The status of women in India has not always been how we see it today. It has been moulded due to the subjection of immense changes over past the past few millennia.
In ancient India, the role of women was vital in the society. For example, the Swayamvara– this was a practice where a woman was given the opportunity to choose her husband. Even in certain aspects women were considered superior to men.
In medieval time, the status of women deteriorated due to the practice of Child Marriage, ban on widow’s re-marriage and prathas like Sati and Devdasi. Despite of these suppressions, some women like Razia Sultana excelled in the fields of politics, literature, religion and education. To restore the position of women many movements like The Bhakti movement took place.
In the independent India, the condition of women is very uneven according to the strata of the society they’re living in. There are women who have excelled in all the fields of science, philosophy, arts and literature like Indira Gandhi who served as the prime minister of India for many years. On the other hand, according to the crime bureau of the central home ministry of India, a woman is getting kidnapped every 44 minutes, raped at every 47 minutes and 17 dowry deaths are taking place every day.
Suffering of women today:
- Gender inequality: Even after the 71 years of independence, women are not even considered equal to men. It hampers the overall well being because it blocks them from participating in social, political and economic activities. It also causes a vast difference in their educational level ultimately reducing the economic growth.
- Reproductive health of women: One of the very vital concern of our country as an estimated 1,36,000 women die in India every year due to pregnancy related setbacks among which the main reason being- the absence of timely transportation to the nearest hospital, abortion and poor nutrition of the mother. 70% of these maternity related deaths are preventable.
- Violence against women: As Indians we are all aware of the “Nirbhaya” case where a girl was repeatedly gang raped and molested until the rapists were satisfied. The violence against women comes in many forms in India ranging from physical, sexual, emotional harm to acid attacks, eve-teasing, dowry deaths, female foeticide and forced marriage. Even trafficking is uncontrolled among women from lower economic backgrounds who are often forced into prostitution to make a living. It might come as a shock that around 100 million people mostly women and teenage girls are involved in trafficking in one way or another. There has also been a sharp drop in the sex ratio after the introduction of ultrasound machines. The results of 1991 Census shows the child sex ratio crashing from 962 girls per 1000 boys to 945 in just 10 years.
- Problems of working women: Women are not considered fit for every job. Even when well qualified women are available preference is given to the male counterpart with the same qualification level. To add to this, even the salaries are unequal as women are underpaid in many sectors.
It’s not like that the government has not done anything to raise the standard of women in our country. The constitution guarantees
- To all Indian women equality (Article 14).
- No discrimination by the state (Article 15(1)).
- Equality of opportunity (Article 160).
- Equal pay for equal work (Article 36(D)) .
On September 2012, Indian Parliament passed Legislation protecting women from sexual harassment at work. Many laws have been created in the book but their implementation is not up to the mark so everyone cannot benefit from these laws.
There is no tool for development more effective than the Empowerment of Women. So India should focus more on empowering women from all socio-economic backgrounds for the greater good of the society and the nation.