Latasinha's Weblog

Social and political Values and Systems in India.

Position of women in India

  “Yatra Naryastu Pujyante, Ramate Tatra Devata”

In ancient India, women were placed on a high pedestal and enjoyed a place of great respect. 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. Maharshi Manu, who set code of conduct for Ancient Indian society, said, “Yatra Naryastu Pujyante, Ramate Tatra Devata”, meaning where woman is worshipped, there resides god. At that time, women had freedom and access to education and knowledge. Gargi and Maitreyi are well known for their pursuit of knowledge and the intellectuals of that times acknowledged their superiority there. Women enjoyed respect of society.

With downfall of Hindu Raj and continuous invasions of Turks, Afghans and Mughals continuously invaded India, Indian values started fading gradually. A few great women like Rani Laxmibai, Chand Bibi, Milya Bai, Razia Sultana etc.came into forefront, who led people and earned fame and respect. But, in general, the position of woman kept on deteriorating day-by-day. Circumstances forced women to remain within four walls of home, cut off from mainstream and all the communications with outside world. They were deprived of their rightful place in the society. By Eighteenth century, women were subjected to nearly complete male domination and control. Right to education was taken away from them. They became the victims of illiteracy, ignorance, complete male-domination. Society imposed on them many kinds of restrictions. Patriarchal system got strengthened and institutionalised by unequal nature of family laws and traditions. Religion and its interpretation by power-structures added fuel to fire and led to suppression of the rights of women. Inheritance was through male line. It was only in her role of a good wife and a worthy mother, she commanded respect and honour in society.” Landed property was inherited 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). Some reformers like Swami Dayanand, Maharshi Karve, Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Vivekanand or Gandhiji etc. drew attention of people towards evil social customs and traditions. They worked for their emancipation through education and better future. In Maharashtra, these evils were curbed to some extent by the energetic steps taken by Peshwas.

In 1925, Mrs. Sarojini Naidu was elected the President of the Indian National Congress. Leading women demanded and obtained franchise-ment of women. Women’s representatives took part in the Round Table Conference at London and got reserved seats in the Legislatures according to the Government of India Act 1935. Wives of some viceroys showed interest in the upliftment and education of women and helped in opening some colleges and institution for them. Women’s Associations were formed all-over the country. Their efforts certainly borne fruit, but much later.

Edwina Mountbetten W/o the last Viceroy of British India told an audience in London, “We shall have to wake up in this country when we see how the women of India have achieved emancipation to such a remarkable degree in spite of the backwardness of the country, the illiteracy of the people, the low standard of life, and all kinds of disadvantages from the point of view of religious feeling and other obstacles.” (EA to the East India Association, 13 October 1948, Quoted from Indian Summer, The Secret of History of the end of an Empire, by Alex Von Tunzelmann, 1977). Nehru first Prime Minister of India had insisted as early as 1937 that Congress Manifesto pledge to remove all social, economic and political discrimination against women. Then Gandhiji’s principle of non-violence, passive resistance and boycotts were the tactics which brought many Indian women like Vijay Lakshmi Pandit, Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, Vallabhbhai Patel daughter Maniben, Begum of Liyakat Ali Khan, Kamladevi Chattopadhyaya, Sarojini Naidu etc. into prominent position in Indian politics. They worked sincerely for promoting education, health and other welfare activities and were involved deeply in their empowerment and emancipation of women-folk.  Dawn of Independence brought in its trail a new hope for women. Women got a foothold in modern world and started leading active life. Constitution of India gave them freedom, equality and access to education and employment. Older typical image about women slowly started getting diffused. Gradual and greater awareness and confidence led them to improvement of their living conditions.

Many bright and dynamic young women joined national mainstream and reached up to decision making levels in economic, political and social life of the country. many of them made their presence felt in the society, Names of Mrs. Indira Gandhi, former Prime Minister (1965 to 1984) is worth mentioning here. The contributions of Mrs. Sarojini Naidu as the Governor of UP and Mrs. Vijay Lakshmi Pandit as an Ambassador and President of United Nations General Assembly will always be remembered. Though, at presnt, women play an active role in politics, administration, economics, technology, industry, journalism, IT industry and other developmental areas, yet their number is very small. Still , in general, position of women is far from being satisfactory. Much more is required to be done.

 

 

 

September 14, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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