An Attitudinal Change Inevitable To Address Women’s Problem
Major Mathew Oommen
For several years now, we as a nation holding discussions, debates, seminars, sample surveys, amendments and insertions to the Constitution of India, reformation in the personal law etc to find a solution to the continual suffering of Indian women. Despite, various social reforms initiated in this country by various social leaders, including Raja Ram Mohan Roy as early as 1820, men and women are not accepted as equals by our society. Sexual harassment of women in Indian street, work place and else where has become rampant, in spite of gender equality being guaranteed under the Constitution and various legislative measures. It seems that our repressive society will never allow its women to be at par with the men or to live with little freedom. The fact is that we have an incorrigible problem!
I am writing this article under severe annoyance and anger after having known that a mob of eleven men molested and stripped a helpless young lady in a public place at Guwahati. I could very well sense the trauma of that hapless young woman, who was forced to remain naked in the public view for almost thirty minutes. Let my readers also empathetically imagine that shocking and disgusting scene recently staged in the Assam city. Similar incidents are often happening in many Indian Villages and cities.
There was a recent media focus on a UP village, Aasra, just 100 km away from our national capital, has come as big a blow to the very ancient Indian civilization were women equal to men in all important spheres of civic affairs, politics, administration, art, philosophy, education and justice system. The villagers imposed a ban on the use of mobile phones for their women. The ladies in that village are not allowed to visit the local market unescorted. A girl falling in ‘love’ with a boy is just not acceptable to the residents of Aasra. Ironically, the illiterate village elders boast that they are upholders of values – stopping wrong doings and encouraging their traditional practices. Alas, the ignorant villages are unaware that their ‘diktat’ is absolutely against the provisions of the Indian Constitution, which provides the ‘fundamental rights’ to every citizen irrespective of any gender difference. Constitution of India further stipulates that it is the fundamental duty of every citizen of India to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women.
To recall the views of our first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, “you can tell the condition of a nation by looking at the status of its women”. Let us now delve into the disturbing reality – the status of women in Indian society. Who is the Indian woman today? Is she the one who is harassed, unable to take decisions, perpetually at the mercy of the man in the household, carrying a malnourished child in her arms, with her face covered by a ‘dupatta’ and working non-stop from the break of the daylight to mid-night all the year round? Is she the cruel mother – in – law who is always nagging her daughter-in-law to deliver a male child lest the family honour is lost for ever? Is she the one argues in favour of ‘honour killing’ when her daughter wants to marry a boy belonging to another caste? Is she the one who is educated, occupies high position in the society or political circle and directing programmes’ and policies? Is she a leading personality in sports, film, trade, fashion, culture and influencing lives of many others? Yes! She is all. The Indian woman presents a spectrum of contradictions, much like her country itself. Strange! She is at once the most oppressed, yet the most liberated, most articulate and most free. Are we not confused about the status of our women?
We all must have heard that a child is a ‘gift’ of God. It is not an uncommon sight in India to see couples visiting various shrines to be blessed with a child, besides going to select fertility clinics. But almost half of India, particularly the people of Haryana and Maharastra, no longer consider it a blessing if that child happens to be a girl. The blessing soon becomes a curse and the ‘precious gift’ is done away with as soon as possible.
Sex ratio in India is getting more and more disproportionate over the years. In Maharastra the male/female ratio has gone down dangerously low to 1000:800. Unfortunately the educated and the elite also consider their male child a status symbol, and thereby partake in creating an imbalance in the male-female sex ratio.
The women in India are victims of multiple socio-economic and cultural factors. Lack of education among the women and girls do not equip them with the right skills, awareness and opportunities. Even in the modern and affluent Christian families of the educated state of Kerala, treat their daughters as less privileged than the sons. Their daughters are not allowed to inherit family property, despite a land mark court verdict obtained by Mary Roy in a case pertaining to property inheritance by daughters. Of course Christians finds biblical reasons for the practice. The Bible which is largely biographical, describes only significant men who were essential participants in the happenings of history. The book tells nothing much about the descendant women of Abraham, so they remained generally unidentified.
We all know that the worth of a civilization can be judged by the place given to women in the society. We are also aware that achieving gender equality in our society is indeed a very slow process, since it challenges one of the most entrenched of all our attitudes. Subordinate status of women is a concept of our society and there fore what is essentially required is an attitudinal change