STATUS OF WOMEN IN INDIA
Since Independence there has been a lot of change for the better, as regards the status and rights of women in India. Several effective measures have been taken for their advancement and protection. For example, such legislations as Equal Remuneration Act, Sati Prevention Act, and Maternity Benefit Act etc. have been passed. The Constitution of India guarantees them equal rights and opportunities. Sincere efforts are being made to bring them in the national main stream on par with men. The programmes for the development of women include employment and income generation schemes, welfare and support services. The women belonging to the weaker sections of the society are being given condensed courses of education and vocational training. Working women of low income group are being provided safe and cheap hostel accommodation in big cities and towns. Many day-care centres have been opened for the children of such women.
As a result of these sustained efforts towards empowerment and employment of women engineers, judges, doctors advocates, teachers, stenographers, entrepreneurs, industrialists, administrators, architects and political leaders. India has produced a very strong powerful, astute and able Prime Minister in Mrs. Indira Gandhi. She succeeded wonderfully as a woman Prime Minister in this man dominated world. She ruled over the destiny of India for about 11years. Women in India now possess all social, political and economic rights. All types of discrimination against them have been removed. Indian women are now free to choose their careers, courses of life, life-partners and their future and destiny. Consequently, there have been many well-known women leaders, politicians, judges, governors, chief ministers etc. during the last three to four decades. The future of Indian women is quite safe, secure and bright. They possess great skills, mental abilities, courage, will to work and succeed. They are not inferior in any way to men. They can rise to the occasion and prove their metals, morals and mettle powers in any crisis.
But ours is still a male-dominated society. Women still continue to be exploited. In practice they are being denied their rights and privileges. No doubt, women in India are now much better off than they had been before independence and yet much has to be done and achieved. Only to work in the homes in practical life they are neither given equal rights or status nor opportunities.
Sons are given preference and better treatments while daughters are considered as curse and liabilities. Their marriage is still a big problem and parents have to arrange for large dowries to get their daughters married. In some parts of the country the girl-infants are still killed. Women are still raped, molested, ill-treated humiliated, forced to adopt prostitution and burnt alive by their greedy in-laws. Even the educated and employed women have to depend on their husbands or in-laws for money etc. Employed women are the worst sufferers as they have to work hard both at home and in the office. Moreover, they don’t have control on their purses and earnings. A woman as a daughter, wife, mother, widow etc. has to live in eternal economic slavery. She is still actually not free to choose and make her destiny.
During the recently held fourth International Women’s Conference in Bejing, the plight of women in general was properly highlighted. The facts that employed woman is still the odd woman out, that the average working woman’s pay is much lower than the money earned by man. The truth that men still hog the limelight in public and that the Adams of the world continue to corner the lion’s share of the national cake etc. were some of the issues discussed and highlighted there. These are genuine concerns but there are other issues and problems far more weighty and serious. They too must be addressed and solved.
India’s population is estimated to be around 900 millions. This makes India the second largest populous country. Half of this population consists of females. According to the 1991 census there are 927 females after every 1000 males. Their higher number of males than females also reflects the sorry state of affairs as far as women are concerned. The literacy ratio in women is still more disappointing. It is merely 39 percent in comparison to that of men which is 65 percent. But women themselves are to blame for their present plight. They suffer from social inhibitions, taboos, economic dependence on males, male dominance and chauvinism, social injustice, martial discrimination, inferiority complex etc. They should never forget that self help is the best and God helps those who help themselves. They should rise in a body and wage a relentless struggle against injustice in its various forms. They should never think in terms of weaker and fair sex. The weak and helpless are destined to be ever exploited and discriminated against. They will have to raise, struggle and sweat for their rights, freedom, empowerment and economic independence. There is no room either for complexes or complacency. They should refuse to be treated as sex objects, a thing of domestic utility, as anatomically inferior or a movable biological asset of man in marriage. They should refuse to be used as sex-symbols and models to attract business. Let there be no beauty-contests where they are used as instruments to attract attention sensually.
In India woman have equal rights. They can inherit properly, can divorce; they have full freedom. Dowry is illegal and prostitution prohibited. Women in India are free to aspire and achieve any position in any field of life. There is no discrimination on the basis of sex. The laws are fine and favourable, but as their implementation is concerned there does not exist effective and foolproof administrative mechanism. Therefore, the women themselves should come forward united and fight for their rights, freedom, privileges and strict implementation of the laws enacted for their welfare and protection. They have yet to get their rightful place in home, office, factory, administration and galleries of power.