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INDIA and WOMEN
Women empowerment is a moot subject. At earlier times, women got unprejudiced status with men. But the post-Vedic time was a difficult period when many were treated as slaves, a commodity earned by the man, a mode of produce kids. From the early twentieth century (national movement) their statuses have been slowly and gradually undergone changes. In this regard, we may mention the name of the English people. After then, independence of India, the constitutional makers and national leaders strongly emphasized on equal social position of women with men. Today, we have seen the women occupying the respectable positions in all walks of the sphere. Yet, they are not absolutely free from discrimination and harassment of the society. A few number of women have been able to establish their potentialities. Therefore, each and every one should be careful to promote the status of women. Women constitute approximately 50% of the world’s population, but India has shown disproportionate sex ratio whereby female’s population has been comparatively less than that of males.
As far as their social status is concerned, they are not treated as equal to men in all the places. In the Western societies, the women have got equal right and status with men in all walks of life. But gender disabilities and discriminations are found in India even today. The paradoxical situation is such that, she is sometimes portrayed as a Goddess and at other times merely as slave. It is now that the women in India enjoy a solitary status of equality with the men as per constitutional and legal provision. But the Indian women have come a long way to achieve the present positions. First, gender inequality in India can be traced back to the historic days of the sacred Sanskrit poem, Mahabharata, when Draupadi was put on the dice by her husband as a commodity. History is a witness that women were made to dance both in private and public places to please the men. Secondly, in Indian society, a female was always dependent on male members of the family until a few years ago. Thirdly, a female was not allowed to speak in a loud voice in the presence of elder members of her in-laws or move around without covering her head and in some cases, the face in the presence of other elder or male members of the family.
In the family, every faults had gone to her and responsible. Fourth, as a widow her dependence on the male members of the family increased but that was better than performing ‘sati’ where the widow was burned alive during the cremation of her dead husband. In many social activities, she was not permitted to meet with other members of the family. A woman whether a widow or not had very little share in political, social and economic life of the society and had to vote for the party the family supports, even if she had her views against it. The early twenty century was rise of the National Movement under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi who was in favor of removing all the chains tied to a woman. At the same time, Raja Ram Mohan Rai, Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar and various other social reformers laid stress on women’s education, prevention of child marriage, withdrawals of evil practice of sati, removal of polygamy etc. The National Movement and various reform movements paved the way for their liberations from the social evils and religious taboos. After independence of India, the constitution makers and the national leaders recognized the equal social position of women with men.
The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 has determined the age for marriage, provided for monogamy and guardianship of the mother and permitted the dissolution of marriage under specific circumstances. Under the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956, an unmarried women, widow or divorce of sound mind can also take child in adoption. Similarly, the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961 says that any person who gives, takes, or abets the giving or taking of dowry shall be punished with imprisonment, or fine or with both. The Constitution of India guarantees equality of sexes and in fact grants special favors to women. These can be found in three articles of the constitution. Article 14 says that the government shall not deny to any person equality before law or equal protection of the law. Article 15 declares that government shall not discriminate against any citizen on the ground of sex. Article 15 (3) makes a special provision enabling the state to make affirmative discriminations in favor of women. Article 42 directs the state to make provision for ensuring just and human conditions of work and maternity relief. Above all, the constitution regards a fundamental duty on every citizen through Articles 15 (A), (E) to renounce the practices derogatory to the dignity of women. The concept of empowerment flows from the power. It is vesting where it does not exist or exist inadequately.
Empowerment of women would mean equipping women to be economically independent, self-reliant, have positive esteem to enable them to face any difficult situation and they should be able to participate in development activities. The empowered women should be able to participate in the process of decision making. The government of India has ratified various international conventions and human rights instruments committing to secure equal rights to women. These are CEDAW (1993), the Mexico Plan of Action (1975), the Nairobi Forward Looking Strategies (!985), the Beijing Declaration as well as the platform for Action (1995) and other such instruments. The year of 2001 was observed as the year of women’s empowerment. During the year, a landmark document has been adopted, ‘ the National Policy for the empowerment of women.’ For the beneficiaries of the women, the government has been adopted different schemes and programs i.e. the National Credit Fund for Women (1993), Food and Nutrition Board (FNB), Information and Mass Education (IMF) etc.
But is all this actually working is what everyone wants to know. Are women actually empowered ? Or is all this only in papers and even in the 21st century women fear leaving their houses alone? Do they fear wearing clothes they want to wear ? Well I feel that the answer to this is a big YES. In the 21st century, where India is an emerging super power the women are not confident that they will return home safely. But why is it so? Some say that because ‘boys are boys’ and they can do whatever they want to or maybe because the kind of clothes a woman wears instigates men to look at her with those greedy eyes and lay their dirty hands on her? Well NO ! Did that women in a burqa who was raped while going back home in her own car provoke anybody? Or the 5 year old girl who was studying in school provoke her teacher? But boys will be boys who make mistakes.
For once forget about the boys, they will defend themselves but when the head of the Mahila Vibhaag (women’s association) says that the mistake lies in the girls, don’t you believe it? I don’t. I think it is time for every girl to take a stand for herself and for every other girl in this world because it is not just India where women are not treated equally, a study conducted in the US in 2012 says that about 14% of women who were fired from their jobs was because the boss wanted something more than a normal boss and employ relationship. Also a study conducted in London in 1998 says that about 33% of divorces happen because the man is not willing to let the wife go out for a job or to pick up the kids because she might just have an affair.
It’s also time for every parent stop telling their daughters to wear longer dresses and tell their sons to respect girls because nobody should be judged by the way they dress. It is said that if a man is educated he will earn bread for the entire family but if a woman is educated then she will make sure that the entire family is educated. To sum up, women empowerment cannot be possible unless women come with and help to self-empower themselves. There is a need to formulate reducing feminized poverty, promoting education of women, and prevention and elimination of violence against women.