimination.
Plight of women in India
At present, there exist three types of groups amongst women in Indian society belonging to:
(i) Those of homemakers only;
(ii) Those of career-women;
(iii) Those, who opt both for career and family..
Plight of home-makers
A woman as a homemaker contributes a lot directly by providing a sound foundation for well-knit family and a stable society and indirectly in development of nation by giving it confident, encouraged and responsible young citizens. She inculcates positive qualities in future citizens of the nation i.e. their children, which once imbibed, inevitably become part of their nature and provide guidelines for their wholesome behaviour pattern.
In return, what she gets is only lip service and apathy of everybody. A woman in her traditional role as a homemaker/ housewife is the most neglected person in modern society. Degree of negligence differs at different places and is ingrained in mindset of its people, laws, history, customs and cultures of different societies.
In India, most of Indian women are homemakers only either by choice or per-force of circumstances. Task of running a house and rearing up children are by no means easy tasks. It is very tedious and repetitive in nature. They face many difficulties and make many sacrifices while doing multi- faceted jobs within their house, though in smaller area, like house-keeping, accounting, counseling, commuting, nursing, taking care of elders in the family, rearing up children, educating them, inculcating confidence and good values in them, etc. etc.
A home-maker generates in each and every member of family a feeling of being wanted and loved. She provides to her husband tension-free atmosphere to develop his personality in full and prosper in life. He gets enough time, energy and purpose to pursue/progress in his career without hassle. To elders she provides a desirable shelter and comfort. She is, in true sense, a trainer of a child from its infancy. All these jobs require lots of patience, tolerance and sense of responsibility. Contribution of homemakers to society and the nation in socio-economic areas is immense.
A few years back, Salary.com a website tracks the value for the variety of jobs done by a modern woman. It has been assessed that in USA average housewife’s job saves money worth $134,000 a year. Urban Indian woman might be doing as much as their US counterparts.
But what do homemakers get in return from the society or the nation for spending all their time and energy in managing all family affairs/chores efficiently and making everybody in the family happy, comfortable and contended. It is not recognized as a fulfilling and respected job by modern society. It is considered as a thankless job. The contribution of homemakers to the family or society as a daughter, as a wife or as a mother usually remains invisible, undervalued, unpaid. It is taken for granted. People usually pay only lip service to stay-at-home women.
Willingly or unwillingly, a homemaker is still under many social, economic, legal and religious restrictions. After marriage, she looses her individual identity. Since she does not earn money directly, her position in family is belittled. Economically she always remains dependent on man throughout her life either on father or husband or sons. Society considers her a big burden/liability. She is victim of many evil social practices like dowry, infanticide, violence etc.etc.
Homemakers are regarded as ignorant drudge, unworthy of interest, useless and dull creatures. Quite often, she is made fun for wasting her time and energy in gossiping and quarrelling with each other or cooking and doing other thankless/boring household jobs. Even career women make fun of home-makers considering them good enough only to marry and do household jobs. The worst part of it is that no homemaker herself raises voice against such misconceptions.
Such an attitude of society either shakes her confidence or works as a disincentive. The whole atmosphere has become so suffocating for a modern home-maker, that she herself has started considering management of house a thankless job and desires to join the mainstream and earn directly.
Plight of career women
In recent past, modern women have departed from their traditional role of only being housewives/ homemakers or reproducers, mothers and wives. Price-rise, inflation, economic strains on family has forced women to work and add something to the family income. The only respectful means for augmenting the family income needs both husband and wife to go for a paid job.
The number of women opting for career as well as family life is increasing day-by-day. Two income families are fast becoming the norm of Indian Society. A regular paid job has made her financially secure and satisfied, liberated and empowered. But seeing the difficulties, a career women faces, one is often forced to think does employment make a woman economically strong, but socially and emotionally broken.
Rejection becomes a big hurdle for her. There is always a fear at the back of her mind that if she loses the chance, there are many others waiting in the queue It makes it easier for her to become a prey of exploitation/oppression.
Taking up a full time job is not much of a problem for single women/childless women or women having grown-up children. The number of women, who take up career and do not enter into matrimonial bondage, is very little. But barring a few stray cases, it becomes very difficult and strenuous for a career woman to manage both the household tasks and the responsibilities assigned to them at their work place.
All the time, they have to work very-very hard, a bit here and a bit there and thus they have to cope with the work at home and in the office. Their problems relate to being able to manage both the household chores plus responsibilities of workplace and at the same time compete equally with men at workplace. She is always in a tough competition with her male counterparts throughout her career, who are carefree and have all the time to devote to further their career prospects. It is easier for them to pay full attention at office and move in the ladder faster.
Sometimes, because of stress and strains, a career woman, she faces health problems as well like difficulty in conceiving or delivering a healthy baby, miscarriages, birth of abnormal/unhealthy baby etc. At later stages, her busy schedule affects adversely proper growth of children in different degrees.
The darker side od women’s lib is that woman who acted as a pivot around which the whole familial and social life revolved, is loosing her grip and is under the influence of her whims and fancies. She is becoming more and more aggressive and rude, most of the time shouting on others and showing all kinds of tantrums – emotional and violent outbursts.
Is Child-care a dilemma? –Child care and proper upbringing of small children, who need twenty four hours mothers’ attention and presence at home has become a dilemma for career women. Parenting and inculcating right values in children requires a lot of time and patience during a child’s growing years.
Dearth of time and required attention of parents at right time, lack of stimulation at home, while children are growing up, tense atmosphere and impaired relationships between parents, dictatorial handling of children during their tender age and easy availability of and access to money tempts children to bad habits.
The concept of spending ‘quality’ or ‘quantity’ time with children does not work well. Many parents buy materialistic goods for them to clear their guilt conscience of not being there for them. In the dual worker families with dependent children, the concerns can range from sheer logistic problems associated with providing proper child-care to emotional challenges tied to not being there, when one’s children are growing.
It is the irony of the modern times that when children need their mothers the most, a modern career mother hardly gets time to spend with them. Her mind remains busy in unresolved problems of work-place and her career prospects, even at that time too, when she is at home. When she finds spare time, her children do not need her much, as they get involved in schools or in other activities elsewhere and remain busy in their own world.
Alienation? – Sometimes, improper handling during their tender age may make children irritant or undisciplined or hamper normal growth of children’s abilities. Many cchildren develop the feeling of alienation and revolting indulgence. They may become uncommitted to values of their parents or the ‘establishment’. Some of them become the victim of harmful evils like drug addiction (an evil, which has come across as shockingly and poignantly) in order to escape from problems that may be real or imaginary.
To prevent such harmful evils from spreading in the society, it is necessary that parents shall find out enough time for their children. It would develop in children feeling of interdependence and a feeling of being wanted and being loved. They should provide them a secure and stable home environment. Children can be kept busy with sports, hobbies and other useful activities, which could which could slant them away from evil outlets.
Support systems – There exist many support systems, but not without constraints. If young couple depend on their old parents or in-laws for taking care of their children and in performing daily household chores, they become overburdened and find it difficult to cope with the responsibilities properly due to their failing health. If they depend on servants, they are expensive, unreliable, untrained and do not stay around for long.
Crutches/day care center, are overcrowded and are run more on commercial basis rather than paying attention required for proper upbringing of children. Besides a mother’s role is so crucial that nobody else can substitute her for cultivating positive qualities, which once imbibed, would inevitably became part of one’s nature and provide the guidelines for wholesome behavior patterns.
In short, career women themselves are overburdened. Neither they could do full justice to home-tasks nor to their duties at work place. At home, their kids are deprived of the tender and affectionate care and love of the mother. The nation is at loss from having confident and healthy citizens – mentally, physically and economically. Such a dilemma is seen not only in India, but in advanced countries too, where government has created enough facilities and arrangements to make their citizens secure and comfortable.
Plight of an urban woman
Two income families are fast becoming the norm of urban modern society. It puts a great pressure on urban women. Modern trend of nuclear family system and desire of liberated woman for complete freedom have aggravated their problems.
The urban women have to suffer mainly due to lack of support systems. Old traditional support systems are gradually vanishing and new systems supposed to replace them are not up to the expectations and satisfaction. For some couples day-care or crutches are too expensive.
In addition to it, increased necessities due to consumerism and lure for luxury items have added to the miseries of urban women, who suffer more than a rural woman due to social evils like infanticide, dowry, divorce, child care, polygamy etc.
Plight of rural women
In rural India, most of the women are victim of poverty, ignorance, illiteracy and unemployment. Rural women irrespective of caste or class have to suffer more than urban women in three critical areas: –
- Ø Access to education,
- Ø Reproductive health, and
- Ø Credit Resources.
Illiteracy is wide spread in rural areas, which has made rural women superstitious, unemployable and victim of different kinds of oppressions. Poverty frequently pushes unemployed men to go to distant places in search of jobs and leave their families behind. Most of rural women in about 30% to 35% rural households, women are sole breadwinner with complete responsibility to raise children and run the household. They mostly work in unorganized sector and are usually oppressed or exploited by their employers.
Most of the women in rural areas become victims of abuse, harassment, humiliation and exploitation because of the laziness, drunkenness, debts, vices or violent attitude of their own men-folk. Wife beating, desertions, polygamy are the common practices amongst them.
Male members of the family are incapable to protect own women. They tolerate atrocities on their women by others with down cast eyes. Nobody comes forward to rescue the victims or has the courage to condemn exploitation of their own women. In addition to it women’s own helplessness, unawareness or inherent weaknesses put them in difficult situations.
However, women belonging to lower castes get laxity in regard to all those social or religious restrictions, rituals and observances, by which urban women or caste Hindu women suffers like Pardah system, polygamy, Sati Pratha etc. Widows have lesser ritual or religious restrictions. Divorce or remarriage is allowed to rural women.
Caste Color to gender issues
Generally, the suppression and slave like conditions of women do not evoke much sympathy in the hearts of men-community. On the contrary, many male members of the society try to cash on women’s sufferings. In fact the male-dominated society and callous Government turns a blind eye to the gender issues.
In the present atmosphere of politicization of caste, Caste-color is given to gender issues. Gender issues are very conveniently turned into caste issues by vested shrewd persons/politicians. Such an attitude pushes the oppressed women into the background unnoticed. It is done purposely to evoke public sentiments against other castes living there. Politicians reap benefit out of it.
Attempts done to empower women so far like few drops in the ocean?
Reality is much deeper than what one sees on the surface or in the papers. The attempts done so far in India towards women’s development could make a small section of women educated and aware. They are doing several things which women were not allowed to do a few years back. But these attempts are just like few drops in the ocean. Much more is required to be done in this area.
The pace of women’s advancement has been very slow. It is very difficult to make a breakthrough in age old traditions, customs and accepted norms/values in the society. Despite all the efforts made for women’s uplift, plight of average women has not been changed much. She still remains the most maligned/ill-treated person even in modern society.
Deep thinking of authorities, national determination and political-will are needed to assess women’s properly problem-areas and to remove hurdles lying on their way to join the mainstream. It necessitates toning up social, legal, political and economic systems. It involves social mobilization and transformation of outdated social values. Plans for women’s development need to be made very carefully, so that not only they, but also the whole society and nation could benefit.
There is a need to create supportive infrastructure for women to enhance their confidence and ensure their security. For it, policy makers need to understand that liberation means liberation from atrocities and oppression. The policies, they make or programs they initiate should be directed to educate all the women, so that they could become confident, self-sufficient, and capable to participate in nation building activities. It is necessary to inculcate in women scientific temper and courage to fight against evil social practices. They should be made aware of the legal infrastructure of the nation, especially about the special legal measures taken to protect them from atrocities and exploitation.
Education of a girl child
So far, Government has attempted to educate all the women, but without desirable results. According to 2011 census the literacy rate amongst women could reach only up-to 65%. Reluctance of parents to send their daughters to co-educational institutions or hostels, or their economic difficulties creates problems for girls to get educated. Quite often talented and hard-working girls are by-passed, while arrangements are made for the brother.
Challenge of education, A Policy Perspective 1985 has observed “As far as the participation of girls in education is concerned, it is clear that even after considerable acceleration in recent years because of deliberate measures to facilitate their participation, girls are still way behind the boys. To a great extent this disparity is more the result of economic and occupational problems and cultural biases of society than the accessibility of educational facilities. Even though the performance of girls compares favourably with the boys, relatively fewer girls seek admission to professional courses other than those pertaining to medicine, teacher training and nursing.”
Many parents still do not like to send their daughters to far away schools. They still hesitate to send girls to co-educational institutions and are particularly averse to those, in which there are male teachers. A large number of girls get little education or no education at all due to financial constraints or domestic responsibilities or early marriage or early child birth etc.
As a result of this attitude, many girls seldom get opportunity to develop their personality and fulfil their ambitions. Half of the opportunities/career-courses available to them are not known to many girls especially those belonging to poor families or living in remote areas. It is still difficult for them to get free access to modern facilities like computer or internet.
Their easy access to Open University and distance education programs could solve these problems to a great extent.
Sound system of education and training makes any person broad-minded, liberated and financially independent and to inculcate in them knowledge. Training imbibes in them attitude, work-habits and skills. Swami Vivekananda has said when you educate a man you educate only one person. But when you educate a woman you educate a whole family.
Prepare them to join mainstream
The number of employed women is also not at all satisfactory. It is only 12% of the total number of women. Even this employment figure is the result of the contribution made by those uneducated rural women, who work as marginal labour in agricultural sector without increasing productivity. It means that majority of Indian women, whether educated or uneducated whether living in urban areas or in rural areas, remain either unemployed or underemployed. Economically woman is still dependent on man.
Women population consists of about 50% of total population. They form a vast reservoir of human resource, which is yet to be tapped and utilized fully. At present, career opportunities have no matching training facilities. There is absence of enough job oriented courses for women. Many girls are left with no alternative but to join local colleges/universities just to pass time, keep them busy till they get married and obtain degrees in Arts, Science or Commerce.
Therefore, more and more job oriented vocational course, professional education, training and refresher courses need to be created for them. It would inculcate in them knowledge, attitude, work-habits and skills and to create groups of skilled women. Also enough special short term refresher training and coaching programs need to be arranged in order to fill the gap incurred in their career due to familial liabilities. There is a need to create enough job-opportunities for women. It also requires that information about the opportunities should be available to them.
Entrepreneurship among women needs to be promoted. Government can facilitate credit by providing financial assistance to them. There should be no age-bar for women to join jobs in organized sector. It would enable them to join organized sector at appropriate point of time in their life and fill the gap incurred in their career due to familial liabilities. More and more job oriented vocational courses and a good and congenial atmosphere to work.
If planned properly the education and family-life, with the norm of two children in a family, most of women could be free from their motherhood liabilities and could find enough time to join the mainstream and plan their career without hindrance. Arrangements of short term refresher training or coaching programmes can solve the problem of filling the gap incurring between their graduation from educational institutions and start of a regular career. Benefit of Open University and distance education programs could be taken for this purpose. It would enable women to get employed again. The gap incurred in their career would not block their way to enter into the mainstream once again.
Views on position of women
There are different views about what the position of women in society is and what should be their role. There are two extreme views about it –
Feminists’ point of view – Till mid seventies, feminists concentrated more on issues like discriminatory laws of inheritance, domestic violence, rape, equal pay etc. They blamed oppressive practices of society, hypocrisy of men, religious beliefs and socio-economic-political systems, for enhancing women’s miseries. Now they are in stiff competition with male members of society. Their attention is more on countering the space given to males in patriarchal society rather than on how to tackle women issues.
According to them, society still considers woman a “Problem”. Hindu religion trains them to seek fulfilment in self-denial and tolerate humiliation throughout her life. It is dinned into woman’s head right from the beginning that a woman’s world begins and ends with the happiness of her family. That there could be something else more exciting, fulfilling and different, never crosses her mind.
They feel that forceful and aggressive qualities of body and mind of man has imposed on women many kinds of restrictions. The traditional and historical demarcation of activities, in which male members leave the home for paid labour and women remain at home performing longer hours of unpaid work is a great injustice. Patriarchal system of society has relegated women to secondary status in the society, strengthened and institutionalized unequal family laws and traditions. Feminists advice women, “do not work hard on your relationship. Work smart”.
Feminists accuse the Government for not taking appropriate policy measures addressed to woman’s problems seriously. All principles, programs and laws which guarantee freedom, equality, liberty, humanly treatment to all remain inapplicable in the case of women.
Traditional point of view
Traditionalists assert that equality, for which some feminist women are clamouring, is worthless. It is difficult, how-so-ever hard one tries to ignore/get over those inherent gender dissimilarities, which nature has created in their physique, style and attitudes. Women, by nature are more patient, tolerant, responsible and understanding than man.
Healthy relationship between husband and wife makes the world more colourful, comfortable and give each other purpose of life. It gives both of them incentive to work hard, move forward and make everybody happy within the family.
There is no substitute for a mother’s loving care. Constant interaction of parents with children is the key learning tool needed in growing years. A mother can guide better the physical and mental growth of her children, develop their character and mould them into civilized young citizen. While doing so, women get inner satisfaction and sense of fulfillment. Absence of mother from the house hampers the proper growth of a child. Quite often insecurity, vengeance, emotional deprivation creeps in within the minds of children.
Except for a few exceptions, concept of “family” and “home, sweet home” is vanishing from the Indian scene as well. Centuries old institution of ‘family’, which has, so far, provided emotional support to all family members is no longer remained a cushion either for husband, children, elders or sick.
Too much stress on liberty and freedom of women has taken away sheen from the centuries old social institution known as ‘family’. An impulsive mind can not think rationally. Till now, they have given refuge and emotional support to all – young or old. Now their absence from home has developed insecurity in minds of children and old people. The increasing burden of work within and outside the house has often resulted in domestic quarrels, which at times end up in divorce.
Divorce creates unhappy situations for both the couples. The most bitterly contested issue is that of child custody. And given the parallel increase in number of divorced people remarrying, the issue takes on an added complexity. Increasing number of divorce cases or cases of mental depression amongst women due to stress/pressures are the living examples of it.
Idea of the development of women in Indian atmosphere does not match the idea of the western women’s liberation movement. Western women have progressed a lot and enjoy the freedom in their own way. But has anyone peeped in their personal lives? They are only independent. There are no finer nuances in their relationship. Familial ties do not carry much meaning to them. Marriage, divorce, re-marriage, custody of children, insecurity amongst children are causing severe problems for Western society.
Requirements of 21st century
The need of the modern times is to maintain a balance between femininity and ambition. The measures for improving the status of women should not destroy those valuable components of Indian culture, which sustains life, activity and happiness of all within a family. Without them a woman’s life becomes just like a bouquet of paper flowers, which does not have any fragrance and after some times looses its charm.
Nucleus family system gives enough space and opportunity to grow and adjust with each other. Her husband shares all her familial liabilities and willingly takes care of her parents and blood relatives. Both have equal share in matters relating to finances. Husband shares the responsibility for parenting/child-rearing and home-management. Still many couples are not able to create an environment of partnership that is comfortable to all the nucleus family members, leave aside the extended family.
Now in most of the families, elders can not interfere in young couple’s decisions. It is considered to be absolutely personal matter. There is no emotional pressure of on the woman of a nucleus family. However, the more she gets, more she desires. Now she wants complete freedom from all familial responsibilities including that of her own household.
An Indian woman has various dimensions to her personality – that of a daughter, sister, wife, a mother, a grand mother – each one adds to her happiness. She does not need to ape West’s materialistic value system, where it has already been shifted from “being” to “having”. The finer values of life have given way to sheer selfishness, chasing money, materialism, commercialism and desire to possess more and more luxurious goods/comforts. Modernization has increased their necessities & economic expectations.
Psyche of modern liberated women
Recent transition has made some of women over-confident and over-ambitious. The psyche of such modern, educated and liberated women has led them to be in ruthless competition with men. In their hurry to win the race and further their career, they overlook their social responsibilities. They desire to have similar freedom, liberty and carefree life, as usually male counterparts enjoy. They prefer to act or behave like men.
Many women desire to set themselves free from all bondage of kinship. Some of them prefer to go far away from their homes and settle down in unknown places or in foreign lands, where she enjoy anonymity, get total control over activities of their spouses and enforce on everybody their own will/manifesto.
As movement of women’s lib is gaining momentum, a drastic transition is taking place in the attitude of both the sexes. Role of man in performing household chores and responsibilities in rearing up infants and toddlers is increasing. His say in family matters is diminishing. Usually voice of woman in a house prevails, men finds themselves helpless.
Such women take all major decisions in the family and to dictate their own terms. They want to control the destiny of everybody around them. They do whatever they want and enjoy life in their own way. To them, nothing matters in life except for their own self. Is it a true empowerment or it is a mirage?
Women need to be careful by exercising some self-control and self-discipline, so that they do not hurt the feelings or rights of others in the family or society. A woman needs to understand that she should not try to act or behave like a man. There is much more grace in femininity. The roles of man and woman in a society are not competitive but complementary. A woman can remain more safe, secure, confident and successful, till she lives in protected atmosphere in the company of her male counterpart.
Empowerment of women
“Empowerment” is only a political slogan as of date. Presence of a few persons of a section in power structure does not change the condition of its majority. These political campaigns mislead people and betray the cause. What is needed for empowering women is toning up social, legal, political and economic systems. True empowerment requires clear cut policies by identifying the specific problem areas and then based on them, the approach for its solution to be followed.
Reservations for women
Some leaders suggest that Reservation of jobs for women is one of the ways, which can empower women. If Government, political parties and its leaders have real faith in Policy of Reservation, then on the grounds of deprivation, discrimination and under-representation, no other section of society deserves Reservation more than women.
However women have set a classic example that they can make progress without crutches. Though the progress is slow, but it is definitely sustainable. Women’s march towards progress/empowerment is unstoppable and irreversible. Reservation Policy will not necessarily lead to the sustainable growth of women-folk.
If women can do so without Reservation, why can not men of SCs, STs or OBCs? If for any reason or rhyme, government finds itself to provide reservation to women, then it should abolish immediately this discriminatory policy of reservation.
The need of special attention in case of women arises not because they are intellectually inferior to men, but because they miss many opportunities, when some crucial years of their life are spent in fulfilling familial responsibilities. That time they serve humanity and the nation by taking care of the future generation, cultivating in them positive qualities, which once imbibed, inevitably become part of one’s nature and provide guidelines for their wholesome behavior pattern.
For their valuable contribution to the society and the nation, if they could not be rewarded, then at least, they should not be punished.
Enhancement of women’s self-esteem, stopping their progress from getting de-railed and getting their active participation in constructive work, the attention of social and political authorities is required to be focused on social mobilization and transformation of outdated social values.
Fifth Pay Commission
Fifth Pay commission for central government employees made certain useful suggestions. After assessing specific needs of women, the Vth Pay Commission observed, “Representation of women at the supervisory decision-making/managerial levels both in Government and Public Sector Undertakings is very limited…”
Therefore, it suggested “Age of recruitment for women employees may be enhanced to 35 years, as by that time in a majority of cases, family commitments would be more manageable and children would be fairly grown up.” It recommended the concept of flexi-time and flexi-place on trial basis. Voluntary system of option for serving women-employees to work half time for a maximum of six years in a career, when the children are young and family commitments are at the maximum. It also recommended the government to sympathetically take care of their accommodation, nature of posting, transport facilities, child-care facilities at day care centers or crèches etc.
Such concessions for women are required, so that Women can continue to take responsibility of her dependent children, elderly relatives. They can do justice to their familial responsibilities. Their increasing participation in work outside home should not become inexorably taxing. They can balance work and family responsibilities together.
Some more suggestions
- First of all, creating gender sensitization is necessary. People have to overcome negative assumptions, prejudices and religious or social practices, which had led to unproductive ethos. For it, a new way of thinking, a new philosophy, a new kind of attitude is required which regard all people, irrespective of gender, equal.
- A woman herself should make efforts for her empowerment and well-being – be it physical, emotional or spiritual and become an ‘enlightened woman’. She has to make herself capable of thinking on her own about her well being, taking her own decisions rationally without fear or favour and without being swayed away by whims/fancies or emotions. She should be bold enough to counter the reactionary customs and social inhibitions, which have kept the Indian women in bondage and misery.
- First and foremost task of the government is to make adequate arrangements for the education of all women. It would bring enlightenment and inculcate in them proper knowledge, attitude, work-habits and skills, scientific temper and confidence and courage to fight against evil social practices. Sound education would make them capable to understand their rights and duties enable them to take their decisions independently and to set their priorities rightly for fulfilling their dreams at various stages of their life. It necessitates providing a good and congenial atmosphere for development of their personalities at home.
- Achievement of freedom economic or otherwise should not lead them to confusion or indiscipline. Freedom/liberty should be utilized towards realisation of her own intellectual emotional, motivational and physical potential as well as to fulfil familial, social and national obligations properly. One must be free – not only to fulfil her own interests or needs or to live a life of luxury and extravagance, but also to care for others.
- Create supportive infrastructure for women to enhance their confidence and ensure their security. Knowledge about the legal infrastructure of the nation, especially the special legal measures to protect them from atrocities and exploitation. Social and political authorities are supposed to provide a good and congenial atmosphere for development of women’s personalities and ccreate supportive infrastructure for working women to enhance their confidence and ensure their security.
- Many laws have been enacted to eradicate social evils often remain ineffective on account of the lack of political will, general awareness in public, judicial insensitivity and bureaucratic apathy. The law enforcement agency is neither very strong nor effective to fight against the vested interests of powerful lobbies. Despite all these legislations, efforts to uplift the status of woman and hue and cry made by various organisations, many social evils harassing woman still exist till today.
- Legislations in favour of women should not remain just on papers. Its honest and sincere implementation in real life is urgently required as well. In most cases, women themselves do not raise their voice against injustice or claim their legal rights out of love and affection for their own people or to save honor of their families. Net result is that they are deprived of their rightful place within their families, society or nation.
- Inspire women to join mainstream. Economic independence is necessary to make women secure and restore their lost confidence. It necessitates providing enough job-opportunities at appropriate juncture of their lives and provide for them suitable atmosphere to work. There should be an enabling provision for women to secure jobs without any age bar. It has been observed that by the time the women (Housewives) are free from their motherhood liabilities, all avenues to get suitable jobs according to their aptitude and qualifications are closed to them. They do not find any opportunity to work due to long gap incurred in their academic/professional career while performing their social and familial responsibilities.
- Benefit of Open University and distance education programs could be taken for preparing women-folk to join mainstream. Arrangements of short term refresher training or coaching programmes can solve the problem of filling the gap incurring between their graduation from educational institutions and start of a regular career. It would enable women to get employed again to get employed again. The gap incurred in their career would not block their way to enter into the mainstream.
- Some women can not afford to be chained to the daily nine to five routine. Time constraints, family obligations or lack of the required qualifications could be the possible resons. For women, terms and conditions of employment should be of the nature, which suits to their needs at different points of life. There should be provision of work from home, part-time jobs or home based income generating jobs. It could be created in areas like work of house-keeping in the offices, designing, translation, research, food and nutrition and interior decoration, journalism or photo journalism, nursery teaching, textile designing, travel business etc. It would not pose any additional burden on national government, as emoluments would be related to work done.
- Special attention and measures/programs need to be taken for utilizing the intellectual, emotional, motivational and physical potential of women-folk. It could provide a substantial work force with a high intellectual, emotional, motivational and physical potential. The need paying special attention in case of women is not required, because they are intellectually or otherwise handicapped, for which lowering the standard would be necessary, but because they are past the age which normally entitles one to join the national reconstruction efforts through gainful employment.
- Government should be a little considerate for non-career women having small children. Investing in improved opportunities for women could contribute productively in the overall development of the nation. Proper and careful nurturing of women folk would not only help the women-folk, but benefit the society and the nation as well. The government could be given economic assistance in the form of social security to woman having one or two small children (up to the age of 10-12). Or It could give them some incentives such a rebate in taxes. Or it could ensure opportunities to provide work at appropriate juncture of their lives, i.e. when their children start going to schools and they are free to some extent from the familial responsibilities.
The task of involving women in nation building activities needs national determination and political will. They, in fact, represent a vast reservoir of human resource, which still remains untapped and unutilized to a great extent.
Joint effort of women and society
A joint effort of women themselves and that of the society and the nation is urgently needed in order to cope with the challenges posed due to recent changes in the attitude and role of women of twenty first century. It would be a blunder, if society does not realizes that women are the backbone of Indian society. They not only provide management at home, but also work they work shoulder-to-shoulder with men almost in all the areas. They contribute, both directly and indirectly, in nation-building activities. Women have always been good managers and decision-makers. Till now their qualities/skills have benefitted ‘family’ only.
There is a need to maintain balance between femininity and ambitions of women. With modernity, technological advancements, info-tech revolution has changed the role of women, her equations with others, her perspective and ambitions. Economic independence has made them stronger, confident and more vociferous. They are aware and informed about the solutions of the needs and problems of their own and their children more than their spouses.
Immediately after independence, in 1950′s, free young India embodied a liberal and inclusive vision of India. People understood and interpreted liberally the problems of caste, gender, community, rural-urban areas, meaning of social-economic-legal justice and attempted to resolve the issues rationally.
1950′s and 60′s was the time, when society was in general conservative, attitude hardly rebellion against social norms, talks being all about sacrifice. 1970′s and 80′s was the period of transition, when though people were still family and society-oriented, rebellion attitude started. Those were the years of social and political turmoil. Women gradually achieved success in various fields. Gender bias started vanishing.
Women acquired more education, economic and social power on their own without craving for any concession unlike other so-called weaker sections of society like SCs, STs or OBCs. A new wave swept across the woman’s world – many young women joined the workforce becoming students, teachers, administrators or activists in different social movements. With it, gender relationships and norms have undergone a sea-change because of changed socio-economic atmosphere and a change in expectations. It has ironically increased conflicts.
In 1990′s, rebellion attitude became dominant. Family and society were considered major obstacles on the way to progress. In matter of employment, it is not so difficult for women to ` get jobs as it was earlier. Women were placed more or less on equal footing with men.
Earlier main women issues were of physical strain, constant psychological pressures, to conform to socially induced images of femininity – to be a good wife, perfect mother, efficient home-maker and on the other to work hard in office to prove her worth. Their concerns then revolved around issues like dowry, domestic violence, rape, equal opportunities and equal pay etc. Now the focus is on teaching menfolk a lesson and be ahead of them everywhere. Today’s woman wants her man to do all that, which previous generation of women did for their counterparts.
The attitude of people in twenty first century became increasingly individualistic. Both men and women bothered about their own issues and commitments. More importance is being given to self identity, less attention to family-matters. Youth do not tolerate any opposition or interference of elders in their family matters. Any restriction on pleasures of life is just not tolerated. They want life free from tensions and stress.
Independent, but undisciplined life style, pressures due to lack of family support systems, clash in old and new value systems, fatigue due to erratic sleep patterns due to late night entertainment culture, running after money, numerous temptations due to market-oriented economy, fascination for glamour and excitement are responsible for making modern life awry with full of tensions.
Women issues needs to be nurtured very carefully, so that not only they, but also the community and nation can benefit. A woman should not care for her own needs only, but also needs to see the welfare of all the persons around her. To be educated means to be enlightened, to be aware of her surroundings and to be conscious of her responsibilities.
At present families and communities do not have time to spare for inculcating required values in children. Now a days, schools/educational institutions are expected by modern society to inculcate in young children good values and mannerism. From schools required values are expected to be reinserted into society. For inculcation of moral values, modern society should not depend on educational institutions. It can make children learn to stand on their feet and be politically and economically independent, but often, in life they end up “Bowling Alone”( in socialogist Robert Putnam’s memorable phrase) and unhappy.
Why should a woman consider maternity, motherhood and household responsibility a burden? That is their source of power as the next generation is in her domain. There is an urgent need to pay attention to the future of family as an institution. Values cannot be taught like texts nor tested in written examinations. Good values are inculcated at home, in one’s family and society. They are learned by living. Woman is the hope of the future.
Success in life is not dependent on legal document, or on laid down rules and regulations. It depends on maturity, mutual understanding and willingness to make adjustments for each others happiness.
As far as the ambitions of woman are concerned, she should set her priorities rightly at different points of her life. If she wants to pursue a career first, she should devote her efforts and energy towards it. But once she decides to enter into a family life, she should not take it for granted. She needs to be mentally prepared to shoulder its responsibilities as well. She should find out enough time for her family and children.
As a householder she along with her spouse is responsible to provide a secure and stable home environment. A well knit family promotes a feeling of inter-dependence and a feeling of being wanted and being loved.
As far as government is concerned, it should have liberal policies for making jobs available to women as employment makes women not only economically strong, but socially and emotionally strong. Women like men have every right to feel secure, confident and happy and to be participate actively in the mainstream of a nation/national growth, in solving all the problems of society and nation at every level. They are, both entitled to and responsible for contributing to national development but without disturbing familial peace, soial harmony.
Adequate attention needs to be given by policy-makers and the society to issues like –
- proper identification of problem areas; adjustments of financial allocations and administrative decisions as well actions to suit condition;
- motivation and disciplining of socio-political authorities to have sympathy and understanding about culture and needs of the society, in which they live;
- For ensuring women’s participation in their own welfare and development processes in physically and socially uncongenial environment, attention should be paid in devising strategies to provide a safe and secure atmosphere to them.
- More in-depth studies of women issues should be encouraged to provide alternative approaches/strategies for resolving them by the Government, society as well as by voluntary agencies.
- Law-makers should legislate more equitably.
- Male chauvinism must go. Unless woman can take her rightful place by the side of man, there is no point of the women knowing what to do. She must be allowed to do it. If the future of the nation is to be safeguarded, it is necessary to acknowledge that roles of man and women in life are complementary not competitive.
Any society could only flourish when its women are given their due place in the process of development. It should never be forgotten that “An enlightened woman is a source of infinite energy.”
January 11, 2012 - Posted by latasinha | Women's issues | empowerment of woman
By Biranchi Narayan Acharya
Edited by Michelle Cherian, Associate Editor, The Indian Economist
It is always said that caste system is deep rooted in Indian society and can’t be abolished. Recently ICHR (Indian Council of Historical Research) expressed on their blog that ancient caste system worked well. This might be the council’s personal opinion. Many social activists reacted sharply & blamed Yella Pragada Sudershan Rao for advocating the infamous caste system that tortured the lower caste population for centuries.
Before going to the version of anti-caste system activists, let’s understand what the Indian caste system really is. It’s commonly thought that the Indian caste system has its existence from the ancient period. However contemporary scholars argue that the British created the caste system between 1860 to1920.
In ancient culture there was the ‘Varna’ system which was in fact different from the Caste system. Varna system was principally recognized with profession. In fact Varna was identified with Class. For example Bramhins were the intellectual class with occupations as priest, teacher, philosopher, medicinal expert (Baidya) & ruler. Kshatriya was the warrior class such as soldiers & rulers. Vaisya was the white collar working class such as traders, shopkeepers, entrepreneurs, record keepers etc. Sudras were the blue collared working class, mainly serving the three upper Varnas. There were also out-castes (untouchable) whose work was considered unclean. Interestingly, Varna system allowed mobility from one Varna to another. If a community or family changed its profession, then the Varna was automatically changed.
Whereas caste system can in fact be considered as a race! Caste is always identified as the identity of a clan! Caste has always been immobile, that means, irrespective of changes in profession, the caste remains the same.
During the British rule, the 10 year census which started in 1860, identified caste with profession. The profession based Varna system became immobile, just like caste, because caste is also considered to be based on profession, keeping aside clan considerations.
In any case, both the Varna system as well as the caste system had made the life of untouchables a living hell. None can deny this. Under the Varna system, Sudras were not untouchable but somehow because of caste identities since 1860, even Sudras began to be treated as untouchables. Earlier British gave jobs to all upper castes. During the 1920 unrest, British reserved some percentage of jobs for the lower caste as an affirmative action.
The Indian Constitution although doesn’t differentiate between Indians because of their caste, creed, race or occupation, it allows for affirmative actions for uplifting the lower caste people who were subjected to discrimination.
Whatever may be the historical facts, caste system is no doubt blunt in a democracy. Democracy says all are equal, but caste system says some castes are higher than other castes.
Now let’s come back to the critics of the ICHR chief’s blog! They claim for a caste less society. If there would be no caste based society & also no caste based reservation, they will immediately scream asking about the injustices inflicted upon the lower caste people for last 5000 years! This is the dilemma. Whenever caste system is discussed these wise people would demand that there shouldn’t be any caste system, but when caste based reservation comes in, they have to defend it citing 5000 years of torture. To avail the reservation facility, many castes are competing to be considered as lower caste. There have been many violent protests in Haryana, Rajasthan & even UP for inclusion of their caste into the SC/OBC category.
In Tamil Nadu, no education certificate mentions one’s caste because of casteless social revolution during sixties & seventies. But again you will find people attaching to their educational certificate their caste certificates, authorized by competent authorities, only to avail the benefits of government affirmative actions towards lower castes.
This becomes a never ending problem. At one hand one seeks a casteless society but on another hand, one also defends caste, for quota, stipends & other governmental benefits for lower castes. So the reality is that those who seek a casteless society in fact, have to defend restoring the caste based society! This is just like oscillating between the two extreme ends of duality.
Now the question is can our society be caste-less? The answer is definitely yes, provided people shed their duality! Let’s suppose that we Hindus don’t have any caste. If Hindus are a casteless society then this would also end caste based reservations, stipends, special rules etc.
The next question to build a casteless society is, should the dalits, other lower caste people & downtrodden community have to give up all the government facilities provided to them as an affirmative action? Well that’s a very big question & again the advocators of casteless society would come, seriously demanding the restoration of the caste based society!
However my stand is clear, make the society casteless & end all caste-based reservations and facilities. Am I against reservation? Certainly not! In fact I am big supporter of all affirmative actions to all down trodden communities.
Poverty and hunger neither has any religion nor any caste! Extend all the affirmative action to the poor and down trodden people irrespective of religion, caste, creed or race. In simple words, provide reservations as per the financial and social status. In this way we can achieve the dual objectives. On one hand while all deserving people would get important benefits and perks, on the other hand, society can also be casteless! It’s like killing two birds with one bullet.
But if all over again the so called sympathizers start advocating that “rich but lower caste” people should also get benefits because of the so -called 5000 years of torture, then I don’t think they are true to themselves in demanding a casteless society, in-fact they are just strengthening the ancient caste based society. Until the paradox is removed, no social justice or casteless society can ever be possible!
A civil engineering professional but also is keen observer of current affairs, politics, socio-economical issues, spiritual & cultural issues. Contributed lot of articles in various web-based on line magazines & well appreciated also. In free time, transforms in to activist mode in educating & awaking people on the meaning of democracy, citizen duty to society, nation & Constitution. Love to debate in any issue with open mind. Contact email id-[email protected]