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It is rightly said, “women are the real architects of the society.” A woman is the most beautiful and precious gift of god in the form of a mother, a daughter, a wife, a friend, and a teacher. Status of a woman has always remained a burning issue. What is the status of women? What should be the status? These questions must be answered. Women are always fighting for their dignity, reputation, and a respectful position to hold in society. From the time of treta yug and dwapara yug, in spite of holding a strong position, women have always faced criticism and grave injustice.
The ancient or Vedic period had shown a better image regarding the status of women. But from the medieval period, the status of women had seen a great downfall. The modern period is far better than the medieval period in respect of opportunities afforded by women but still, the injustice and crimes have increased with the passage of time. Till date male is at the dominant position in society. The absolute power rests with the male which gives them the power to suppress the women and this must be changed through the division of power.
This paper examines the status of women in the ancient, medieval and modern periods.
“You can tell the condition of a nation by looking at the status of its women”. This is a famous quote by Jawaharlal Nehru on women. The status of women reflects the social and economic condition of the nation. Men and women are the wheels of society. In absence of any of the wheel, the cart will not move an inch. The same theory applies to society; the balance should be maintained for running a society in a mannered way. But what we see that men and women are not at par
. In treta yug and dwapara yug women were holding prestigious positions in the society. We all know that women have the right to choose their life partner through ‘swayamvar’. But at that time also they have faced the consequences of the male ego. ‘Sita’ has gone through the “Agni parikscha” and ‘Draupadi’ faced “cheer haran” only because of the male ego.
In the ancient period, women enjoyed more freedom and privileges. In those days women never observed “purdah”. They enjoyed every kind of freedom. In the Vedic period also women enjoyed the freedom of choosing their partner for marriage. Daughters also received an education.
With the passage of time, the status of women in society started to depreciate. Medieval periods are the real culprit in worsening the status of women in society. Muslim invasion has changed the direction of Indian history. Women’s freedom was curtailed, they are denied education and her status was reduced. Women have been regarded as a symbol of spirituality in our scriptures. Yet, they have been treated badly and unequally to men. Social evil such as child marriage, sati system purdah system, etc. was widely prevalent.
Polygamy was very common during the medieval period. Polygamy was practised among Muslims as well as Hindus. The condition of widows was pathetic. Child marriage was very common among Hindus, and thus this gave rise to child widows and thus they were forced to perform sati. Women were solely dependent on the male member for their living and thus this was the main reason why women faced disrespect.
The modern period came up with more deteriorating conditions of women in terms of safety and injustice with them. Post-independence, the status of women has changed a lot with respect to education and employment as compared to the medieval period. In today’s scenario, women want equality, education, recognition and respect and these are being provided to them to some extent. But women still have to struggle for all these.
It is highly significant that post-independence women have achieved great success and progress in all walks of life. Even statutes have provided special provisions for women such as:
- The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 prohibited polygamy, child marriage and provided equal options for divorce to the women.
- Under the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 daughters are also entitled to inherit the property.
- Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956 gave a chance to the childless women to adopt a child.
- Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act, 2019 is an Act of the Parliament of India criminalizing triple talaq. The Supreme Court of India declared triple talaq, which enables Muslim men to instantly divorce their wives, to be unconstitutional.
- Indian Penal Code, 1860 has provided protection to women through law for several offences.
- Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 is a legislative Act that seeks to protect women from sexual harassment at their place of work.
There are many more acts, which have contributed to the upliftment of the status of a woman, but still, there is a long way to go. In spite of all these Acts, women are still at vulnerable positions and ate ill-treated in society.
When a girl child is born, she lives according to her father, brother; when she gets married she has to obey the orders of her husband and in her old age to her son. In every phase of her life in spite of being independent, some male members control her, or it can be said that the lives of women in India are decided and controlled by the men in their lives in most of the cases.
If a man is working there is no need for him to do household works, but for working women, she has to look after her work as well as to her household kinds of stuff.
The concept of women empowerment is emerging in India but no such thing is practically seen. Still, in rural areas, girls are not getting an education; women are treated as a slave.
Recently Central Government refused to appoint women in Army Command Position and to grant them the Permanent Commission, which shows the dark side of the Central Government to treat women officers at par with male officers. But thanks to the Supreme Court of India, that it has ordered the Centre to ensure that women officers are given Permanent Commission in the Army and that they will be now eligible for a command position.
But, till when the judiciary has to interfere to secure the rights and maintain the position of the women in society. Society has to come forward to take steps for the upliftment of women.
Many women have acknowledged their calibre by giving so much to the nation that has proved to be the milestone in the development of the country. Rani Laxmi Bai, Mother Teresa, Indira Gandhi, Kalpana Chawla, Kiran Bedi, Indira Nooyi, Sania Mirza, Saina Nehwal, Pratibha Singh Patil, Mary Kom, Bachendri Pal, etc. are the gems of India.
Though women have achieved success in every sphere of life, they have proved their potential and knowledge, but the dark sides of human beings do exist these days. We get to hear plenty of cases of offences and injustice against women such as rapes, sexual harassment cases, domestic violence, acid attacks, dowry deaths, inequality in employment, etc.
There is not even a single day that we didn’t hear the news of a rape, not even a single day. Crimes against women are at their peak. The situation is this that women don’t feel safe to step out of their house and it’s obvious. They are not safe even in their own house. It’s obvious because the society is responsible for this as they fear that they will be raped or attacked with acid by some roadside Romeo or will get to hear some obscene comment.
The Nirbhaya case, Kathua rape case, Unnao rape case all these cases show the situation or it can be said that it shows the safety level of women in India. Culprits are still alive in all these cases. After being raped, victims have to face the societal pressure society always blames the girl. According to the so-called intellectuals of society, girls are being raped because of their food habits, the dress they are wearing, because of mobile phones.
Hyderabad gang rape case of November 2019 had shown the level of cruelty a man can do on a woman. This brutality has proved that in spite of having so many laws for the protection of women, still, they are not safe. Since the culprits are shot dead by the police in an encounter, the victim got justice in another way.
Acid attacks are very common nowadays and it is one of the most violent and grievous acts. Either be the case of Laxmi Aggarwal or that of Sonali Mukherjee, both the cases have shown what a man can do when his ego gets hurt. These type of cases shows the weakness of males who don’t achieve anything in their life and can’t see a woman being successful in their life.
I want to share a true story of a girl known to me. She got married at the age of 18 years with a boy of 20 years old. After marriage disputes arouse, the husband came drunk and beat her which is very common in poor families. After some time she got pregnant and her husband doubted the legitimacy of the child and thrown her and the child out of his house.
This is just one case, there were many such cases and many went unreported. It’s not like those crimes against women are more in rural areas or among illiterate or poor families; educated, rich and high profile society also faces crimes against women.
Recently while reading the newspaper I came to know the mentality of so-called “Swami’s”. Swami Krushnaswarup Dasji of Swaminarayan Bhuj Mandir has exposed his misogynistic mindset. He said that ‘if you eat food prepared by menstruating women even once then your next avatar will definitely be of an ox.’
Moreover, he said that if a menstruating women cook for her husband she would certainly reborn as “bitch”. This shows the mindset of a male individual of our society who presents himself as a Swami. He must have too many blind followers who just blindly follow whatever their swami says and carry that concept in their family. They are one of the main reasons, which contribute, to the ill-treatment of women in society. The mentality of an individual must be changed for the development of a country. With these sick mentalities, it is difficult to uplift the standard of women.
Success stories are less as compared to the crime story against women. Women have to face several problems in every sphere of their life.
There is a long way to go to society in terms of making society women-friendly. Society has to ensure security, protect the reputation and maintain a respectable status in order to make her independent in true sense. It’s not the work of the government only but it’s the duty of each and every individual of society to contribute in uplifting the women so that many more Kalpana Chawla, Kiran Bedi could grow up and shine like a star in the world.
In my suggestion, this all could be possible when we will give an opportunity to women.
- In the first-ever election, only 5% of the house consisted of women. But gradually, the representation of women has steadily increased in the Lok Sabha that has increased to 14%. But it needs to be 50% of the total strength.
- Women must be given reservation in the existing 50% class in education and employment.
- The salary should be the same for female employees to that of male employees for the same job profile in the private sector.
- Promotion should be given without any discrimination on the basis of gender.
I will conclude by just saying, “each time a woman stands up for herself, she stands up for all women.”
The change will come only when every single individual will take some steps to change the condition. It’s important to bring change within, and then only the society will change. It should be remembered by every woman,
“we all need to adjust with people and situations, but we need to be sure when we need to move on. If we allow people to exploit us physically, emotionally, financially or mentally they will continue to do so. Let us decide when to jump. Let’s jump while we have the strength. Let’s jump before it’s too late to jump.”
ICFAI Univerrsity, Dehradun