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Social and political Values and Systems in India.

Violence against women – causes and how to combat the menace

“Women are the only exploited group in history to have been idealized into powerlessness.”      Karl Marx

“Power of the harasser, abuser or rapists depends above all on the silence of women.”                                        Ursula k Leguin

“There is no chance for the welfare of the world unless the condition of women is improved”.

And

“Women will work out their destinies – much better too than men can ever do for them. All the mischief to women has come because men undertook to shape the destiny of women.”                                       Swami Vivekanand

Violence against women a global phenomenon

“Violence against women remains one of the invisible and under-recognized pandemics of our time.’  (Nicole Kidman) Violence against women and gender discrimination is not a unique feature of Indian society, but a universal/global phenomenon. Apartheid of gender exists almost in all societies – ‘East’ or ‘West’, ‘Developed’ or ‘Developing’ – irrespective of religious faith and economic system. Women suffer deprivation, humiliation and denial of basic human rights in almost all walks of life, everywhere, at every stage, in varying degrees. 

Till very recently, traditional societies regarded women weak, emotional and unable to resist external temptations. In Hamlet, Shakespeare described women as: Frailty, thy name is woman.

Issue

It is difficult to assess the causes and solutions to women’s issues in a vast country like India, where diversity exists from place to place in customs, traditions and way-of -living. Problem of safety and security of women persists in a big way allover. Gender violence is continuously on rise and political apathy persists more than yester years. Unfortunately in many cases of humiliation, assaults and insults, own family-members or known-people are responsible. Government and civil society has failed to bring a change towards a more gender-just society.

What results the show of public solidarity after Nirbhaya’s gang-rape yielded? Is the fire ignited by it still burning? Has the number of rape-cases decreased? Has demand for quicker and stringent punishment for perpetrators of violence been implemented? Answer till date is ‘No’. Everything has cooled down as always happens with women’s issues.

Deep entrenched discrimination and oppression of Women

Manifestation of persisting gender bias can be seen in sex ratio of 917 girls to 1000 boys (According to 2011 census) and the crime-rate, as reported by National Crime Records Bureau, NCRB, from 8.8% in 2007 to 9.4 during 2011. (Leaving aside innumerable unreported-cases) Times of India (August 25, 2013, p.6) reports crime against women up by 7.1% since 2010.

UNICEF Reports on Progress of Nations released jointly by Government of India and UNICEF says that more than 60 million women, who should have been alive today, are missing. Responsible factors are from feticide to domestic violence to dowry deaths to physical assaults. Discrimination starts even before women are born and continue till they die. It exists in the form of –

FeticideSome new forms of violence have appeared with technological advances as is evident in case of female feticide, reflecting in adverse sex-ratio.  Social bias in favor of a male-child lead to abortions (out of 8000 cases of abortions following sex-determination tests, 7999 are female fetus, according to a Survey) Sex-ratio is continuously declining allover India except for Kerala. Inefficient and ineffective performance of political, administrative and economic structures and mechanisms failed to stop it.

InfanticideThousands of newly born baby-girls die with overdoses of opium. They are abandoned or thrown in rivers or dust bins to die. Out of abandoned children 90% are girls.

Health hazards – According to official figures, there is 10% higher mortality rate for girls than boys due to mal-nutrition in infancy and childhood.  Health Statistics are equally alarming with 80% of them being anemic.

Physical assaults/Rapes/gang-rapes/molestations According to a Report, there are reported cases of one rape every 54 minutes, a molestation every 26 minutes; and an act of cruelty every 33 minutes. National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) statistic says – every 20 minutes, a woman is raped somewhere in India, not to mention the countless number of cases of molestations or rapes going unreported. Child rape cases have increased by 336% in the last 10 years. Government data shows crimes by juveniles – especially rape and abduction of women – has seen exponential rise in the past decade – from 48.7% in 2002 to 66.5 in 1212. There is dire need to address the issue of rape in a more powerful manner.

Dowry deathsNumber of dowry-deaths is quite alarming in the country – a dowry death every one hour forty two minutes. Dowry-related violence is also in increase. Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan are the states with maximum number of reported cases.  Many cases remain unreported.

Victims of materialistic-culture – Consumerist culture has triggered off increased atrocities, domestic violence and physical assaults on women. Millions of girls live under threat of physical abuse.

Female literacy rateMale-female literacy-rate is 82.14% to 65.46% according to 2011 census. Employment ratio in organized and unorganized sectors also points out discrimination against women in job-market.

‘Nirbhaya’ episode

Wake up call – The most inhuman and brutal gang-rape of an innocent girl ‘Nirbhaya’, in a moving bus on the busy roads of Delhi on 16th December 2012 had woken-up people from their deep slumber and contributed immensely in igniting the dormant fire within the hearts of conscientious people. It had triggered an unprecedented reaction, ignited suppressed emotions of common-men. Youth’s anguish was amply reflected in mass-scale protests and agitations allover India.

People refused to bear injustice silently as bearing injustice is no less a crime than actual act of injustice. Armed with ‘Facebook’, ‘twitter’ ‘You-tube’, thousands of people representing all age-groups, and from different segments of society and professions including media came out in the open and gathered at India gate to express their deep feelings of anguish and to pressurize the government to take urgent steps stern action against the culprits, so that such dastardly acts are not repeated in future.

People debated many gender- issues intensely and tried to find-out possible legal and non-legal remedies. They vociferously raised their voice against gender discrimination, insensitivity of the government and sluggish judicial system.

‘Elimination of all kinds of Injustice and Violence against Women’ – Voice raised against all kinds of discriminationTwenty-first century’s modern women refuses to bear atrocities within and outside the family silently. They have raised voice against all kinds of discrimination and oppression and are demanding with insistence basic human rights and privileges. They want to live life in their own way.

Pressure on Government – The charged atmosphere created by the recent protests and agitations has mounted up and tremendous pressure on the government. Result – Justice Verma Committee was set- up after Nirbhaya episode to examine various dimensions of the issue. It suggested for quicker trial and giving deterrent punishment to criminals, committing such crimes of extreme nature against women.

Keep fire burning – Concerted efforts on priority basis are needed to secure safety, security and rightful place for the women in the society and to keep the fire, ignited by ‘Nirbhaya’ episode, burning. An ambience should be created, wherein women can live and work with dignity and honour on an equal footing with men both at home and work-place.

In the past

Culture outlook and historical perspective of society always reflects in present-day behavioral pattern of a society. In the past, 6th –7th century onwards, due to continuous foreign invasions on the country, women’s position in the society had worsened.

Basic human rights deniedSlave like condition and inhuman treatment to women had become a common practice. Basic human rights were denied to women during this period. Seventh century onwards, Muslim and British attacks had given birth to many social evils like child-marriage, Sati, ‘Purdah-system, complete segregation of women from outside world. Restrictions were imposed on women-movements.

 Male-chauvinism of patriarchal society, his forceful and aggressive qualities of body and mind, complete male-domination especially in economic matters added fire into fuel. Unequal family laws particularly in matters of succession, inheritance and property rights, deep rooted prejudices, systematic deprivation, evil-social practices led to suppression and oppression of women. Religious fundamentalism institutionalized evil practices by giving them sanction.

After Independence

Constitution of India has guaranteed equal protection for all its citizens irrespective of gender. Several legislative interventions to protect and deal with special crimes against women have also been framed over the years. Domestic violence and collective forms of violence like communal or caste violence, targeting women have also been acknowledged as serious crimes.

Many institutional mechanisms have been created like National and State Commissions for women. Government and NGO’s are continuously working for empowerment and emancipation of women. India is also a signatory to several international conventions that protect the rights of women.

Slow but steady ProgressModern women have come out of their protective shell – four-walls of the house. They are trying their best to restore lost prestige and secure due place in modern world. They have marched ahead, though slowly but steadily with tremendous self-confidence and inner strength. They are actively participating in nation-building activities and have paved way even into the precincts, which have been considered as an exclusive male preserve. Their entry there is resented by some persons, but women are facing it bravely. They work very hard to prove their worth and make their presence felt.

Position still not very satisfactoryPosition of women remains pathetic despite all efforts of governmental and non-governmental agencies after the independence. Only a small number of women could come up, that too in big towns with access to modern education and limited employment opportunities. Conceptualization of man-woman relationships and their representation in institutions like family, community, religious agencies, state, educational institutions etc. are still focused on physical weakness of woman.

Secondary position in the society – Women are still accorded secondary position in the society. Credit of their contributions goes to society, nation or to their male counter-parts, who have retained power, prestige and pleasures of the world leaving women remain ignorant, illiterate and ill-informed, invisible and unrewarded.

Physical weakness of women does not mean to restrict her independent thinking and action. Her perseverance, patience and devotion to duty, attitude to accept challenges unhesitatingly and nature to bear everything silently should not be taken for granted. They are the symbols of inner strength, not of their weakness.

Violence crosses all borders, age, castes, classes and communities

Growing number of crimes like molestation, rape, torture and murder for dowry, sexual harassment at workplace, trafficking and girl child-abuse indicates that violence and discrimination against women is on rise over the years. It is an issue that crosses all borders, age, castes, classes and communities  – be it a girl child, a married woman, a single woman, a working woman, refugees or women belonging to lower strata of society living in urban or rural areas. Women suffer from multiple forms of violence whether it is within the four-walls of house or in public places or work-place.

Domestic Violence

  • Family provides proper safety-net for girls and women. Indian women find in family/marriage some rights and security. They prefer to depend on their male members for financial and safety measures. Emotional and financial dependence of women gives birth to egoistic tendencies in men with negative mindset. They start imposing their decisions on wife and other female members of the family.
  • Age-old shackles have curbed their freedom. In her journey from ‘womb to tomb’, a woman suffers from social discrimination and evil social practices within family at some point or the other. Feticide, infanticide, discrimination against girl-child in matter of nutrition, education, physical assaults, dowry, ill-treatment at in-law’s place, bride burning, Sati, apathy towards widows and old women, no freedom to take her decisions, unequal and improper property rights, are a few examples. The list is endless.

Outside homeOutside home also, women suffer because of lesser job opportunities, unequal treatment of employers/seniors at work-place, trafficking physical assaults etc. Lack of education and skill-forming training tends many females to work as marginal labor in unorganized sector, where they get meager wages and are exploited. Increased discriminatory practices have adversely affected their day to day’s life.

Working women – Work-load at domestic as well as at work-place and strain of keeping with times and societal yardsticks are putting increasing pressure on women in absence of strong family bonds and traditional support systems. Pregnant women/new mothers are at disadvantage, while being considered for promotion/important assignments. Employers hesitate to hire young women fearing potential pregnancy. They fall much behind their male counter-parts after marriage due to familial responsibilities. Many women drop out to raise children and other familial liabilities.

Urban womenA majority of urban women suffer due to illiteracy or lack of formal skill- building training. They mostly work as domestic helps. Economic pressures on nucleus families, culture of two-income families and withering away of traditional family support-systems, deteriorating value-system adds to their miseries. Fast developments in the world materialism and consumerism have put great pressure on urban women.

Rural womenRural unskilled women mostly suffers because of illiteracy, poverty and unemployment.  Poverty frequently pushes unemployed men to leave their families behind and go to distant places in search of jobs.  In about 30% to 35% rural households, women are sole breadwinner bearing alone the responsibility to raise children and run the household. They usually work in fields, where they are monetarily and physically exploited. Rural women suffer more than urban women in three critical areas: –

  • Lack of sound education and skill-generating learning.
  • Health issues.
  • Inaccessibility of proper credit resources.

Women of privileged classWomen of privileged class are under social and religious restrictions than under-privileged class. They usually fall victim to social evils like infanticide, dowry, Purdah, Sati-Pratha, inhuman treatment to widows (young or old) especially in Northern India, Bengal and Rajasthan or polygamy (mostly in southern part of India).

Women of sub-merged section of society Women of backward section have greater laxity and freedom than advanced section of society. They exercise more freedom in their day-today-life. ‘Purdah system’ has never been a common practice in rural areas. Divorce-remarriage has been common practice among them for a long time.

They fall victim of abuse, harassment, humiliation and exploitation, sometimes because of the laziness, alcoholism, vices, helplessness of their men-folk, who fail to rescue their women from the hands of exploiters and sometimes women’s own lack of courage to face situation. Wife beating, desertions, polygamy are the common practices amongst them. They usually suffer due to –

  • Class oppression due to poverty,
  • Caste oppression due to inter caste clashes,
  • And Gender oppression.

AlcoholismWhen drunk, men vent out their frustrations on their women – beating their spouses mercilessly, create unwanted scenes, neglect their families, snatch money, and sell household items to satisfy their craving for liquor.

Women worst sufferer during emergencyAdversities of life arising out of economic-crisis, social, psychological and environmental adverse situations affect women’s world the most.  During war- times, riots, unstable economy, natural calamities and infighting or inter-group or intra-group clashes, women along-with children are the primary victims and are worst hit.

Problems with educated and uneducated women – Brutality of negative mindset persons does neither spare educated women nor uneducated ones. When a woman tries to break age-old social barriers, gets education to standup on her feet and live on her own terms, deteriorated law and order conditions do not spare them. Illiterate becomes victim of child-marriage and domestic violence.

Reasons for alarming riseThere is an alarming rise in acts of perverted behavior. The Beijing Conference in September 1995 identified the following reasons: –

  • Persistent and increasing burden of poverty on woman
  • Unequal access to education;
  • Inequalities in health care services;
  • Violence against women;
  • Effects of armed conflict on women;
  • Inadequate access to direct participation in the economy and policy making processes in a country;
  • Inequality in sharing power and decision making;
  • In-sufficient mechanism to promote the advancement of women;
  • Lack of commitment to womens human rights;
  • In-sufficient mobilization of mass-media;
  • Lack of support for womens contribution to manage the environment;

Other reasons behind the violence against women in India are –

  • Increasing number of broken families, growing uncompromising disputes/differences/disharmony among family members.
  • Alcoholism and influence of movies leading weak personalities has led to alarming rise in acts of perverted behavior – like rape of daughter by father, rape of little girls, passing lewd remarks on girls in public places, etc.
  • Deteriorating law and order situation,
  • Fall of moral values.
  • Intolerance amongst youth,
  • Ineffective implementation of existing rules and regulations made to protect women from violence,
  • Inadequacy of ill-equipped, insensitive, understaffed police and investigative machinery,
  • A number of government mandated commissions including the National Commission of Women (NCW) and Law Commission existing without teeth,
  • Lack of political will to overhaul Indian Penal Code (section 354), Indian Evidence Act and Code of Criminal Procedure.

What can be done?

A national perspective on women’s issues needs to be evolved. Policy-makers, civil-society, media, religion and NGOs should jointly work-out effective preventive measures, need-based solutions to the problems of gender issues of different areas and measures to provide relief to the victims.

Will more stringent laws?Some people demand new stringent laws, legislative reforms and some demand amendment in existing laws relating to gender issues. Others fear that strong laws are more prone to be misused. There will be surge in filing false cases. Falsely implicated person loses his honor, dignity and status in society, which cannot be restored. It is a matter of intense regret that innocent and upright persons fall victim of false cases and culprits are smart enough to save their skin from the clutches of laws.

Mere enactment of stringent laws would not suffice to protect women from social discrimination. More than enacting new stringent laws or legislative reforms or amendment in laws, the country needs to stop half-hearted enforcement of already existent laws and implement them sincerely, honestly and effectively. Accountability of law enforcement agencies would curb gender-violence to a great extent.

How much education or financial Independence can help?Question arises – Will education or financial independence of women curb gender oppression? May be! However, real life experiences do not support it.

  • Ø Education alone, not enoughEducation alone is not good enough for sustainable development of women-folk. Education raises intellectual level, but it does not necessarily make women more comfortable responsible, cultured and civilized. Restraint, self-discipline and rational thinking are also required. Only quality of education right from the childhood could cultivate much-needed human values and spirit of civility.
  • Ø Financial Independence – Employment makes women economically strong, but socially and emotionally broken, especially, when children become irritant or in-disciplined. After long hours in offices, working women hardly get enough time to deal with domestic chores and attend to handle children properly during their tender age.
  • Ø Life full of tensionsWith dual income, working women shoulder dual responsibilities – at home and at workplace. Employment increases their workload and makes life tougher/stressful/tense than home-makers. Ambition, tough competition at work-place and fewer opportunities for career progression adds fuel into fire. Saving remains zero after spending on necessary arrangements and domestic helps.
  • Ø Communists give equal position to women in every walk of life. But does it make women’s life better? No. In advanced nations of the West, where institution of marriage is in decline and women are free to live their own way, domestic violence is common and is a worst kept secret. It may appear very liberal and emancipating but it weakens women’s position.

Remove internal contradictions India has to get rid of its internal contradictions – between prosperity and poverty, between plenty of resource endowments and scarcity of their management, between its culture of peace and tolerance and its conduct sliding towards violence, intolerance and discrimination. Its inputs can be kept at international levels, only if government can address to real basic issues, not the abstract ones. Half-hearted measures taken by state authority touches only the periphery of gender-issues.

Comments of a prominent juristA prominent jurist commented on the current situation of rising acts of criminality and violence as: “In Indian criminal justice system, major crimes are likely to remain unreported; if reported, frequently not registered; if registered, the true perpetrator not found; if found, not prosecuted; if prosecuted, not charged; if charged, usually not convicted; if convicted, frequently not adequately punished. At each crucial stage, the system has enough loopholes and inefficiencies to allow the guilty to walk away with impunity.”

Whose concern?

If so, then whose concern is this? President Mrs. Bina Jain, raised a very pertinent question during 85th Annual of All India Women Conference “Violence against women—whose concern, it is? Is it the concern only of the government and the society? Is it not the concern of each and every citizen living in a society –male or female?”

“Yes, it is everybody’s concern. There is a need to change the mind-set – of government functionaries, of society, of family and of every individual – man or woman. All of us should come out of the protective shell and work together to bring to an end all kinds of discrimination, injustices and violence against women.”

“Gender insensitivity, sluggish judicial system, insensitive law implementers, inactivity of civil society and alcoholism are some of the main causes of deteriorating situation in our country.”

Intervention and action at multiple levels

Efforts done so far on gender issue defy basic and simple solutions. Elimination of all kinds of violence against women requires channelizing simultaneously the attention and efforts of all the concerned people and work together. This sensitive issue needs intervention and action at multiple levels – state, society and individuals in public and private capacities.

*At government’ level  

  • Amongst immediate steps, the most important task of government is to arrest continuously deteriorating law and order situation. There should be vigilant policing round the clock both in cities and suburban areas and more women police officers in all police stations.
  • Speedy and time-bound justice is needed urgently. Delayed justice emboldens the spirits of criminal-minded elements in society, who take advantage of loopholes in law, and which enables them to escape. Many culprits go off   scot-free even after committing a heinous crime.
  • Reforming the structure and systems of governmental institutions engaged in the law-making and enforcement tasks are highly desirable, but it may take a longer time.

*At Society’s level

  • Inculcation human values – The focus of the society should be on finding out root causes of the problems related to various women-issues in different places. Values and social practices may differ from one group of people to another and from region to region, but human values remains the same.
  • More civilized and liberal people may not necessarily be found in urban areas only. In many advanced paces, there is a lack of rationality, reasoning and control. Similarly, a so-called culturally people of weaker sections of society, especially living in rural areas may not necessarily be socially backward, they may be more humane than many urban dwellers.
  • Change in the mind-set – Gender sensitization is the need of the time. The attitude of conservative patriarchal society, which looks upon women as second-grade citizens – inferior to men, should be changed. A radical change in the mind-set of people is necessary to give women their rightful place in society without any gender-discrimination. People must be sensitized to treat women in a manner befitting the role played by them as loving and caring mothers, affectionate sisters, cute daughters and good companions. Men/boys need to understand that women are not a commodity or an object of enjoyment. It may take a long time, but at-least people should start introspection to find out where things have gone wrong, and the process to correct them.
  • There is dire need to focus the attention of society on social, educational, economic, health and legal needs of women.

Under the inspiring guidance of many women leaders and social reformers, the movement for women’s emancipation is gaining momentum.

Role of Non Governmental Institutions/Organizations

  • Non-governmental organizations and institutions should conduct series of seminars, workshops meetings at different places on various aspects of violence/oppression against women. They should discuss in depth the gravity, enormity and dangers of continuously deteriorating law and order position, deteriorating human values, self-centered attitude of individuals and alarming rise in bestial acts against women, which makes it very unsafe for women to move freely outside their homes and try to find out remedy for it.

Media

  • Media should bring women issues to public domain in a forceful manner. They can play an important role in spreading awareness. They can provide a platform to speakers and panelists from different fields, eminent personalities responsible for decision-making to share their views and conduct an in-depth study on various gender issues, and view it holistically touching various aspects of the problem. Views of some of the victims of atrocities should also be taken to understand their unpleasant experiences and the manner in which they came over the agonies they suffered because of inhuman acts.

*At family’s level

  • Family and “Home, sweet home” is the first and foremost institution, where children learn first lesson of humanity and social relationships. Family is the best place to inculcate positive values – like honesty, simplicity, modesty, sense of responsibility and respect for elders – amongst children and youth of both the sexes.
  • Childhood is the most formative, educative and impressionable time in a human’s life and most appropriate time for inculcation of such values, as it remains permanently and firmly embedded in their delicate psyche throughout their life.
  • There is something fundamentally wrong in the way, younger generation especially boys are brought up within modern families. Inculcation of positive values would go a long way in creating an atmosphere, wherein women can move around freely in society without any fear whatsoever.
  • Training for gender sensitization should be imparted within the family. Right from the beginning, all the children should be treated equally, without any gender-bias.
  • It is important to teach boys not to treat women inhumanely or as commodity or personal property, but to treat all them with respect, so that when they grow up they develop a protective attitude towards women. Real strength of manhood lies in treating women with gentleness, respect and in protecting women’s dignity and honor. Treating women inhumanly is not Indian culture. It shows inherent weakness of men.

* On women’ part

  • Women can contribute a lot in creating a cultured prosperous society and bringing about much desired social re-awakening. They, by virtue of their soft and sensitive nature,  can spread the culture of ‘loving, caring and sharing’, of beauty in life, of cleanliness – clean houses, clean streets, clean bodies and clean minds.
  • Instead of silently bearing all the atrocities perpetrated against them, women should raise their voice against injustice; create awareness amongst women about their rights and channelize their efforts by writing articles, organizing seminars, workshops etc.
  • Irrespective of their social status in society, they should join hands, and work in a spirit of unity. They should raise their voice boldly against social evils like dowry, bride-burning, female infanticide, etc.
  • Women should share their experiences with one another – be it a conference, a home-party or a ladies’ meeting – how they are being discriminated against in different walks of life and how they should tackle situation. By sharing their concerns with one another, they would be in a better position to understand the women’s issues and to find appropriate methods for highlighting them through various media.
  • Women should exercise utmost vigilance both at the mental and physical level to ensure their safety and security, so that no one could exploit them when placed under adverse circumstances in life. They must always be prepared for self- defense by getting training in Karate etc.

 Elderly women as Trend setters

  • Elderly women of baby-boom generation have witnessed a very crucial period of history, when India was to be built into a modern, progressive and confident nation. Educated and aware women amongst them should come forward, play the role of trend-setters and inspire the hearts and minds of generation born after Independence and twenty-first century’s generation. They can bring a change in developing cordial relationships with relatives, friends, friends, neighbors, colleagues etc.
  • There is tremendous scope to work for them – be it is within family or in the areas of reforms social, economic practices, in education and training or spreading awareness in women of weaker sections to cope-up with new developments.

How to deal with the problem?

Core Committees

In a vast country like India, where so much of diversity exists in customs, traditions and way of  living,  the  causes  and the solutions to  women’s problems differ from place to place. For dealing them effectively –

Core Committees should be formed at local level involving experts, contentious citizens, young boys and girls with a purpose to spread awareness, inculcate positive values amongst people of all ages; help victimized women, give new suggestions to curb crimes. After all ‘prevention is better than cure’; continuously evaluate/monitor the progress and plan for better future.

Bring three generations togetherFor proper upbringing of children and inculcating spirit of tolerance and good values in younger generations, living of three generations under one roof should be encouraged. It will make people to understand the feelings, needs and problems of each-other. It will also reduce the generation gap and bring elders, youth and children closer.

Safe and secure place to stayThere is a need to make proper and enough arrangements for safe and secure place of stay (hostels) for girl-students and working women, who have go away from their homes and live alone in different new unknown places to pursue their studies or work in offices.

Rehabilitation of victimized – Proper arrangements like short-stay/shelter-homes, family counseling centers should be made for protection and rehabilitation of victimized women or women in distress. 

In Conclusion

Inculcation of human values – In recent times, Indian society is passing through a very difficult phase when human values have reached an abysmally low level. There is a dire need to tell people right from their childhood about dignity of labor and self discipline, inculcate in them self confidence and a feeling of safety and security, and not to treat women as mere objects.

Constantly deteriorating condition of law and order situation has added fuel into the fire making life of women miserable. Common-men demand effective Government action and sincere implementation of the laws along with swift justice to curb the increasing violence against women/girl-child.

India needs to change people’s perception/mindset about women’s fundamental rights for justice, safety, security, equality and freedom.  

Women, source of immense powerIt should never ever be forgotten that woman is a source of immense power. Without women, men-world stands no-where. It is the Woman, who is the creator of a new life, sustainer and educator of the new generation. It is also the woman, who comes in man’s world with color and pleasure as a loving and caring mother, affectionate sister, cute daughter and compatible companion.

Every woman, ‘Durga’, ‘Lakshmi’ ‘Annapurna’ and Saraswati – It is time to remember India’s age-old rich cultural heritage and values wherein women were treated with great respect in society.  Our learned ancestors and  personalities of eminence accorded  a very high  and coveted position to women, eulogizing them   through  use of  Divine names like  ‘Lakshmi’ (Goddess of Wealth), ‘Annapurna’ (sustainer of human life), ‘Saraswati’ (Goddess of knowledge) and ‘Durga’ (Goddess of Power).

October 20, 2013 Posted by | Women's issues | , | 9 Comments

Violence against women – whose concern?

Current Year’s Resolution -‘Eliminate Injustice and Violence against Women’

Many Institutions allover the world declared the current year 2013 as the year for ‘Eliminating all kinds of Injustice and Violence against Women’.

President’s introductory comments

In the introductory addressof 85th Annual Conference of of All India Women Conference, Mrs Bina Jain, its present President  had asked raised a very pertinent question on the theme ‘Violence against women—whose concern, it is? She  asked:

 “Is it the concern of the government and the society only? Is it not the concern of all human-beings –male or female? Is it not the concern of each and every citizen living in a society?” 

“Yes, it is everybody’s concern. There is a dire need to change the mind-set of all – of the government functionaries, of the society, of the family and of all the people (both men and women). All of us should come out of the protective shell and work together to bring to an end all kinds of discrimination, injustices and violence against women?”

“Gender insensitivity, sluggish judicial system, insensitive law implementers, inactivity of civil society and alcoholism are some of the main causes of deteriorating situation in our country.”

There is a dire need to channelize simultaneously the attention and efforts of all the concerned people on this very sensitive issue of atrocities, discrimination and violence perpetrated against women. Both, the governmental agencies and society at large must wake up from their deep slumber and make a concerted effort   on a priority basis to secure the rightful place for the women in the society and create an ambience, wherein women can live and work with dignity and honour on an equal footing with men both at home and work-place. 

Agonies of women

In her journey from ‘womb to tomb’, almost every woman at some point of life suffers from social discrimination. Some examples in this respect are: feticide, infanticide, negligence/discrimination against her at home  while she is growing up and also at work-place, dowry, cruelty at  in-laws’  place, bride burning, trafficking,  unequal and improper property rights, no freedom to take her own decisions in matters like education, marriage, job etc. etc. The list is endless.

Position still not satisfactory

There is no denying that women in Indian society have come a long way, particularly in big towns, as a result of increasingly more access to modern education and efforts made both by the government and various agencies. But the number of successfil women is very very small. The fact still remains that even now the position of majority of women continues to remain vulnerable. Most of them continue to feel insecure/unsafe both within the four-walls of the home and outside the home—on the roads, public transport, educational institutions and work-place.

 The Deep Impact of the ‘Nirbhaya’ episode

It is really unfortunate that in the recent past, a most inhuman and brutal gang-rape of an innocent girl took place in a moving bus in Delhi on 16th December 2012. This tragic incident was perceived in the eyes of the public as among the most dastardly acts perpetrated against a girl in a civilized society in modern times. It is not, therefore, surprising that this incident was widely reported in various media of mass communication, capturing the imagination of all and sundry.

This brutal gang-rape   triggered an unprecedented reaction, igniting suppressed emotions that got amply reflected  in the form of  protests and agitations  at India Gate and Jantar Mantar in New Delhi. The mass-scale anguish of public has brought many serious issues in the forefront.

Assessment of the present situation

A prominent jurist commented on the current situation of rising acts of criminality and violence all over the country in the following words:

“In Indian criminal justice system, major crimes are likely to remain unreported; if reported, frequently not registered; if registered, the true perpetrator not found; if found, not prosecuted; if prosecuted, not charged; if charged, usually not convicted; if convicted, frequently not adequately punished. At each crucial stage, the system has enough loopholes and inefficiencies to allow the guilty to walk away with impunity.”

The  charged  atmosphere  created by  the recent protests and agitations put tremendous pressure on the government, so much so that efforts on a war-footing are being made to make radical amendments in law so as to ensure that criminals are severely penalized and not easily let off the hook as was the case earlier.

Wake up call 

How long, people will continue to bear all the injustice silently? Time has now come, when people representing different segments of society and professions, come forward and raise their voice in unison against the bestial acts of cruelty, to which women have been subjected for a long, long time. It would not be wrong to say that putting up with injustice silently is no less a crime than the actual act of injustice.

Role of the society 

There is a dire need that the main focus of all the sections of the society should be on empowerment of Women with special focus on social, educational, economic, health and legal needs of women.  Under the inspiring guidance of many women leaders and social reformers of national stature, the movement for women’s emancipation has gained momentum recently. 

Alarming rise in acts of perverted behaviour

It is rather unfortunate that even 66 years after India’s independence, atrocities against women continue to be perpetrated in the wake of deteriorating law and order situation and moral values. Also,  constant rise of alcoholism and influence of movies, has contributed immensely to losing one’s power of discrimination  and consequent  alarming  rise   in acts of  perverted  behaviour—prominent examples being  rape of  daughter by father, rape of little girls, passing lewd remarks on girls in public places, etc. 

Series of seminars on the issue of violence against women

Various organisations and institutions have been expressing its anxiety about the gravity, enormity and dangers of continuously deteriorating law and order position, deterioration of human values, self-centered attitude of individuals and alarming rise in bestial acts against women, making it very unsafe for women to move freely outside their homes. It is necessary to bring these issues to public domain in a forceful manner through conducting series of seminars on the theme “Violence against women, whose concern?” 

Speakers and panelists from different fields and eminent personalities responsible for decision-making in the Government should get togeter and should conduct an in-depth research on the subject. To view the situation holistically, in its various aspects, they should share their views on the subject. Views of some of the victims of atrocities should be taken to understand their unpleasant experiences and the manner in which they fought against such inhuman acts.

 The focus should be on:

* Finding out the root causes of the problems in different states.
* Thinking about effective preventive measures and finding out need-based solutions of the problems of different areas.
* Role of the policy-makers, society, media, religion and NGOs in solving the problems. 
* Providing relief to the victims at local level, and
* Get a national perspective on this issue.

How to deal with the problem?

Effective enforcement of existing laws and accountability of law enforcement agencies would help in tackling these issues more effectively. Mere enactment of stringent laws would not suffice to protect women from social discrimination and domestic violence or violence at work-place. Similarly, only education and employment for women do not ensure their security in society.  It requires both preventive and punitive actions as well as certain immediate and long-term corrective measures on a massive scale at individual, familial, social and governmental levels for making the atmosphere safer for the women.

The approach of the society for the sustainable development of women-folk should be two-dimensional:  preventing violence against women and protecting, sheltering and rehabilitating the the women victims through various agencies spread allover India. For this purpose –

Stress on legislative reforms

 legislative reforms

There is a need for some legislative reforms and amendment of laws in favour of women relating to property rights, discrimination against women at workplace and inside homes, perpetration of violence against women, property rights, etc. with the purpose of achieving the avowed goal of women’s empowerment.Through its various literacy, training and awareness programs in different parts of the country, AIWC has been trying  to make women aware  of their basic legal rights.

Raising voice against gender discrimination

People must raise their voice  vociferously against gender discrimination, insensitivity of the government and the society, half-hearted enforcement of the existing laws, sluggish judicial system.

Spreading awareness

Through various awareness programs, literacy and training schemes  in different parts of the country, women should be made aware about their basic legal rights.

Stay Homes

With a view to providing protection and rehabilitation to victimized women, government and various NGOs should provide shelter to help needy women through Help-lines, Family Counseling Centres and women hostels for workiing women and Short Stay Homes especially to help women in distress.  

*At the level of government

  • Amongst immediate steps, the most important task on the part of government is to arrest the continuously deteriorating law and order situation. It demands deputing of increasingly more women police officers in all the police stations and vigilant policing round  the clock both in cities and suburban areas. 
  • Speedy and time-bound justice is demanded urgently. Delayed justice emboldens the spirits of criminal-minded elements in society, who take advantage of loopholes in law that enables them to go scot-free even after committing a heinous crime.
  •  Reforming the structure and systems of governmental institutions engaged in the law-making and enforcement tasks  are  highly desirable though this may  take a long  time. 

*At the level of Society

Bringing about a radical change in the mind-set of people and the entire social structure, wherein women are looked upon as second-grade citizens, inferior to men, also may take a very long time. Yet the time has come when people representing different strata of society should do some serious introspection to find out where things have gone wrong.  

  • It is of paramount importance to create a social structure wherein women get their rightful due in society without any gender-discrimination—both at home and at work-place— and that they are treated in a manner befitting the role played by them as loving and caring mothers, affectionate sisters, cute daughters and good companions. 
  •  There is an urgent need to create gender sensitization in society so that the attitude of men towards women in general undergoes a big change. It is important for men to understand that women are not mere property and objects for enjoyment that can be bought and sold.

*At the level of family

Family and “Home, sweet home” is the first and foremost institution, where a child learns the first lesson of humanity and social relationships. It is the centre of happiness for all and the best place to inculcate good values amongst children and youth.  Best training for gender sensitization can be imparted within the family itself.

  • Childhood is the most formative, educative and impressionable time in a human’s life. Values, which aware parents inculcate in child, remain permanently and firmly embedded in the child’s delicate psyche.
  • Within family, positive values like honesty, simplicity, modesty, sense of responsibility and respect for elders can be inculcated amongst both the male and female children.
  •  Familial support can provide proper safety-net for girls and women. Right from the beginning, children of both the sexes should be treated equally, without any gender-bias. 
  • Also, it is important that boys are taught to treat all girls with respect so that when they grow up they develop a protective attitude towards women. Inculcation of such values among boys would go a long way in creating an atmosphere wherein women can move around freely in society without any fear whatsoever.

* On the part of the women

  • Women too can contribute their humble mite in creating a cultured prosperous society and in bringing about social re-awakening through writing articles, organizing seminars, etc. 
  • Only women, by virtue of their soft and sensitive nature,  can spread the culture of ‘loving, caring and sharing’, of beauty in life, of cleanliness – clean houses, clean streets, clean bodies and clean minds.
  •  Instead of silently bearing all the atrocities perpetrated against them, women should raise their voice against injustice and work together for a better future for all.
  •  Woman must herself be aware of her rights in society and then make all possible efforts through various channels to get her rightful due in society.
  • Woman should  exercise utmost vigilance both at the mental and physical levels  to make sure that no one tries to exploit her when placed in adverse circumstances in life. She must always be prepared for self- defense and get training in “Taikando”, which would raise her confidence level to move around fearlessly.
  •  It is important that all women, irrespective of their social status in society, join hands in a spirit of unity in raising their voice boldly against social evils like dowry, bride-burning, female infanticide, etc.
  • Women should make it a point to make the best of every little opportunity they get—be it a conference, a home-party or a ladies’ meeting—to share with one another their opinion  on the  manner in which  they  are discriminated against in society in different walks of life. By sharing their concerns with one another, they would be in a better position to understand the women’s issues and to find appropriate methods for highlighting them through various media.

On part of AIWC

AIWC is also planning to set-up Core Committees involving experts, young boys and girls with a purpose to spread awareness, to inculcate positive values amongst all; to bring in new ideas to curb crimes. ‘Prevention is always better than cure’. The core committees are supposed to continuously evaluate/monitor the progress and plan for better future. 

In Conclusion

In recent times,  the Indian society has been passing through a very difficult phase where human values have  reached an abysmally low level and women are being  treated   as mere objects—thanks to the constantly  deteriorating condition of the law and order  situation  that has made  life of women miserable. The recent  unfortunate occurrence (Nirbhaya)  has  contributed immensely to  igniting the dormant  fire within conscientious people  representing all age-groups  to come out in the open  to express their deep feelings of anguish and to  pressurize the government to take urgent steps  to ensure that such dastardly acts are not repeated in  a civilized society.

It should never ever be forgotten that woman is a source of immense power. Without women, men’s world stands nowhere. It is the woman who is the creator of a new life, sustainer and educator of the new generation.

It is time to remember India’s age-old rich cultural heritage and values wherein women were treated with great respect in society.  Our learned ancestors and  personalities of eminence accorded  a very high  and coveted position to women, eulogizing them   through  use of  Divine names like  ‘Lakshmi’ (Goddess of Wealth), ‘Annapurna’ (sustainer of human life), ‘Saraswati’ (Goddess of knowledge) and ‘Durga’ (Goddess of Power). All of us wish that our country becomes a haven for women where they can live with grace and dignity and, above all, without any fear.

We may conclude with the following words of Swami Vivekananda: “There is no chance for the welfare of the world unless the condition of women is improved”. 

Editor, Dr. Lata Sinha – Member-in-charge Communication and Publicity  Email – aiwc.newsletter.gmail.com
 

May 12, 2013 Posted by | Women's issues | | 6 Comments

Empowerment of women through Education – Newsletter of AIWC, no 2

 

 

*EDUCATION   *EMANCIPATION   *EMPOWERMENT

“Educate a man and you educate only one individual. Educate a girl and you educate the whole family”.

   

 

AIWC, a premier NGO working incessantly for the education, emancipation and empowerment of women owes a lot to Bethune College, Calcutta, for its origin, from where the ball started rolling. The year was 1926, and the occasion prize giving ceremony. Mr E. F. Oaten, the Director of Public Instruction, Bengal, in his presidential speech said, “We must have the cooperation of women to help us remedy what is wrong in women’s education. I would urge that women, who alone can help us adequately, should tell us with one voice what they want and keep on telling us till they get it.” It inspired Margaret Cousins, then the secretary of WIA (Women’s Indian Association formed in 1917) to work for the cause of women’s education and for forming women’s organizations. She gave a call to set-up branches in major towns, which would have only women as its members.

Margaret Cousins Margaret Cousins succeeded in encouraging the enlightened women of Indian society to come together, and fight for the women’s rights in the society. These women toured different parts of the country, held conferences, organized campaigns to bring about awareness among women and arranged public meetings to find solutions to the gender-based discrimination and inequalities and provide a national perspective to women related issues. They also met Viceroy, Lord Chemsford and others to draw the attention of British authorities towards providing free and compulsory education for women. The female literacy rate at that time (according to Census of 1921) was woefully low – only 1.80%. They pleaded for opening vocational training schools, women’s medical colleges and maternity courses and advocated an equal number of schools for girls and boys and votes for women.

In 1927, at Poona Conference the foundation of AIWC was laid. The first AIWC meeting was preceded by twenty-one constituent conferences. It was a historic moment. That moment onwards, this premier organization never looked back. With time it has grown from strength to strength. It has seen women from different parts of the country uniting for a common goal:  their main thrust has been on women’s education.

AIWC solicited funds from Indian and foreign nationals/groups and started the All India Fund for Women’s Education in 1928 for the promotion of women’s education all over the country. President of AIWC was the President of AIWEFA.  Five members of AIWC are still its members.

On November 11, 1932, the Lady Irwin College of Home science, the only one of its kind, was established under the patronage of Lady Dorothy Irwin, wife of Lord Irwin, Viceroy of India. This college now is among the premier girls colleges in Delhi. The college was established under the patronage of Lady Dorothy Irwin, wife of Lord Irwin, Viceroy of India.

After 1947, Independent, India laid stress on the need to educate women in increasing numbers and to provide intelligent guidance to women to give a clearer vision of their own educational purpose, both as citizens and mothers.

Dr. Lakshmi Menon, former President of AIWC (1955 to 58) and its patron started an All India Committee for the Eradication of Illiteracy among Women (AICEIW). At present, Dr. Aparna Basu is its Chairperson. AICEIW is running centers all over the country with its headquarters being in the campus of AIWC. These centers are working for literacy as well as vocational training.

At present, AIWC is involved manifold activities. Its branches, spread allover India, have been constantly and relentlessly working for the cause of women’s empowerment through various educational and employment generating programs, especially among the disadvantaged sections of society.  Their focus is on:

  • Primary education for children,
  • Adolescent Training Program
  • Adult Education
  • Continuing education
  • Skill based employment generating education for women of rural as well as urban slums, (with a view to bringing about awareness among them and empowering them economically)
  • Computer Training Centres run by AIWC branches (that offer vocational courses for capacity building among women)
  • AIWC Community College offers Certificate/ Diplomas/Associate degree in the field of Ayurveda Panchkarma, textile block printing, computer technology, beauty culture and health care, cutting, tailoring and embroidery. It enables in the process underprivileged children to join the mainstream education.
  • Literacy and day care services to street children.

Despite all these efforts and achievements, a lot more needs to be done in the spheres of girl-child education, adult education, continuing education, specialized education and employment generating education etc.

AIWC has also created three Public Charitable trusts to help needy persons through its branches in the field of education, health and old-age care –

  • AIWC Public Charitable Trust for Education – Financial help is extended to poor, needy and deserving girls for pursuing studies at the college level.
  • AIWC Health Trust – Health programs   and camps are organized on a regular basis by AIWC branches spread over different parts of the country.    General physicians and specialists are invited to check-up and treat women and children for different ailments.
  • AIWC Old Age Trust – Funds are given to different branches to run day-care centers for old people.

Seminar on “Violence against women: whose concern”? – Recently there has been a spurt of incidences of violence against women allover India. In a vast country like India, characterized by a huge diversity in customs, traditions, and way of living, the problems encountered by women and also their solutions differ from place to place. Education and employment of women do not seem to be enough to protect many of them either from domestic violence or from violence at work-place.

In order to highlight these issues, on 7th of August a seminar – first of its kind – on the theme “Violence against women, whose concern?” was organized at India International Centre, New Delhi, under the sponsorship of National Commission for Women. In her introductory address, Ms. Bina Jain, the President of AIWC asked the   question “Whose concern is this? Is it not the concern of the government as well as of the whole society, including all its members – male or female?” …” Yes, it is the concern of each and every individual living in India. Both the government functionaries and people should come out of their protective shell, change their mind-set, work together to eliminate all kinds of discrimination, injustices and violence against women?”

As a follow-up action, AIWC showing tenacity of purpose, has scheduled a series of such seminars at Agartala, Allahabad. Trivendram, Ahemadabad, Jabalpur, Andhra Pradesh, and J&K: thus covering all the states of India. in the month of September 2012. This effort of AIWC would go a long way in sending the message across to people from different   states of India, thus paving the way in the process for getting a national perspective on this vital issue.

News from Headquarters

Half- yearly conference at Chandigarh – The half- yearly conference of AIWC was hosted by Chandigarh branch from 29th June to 1st of July. Members-in-charge/Representatives from different parts of India participated in the conference. They had interacted among one another and exchanged notes relating to problems encountered by them, their achievements and future plans.

Incentive to branches to speed up their voluntary work on literacy – With a view to motivate affiliated branches of AIWC and to expedite their work for spreading literacy and awareness among women, the  AIWC  introduced the scheme of extending financial aid  to its more than 500 branches spread allover India for organizing –

  • One day Awareness Programs
  • Long Duration Programs (from 5 days up-to three years)

Achievements

  • On 21st June, 2012, the project of AIWC Energy Program, spearheaded by Lalita Balakrishnan since 1983 and supported Mrs Janaki Rajaram and Mrs Madhu Bajpai, was awarded the first Prize at the Riio+20 Summit at Brazil under the category of Sustainable Energy of “Women’s Rio+20-Good Practice Award.
  • Dr Yuthika Mishra, member Library and Member- in- Charge Research and Documentation has been nominated on the National Committee of India of the International Federation of Research on Women’s History (IFRWH), an international organization working for women’s research.
  • The work of automation/ computerization of data of MCM Library at AIWC is being done.

Forthcoming Events of AIWC

  • September 26th, 2012 – Annual Zonal meeting, South Zone A at Pondicherry,
  • October 13th and 14th 2012 – Annual Zonal meeting, Eastern Zone at Ranchi, and
  • November 5th and 6th 2012 – AIWC Artisan’s Crafts Bazaar, N.Delhi.

 

News from the Zones

Women’s Indian Association, Chennai – WIA has opened 56 crèches for children in the age group of 2 ½ to 5yrs.  It is also conducting Nurse Aid Training programs and literacy cum skill training programs. Besides, a Computer Education Training Centre is also being run by WIA.

SWEDA – The South West Delhi Women’s Association, (SWEDA) has conducted a seminar on “the problems of girl-child and its solution” on 19th June, 2012.

Other Branches of AIWC have also been running various programs on literacy, education and organizing skill-based training programs for women living in remote areas, rural areas and urban slums. Their approach is interactive. They encourage participants to think, ask questions and develop problem-solving ability in them.

 

 

 

 

 

May 7, 2013 Posted by | Women's issues | , | 8 Comments

Empowerment of woman in modern society

                                “An enlightened woman is a source of infinite energy”                                                          Swami Vivekanand

” I think women are foolish to pretend they are equal to men, they are far superior and always have been. Whatever you give a women, she will make it greater.If you give her sperm, she will give you a baby. If you give her a house, she will give you a home. If you give her groceries, she will give you a meal. If you give her a smile, she will give you her heart. She multiplies and enlarges what is given to her.” Sir William Golding

Introduction

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.

Issues

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.

Declinining Sex-ratio

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

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.

Women’s lib

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 ones 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.

Suggestions

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.

Winding up

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 | Women's issues | | 18 Comments

Reservations for women

 

On the grounds of being seriously under-represented in the echelons of power, discrimination, oppression or denial of basic human rights by the socio-political authorities, if any homogeneous group in India deserves Reservations, it is the women.

Some persons advocate reservations for women in order to empower them and make their entry into the corridor of power easier. Opponents of Reservation for women fear that power will slip out of their hands and therefore are reluctant.

There is another section which says that all roads for empowerment do not necessarily pass through reservations only. Solution of bettering women’s lot lies somewhere else, not in Reservations. Reservation has already been proved ineffective to make qualitative change in the pathetic condition of other weaker sections, where problems remained intact. “Empowerment” is only a political slogan as of date. Presence of a few persons of a section in power structure does not change the destiny of its majority. These political campaigns mislead people and betray the cause. Reservation is mirage. It is a benevolent gesture of the authority to tame people. It does not give real benefit to the cause of disadvantaged or help in their emancipation.

Women, who are about 50% of the total Indian population, form a vast reservoir of human talent, which has not been tapped and utilized fully so far. The society needs their empowerment and direct involvement in developmental tasks for a better future.

There is deep entrenched discrimination against women almost in every walk of life. Discrimination against women starts even before she is born and continues throughout her life. Unfortunately, most of the times, it is her own family and people, who are responsible for her exploitation. Women prefer to suffer silently than seek help of outsiders i.e. in courts of law or other state authorities.

Adversities of life arising out of economic, social, psychological and environmental situations affect 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.

Besides it, everyday they have to suffer innuendo physical and emotional violence. The consumerist culture has triggered off increased atrocities, domestic violence and physical assaults on women. It crosses all the borders, age of region, caste, class or community.

Generally women have to suffer deprivation, humiliation and denial of basic human rights in varying degrees at some point or the other – at every stage and every where, be it a girl child, a married woman, a single woman, a working woman, refugees or women belonging to lower, middle or upper strata of society.

Still most of the women have confidence in their capacity to face the challenges in life. They believe that for their better, balanced and sustainable development, Reservations would be a retrograde step. Despite all the hardships and deprivations, They have already broken the glass ceiling, achieved success in different spheres and will keep on moving forward in future. Women themselves want to stand on their own merit, improve their base by acquiring knowledge and skills through education and training and to compete with men as equals.

What is needed for empowering them is to sensitize people and society, because women are new to the world of work. People have still to overcome negative assumptions, prejudices and religious or social practices leading to unproductive ethos. It requires a new way of thinking, in which stereo-typing of man and woman, gives way to a new philosophy that regards all people, irrespective of gender, equal as essential agents of change. It requires clear policies by identifying the specific problem areas and then based on them, the approach for its solution to be followed.

The need of special attention to women in matter of opportunities arises, not because they are intellectually inferior or not fit enough to take up responsible jobs, but because they have sacrifuced some of the crucial years of their life in taking care of the future generation and serving the nation by giving to it confident and good citizens. They, as mothers, cultivate in their children positive qualities, which once imbibed, inevitably become part of one’s nature and provide guidelines for their wholesome behavior pattern in future. For such valuable contribution to the society and the nation, if they could not be rewarded, then at least, they should not be punished.

Plans for women’s development need to be made very carefully, so that not only they, but also the whole community and nation could benefit. It necessarily involves social mobilization and transformation of outdated patriarchal values. The authorities should concentrate on the following measures for enhancing women’s self-esteem and their active participation in nation building: –

 First of all, policy makers should accept that liberation means liberation from atrocities.

 Provide education to all women in order to inculcate scientific temper and courage to fight against evil social practices. Their easy access to Open University and distance education programs could be considered for this purpose,

 Prepare them to join mainstream at any point of their life by arranging for them short term refresher training and coaching programs in order to fill the gap incurred in their career due to familial liabilities,

 Provide more and more job oriented vocational courses for them,

 Promote enterpreneureship among women,

 Facilitate credit by providing financial assistance,

 Create gender sensitization,

 Create awareness about the opportunities available to them,

 Create awareness about the legal infrastructure of the nation, especially the special legal measures to protect them from atrocities and exploitation, and

 Create supportive infrastructure for working women to enhance their confidence and ensure their security.

After assessing specific needs of women, the Vth Pay Commission has made certain suggestions, like “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 observed, “Representation of women at the supervisory decision-making/managerial levels both in Government and Public Sector Undertakings is very limited… Reservation of jobs for women is one of the ways, in which the problem can be addressed.”

Other measures suggested by the Pay Commission relate to 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. It is required, because Indian Women continue to bear the major responsibility for caring for dependent children and elderly relatives and to shoulder other family duties, their increasing participation in work outside home has become inexorably taxing increasing difficulties in balancing work and family responsibilities. 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.i

If Government believes in the policy of Reservation for empowerment, it should make for Reservation for women. If it is unable to do it, then it should get rid of Reservation Policy altogether. No other section of the society deserves Reservation more than women on the grounds of deprivation, discrimination and under-representation. If women can do without Reservation, why can not men of other weaker sections?

i V Pay Commission Report, Volume III, pp1712-1717.

March 16, 2010 Posted by | Women's issues | | 4 Comments

What is more important for a woman?

There was a shocking news in ”Times Of India’  on 6th of November,  2009, p. 1  –  ‘Nany sedates baby, ‘rents’ him out to beggars’ (p, 1)… A seven months old infant (son of a mother working for an MNC) was sent with beggars for Rs 100 a day. What is the use of all her earnings, if instead of milk, her baby is fed sedatives, instead of wearing nice clothes, her child is dressed up in rags and be on the streets with beggars throughout the day?  It forces one to think what is more important for a woman- her beloved child and his happiness or empowerment by working directly in nation building activities like men on equal terms? How the process of her empowerment, which began in 1975 with the UN declaration on empowerment of women, could continue? What steps need to be taken by women themselves, society and the authorities to solve many more such problems faced by working women?

November 6, 2009 Posted by | Women's issues | | 1 Comment

Resevations for Women

 

On the grounds of being seriously under-represented in the echelons of power, discrimination, oppression or denial of basic human rights by the socio-political authorities, if any homogeneous group deserves Reservations, it is the women.

There is a section of society, which advocates reservations for women in order to empower them and make their entry into the corridor of power easier. Opponents of Reservation for women fear that power will slip out of their hands and therefore are reluctant.

There is another section which says that solution of bettering women’s lot lies somewhere else, not in Reservations. Reservation has already been proved ineffective to make qualitative change in the pathetic condition of other weaker sections, where problems remained intact. 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. Reservation is mirage. It is a benevolent gesture of the authority to tame people. It does not give real benefit to the cause of disadvantaged or help in their emancipation.

Women, who are about 50% of the total Indian population, form a vast reservoir of human talent, which has not been tapped and utilized fully so far. The society needs their empowerment and direct involvement in developmental tasks for a better future.

There is deep entrenched discrimination against women almost in every walk of life. Discrimination against women starts even before she is born and continues throughout her life. Unfortunately, most of the times, it is her own family and people, who are responsible for it. Women prefer to suffer silently than to go to courts or seek justice in the courts/state authorities or any outside agency.

Adversities of life arising out of economic, social, psychological and environmental situations affect 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.

Besides it, everyday they have to suffer innuendo physical and emotional violence. The consumerist culture has triggered off increased atrocities, domestic violence and physical assaults on women. It crosses all the borders, age of region, caste, class or community.

Generally women have to suffer deprivation, humiliation and denial of basic human rights in varying degrees at some point or the other – at every stage and every where, be it a girl child, a married woman, a single woman, a working woman, refugees or women belonging to lower, middle or upper strata of society.

Still most of the women have confidence in their capacity to face the challenges in life. They believe that for their better, balanced and sustainable development, Reservations would be a retrograde step. Despite all the hardships and deprivations, They have already broken the glass ceiling, achieved success in different spheres and will keep on moving forward in future. Women themselves want to stand on their own merit, improve their base by acquiring knowledge and skills through education and training and to compete with men as equals.

What is needed for empowering them is to sensitize people and society, because women are new to the world of work. People have still to overcome negative assumptions, prejudices and religious or social practices leading to unproductive ethos. It requires a new way of thinking, in which stereo-typing of man and woman, gives way to a new philosophy that regards all people, irrespective of gender, equal as essential agents of change. It requires clear policies by identifying the specific problem areas and then based on them, the approach for its solution to be followed.

The need of special attention for women in matter of opportunities arises, not because there is any lacuna in them, but because they have to spend some of the crucial years of their life in the service of humanity and the nation by taking care of the future generation. They, as mothers, cultivate in their children positive qualities, which once imbibed, inevitably become part of ones nature and provide guidelines for their wholesome behavior pattern in future. For such valuable contribution to the society and the nation, if they could not be rewarded, then at least, they should not be punished.

Plans for women’s development need to be made very carefully, so that not only they, but also the whole community and nation could benefit. It necessarily involves social mobilization and transformation of outdated patriarchal values. The authorities should concentrate on the following measures for enhancing women’s self-esteem and their active participation in nation building: –

First of all, policy makers should accept that liberation means liberation from atrocities.

Provide education to all women in order to inculcate scientific temper and courage to fight against evil social practices. Their easy access to Open University and distance education programs could be considered for this purpose, 

Prepare them to join mainstream at any point of their life by arranging for them short term refresher training and coaching programs in order to fill the gap incurred in their career due to familial liabilities, 

Provide more and more job oriented vocational courses for them, 

Promote enterpreneureship among women, 

Facilitate credit by providing financial assistance, 

Create gender sensitization, 

Create awareness about the opportunities available to them, 

Create awareness about the legal infrastructure of the nation, especially the special legal measures to protect them from atrocities and exploitation, and

Create supportive infrastructure for working women to enhance their confidence and ensure their security.

After assessing specific needs of women, the Vth Pay Commission has made certain suggestions, like 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 observed, Representation of women at the supervisory decision-making/managerial levels both in Government and Public Sector Undertakings is very limited… Reservation of jobs for women is one of the ways, in which the problem can be addressed.

Other measures suggested by the Pay Commission relate to 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. It is required, because Indian Women continue to bear the major responsibility for caring for dependent children and elderly relatives and to shoulder other family duties, their increasing participation in work outside home has become inexorably taxing increasing difficulties in balancing work and family responsibilities. 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.i

 If Government believes in the policy of Reservation for empowerment, it should make for Reservation for women. If it is unable to do it, then it should get rid of Reservation Policy altogether. No other section of the society deserves Reservation more than women on the grounds of deprivation, discrimination and under-representation. If women can do without Reservation, why can not men of other weaker sections?

i V Pay Commission Report, Volume III, pp1712-1717.

October 21, 2009 Posted by | Reservation/Affirmative action program, Women's issues | | Leave a comment

Problems of rural women

 In rural India, most of the women are victim of poverty, ignorance, illiteracy and unemployment. Poverty frequently pushes unemployed men to leave their families behind and go to distant places in search of jobs. In about 30% to 35% rural households, women are sole breadwinner with complete responsibility to raise children and run the household.

Women of weaker and vulnerable sections of society are at disadvantage due to: –

 Class oppression due to poverty,

  Caste oppression due to inter caste clashes, and

  Gender oppression.

Most of the women belonging to this section become victims of abuse, harassment, humiliation and exploitation because of the laziness, drunkenness, vices or violent attitude of their own men-folk or incapacity of their men folk to protect their women. They tolerate atrocities on their women by others with down cast eyes. Wife beating, desertions, polygamy are the common practices amongst them. In addition to it women’s own helplessness, unawareness or inherent weaknesses put them in difficult situations.   Usually they either curse others for their agonies or their fate.

However, women belonging to lower castes get laxity in regard to all those social or religious restrictions, rituals and observances, by which the so-called purity of caste Hindu women is protected like Pardah system, poligamy, Sati Pratha or restrictions on widows etc. Purdah system has never been a common practice there. Widows have lesser ritual or religious restrictions. Divorce or remarriage has always been allowed to them.

 All rural women irrespective of caste or class have to suffer more than urban women in three critical areas : –

  Access to education,

 Reproductive health, and

 Credit resources.

 

October 15, 2009 Posted by | Women's issues | 3 Comments

Problems of Urban working woman

The trend of nuclear family, withering away of traditional family values and support systems, fast developments due to modernization and technological advancement and increased necesssities due to consumerism and lure for luxury items in addition to continuous price-rise and inflation, put a great pressure on urban women.

Economic Pressures on a family demand woman to earn and add to family income. Two income families are fast becoming the norm of urban modern society.  It puts her, especially the one having little kids under constant pressure to meet the two ends – to manage the household tasks properly and to fulfil the responsibilities of their work place. Many a times, employment makes women economically strong, but socially and emotionally broken, especially, when children become irritant or undisciplined, because of their inadequate handling  during their tender age.

The urban women has 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 upto the expectations and satisfaction of the parents. For some couples day-care or cretches are too expensive.

Besides, a large number of women suffer due to social evils like infanticide, dowry, divorce, child care, polygamy or inhuman treatment to widows (young or old) specially in Northern India, Bengal and Rajasthan.

 

October 15, 2009 Posted by | Women's issues | 1 Comment

Caste color to gender issues

Generally, the suppression and slave like conditions 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 the present atmosphere of politicization of casteism in politics, gender issues are very conveniently turned into caste issues by vested shrewd persons.

On January 21, 1994 a 45 year old Harijan woman from Duana Village in UP was stripped and paraded nude by some anti-social elements. Hundreds of villagers and her own caste-men watched it silently. Neither anyone came forward to rescue her, nor shown the courage to condemn it. Later on, it was given a color of caste issue reporting – a Dalit woman harassed by caste men. 

Such a reporting was done intentionally to evoke public emotions and reap benefit out of it. It pushed the oppressed women into the background unnoticed.

In fact the male-dominated society and callous Government 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, that reacts. Secondly, the administration and judiciary are very slow in reaching and taking any kind of measure and sometimes even stall the proceedings.”

October 15, 2009 Posted by | Women's issues | | Leave a comment

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