The Indian Constitution granted women the fundamental right of ‘gender equality’ and ‘right of life and equal liberty’ in order to ensure a dignified life and equal status. Yet, in practice, women are still discriminated against, tortured and subjugated in all walks of life.
In my opinion this subjugation cannot be attributed to the fundamental cause of women’s economic backwardness. It might be one of the causes for lowering of the status of women, but definitely it cannot be counted as the sole cause to the problem.
Of course there was a time when the origin of women’s oppression was economic and social in character and the economic dependence gave women a second class status. Times have changed since then. Today, women have achieved much economic independence.
In this age, the academic ability of a woman, coupled with a more liberal society, grants her employment so that she can look after the interest of her family. Crimes against women have a cultural, psychological, material and sociological base.
The evil practice of Sati, however occasional it may be, is a glaring manifestation of an unequal relationship between men and women. A newspaper report said that on August 6, 2002, Kitty Bai, burnt herself alive by sitting on her husband’s pyre.
It is paradoxical that these types of horrible incidents occurred, not in some uncivilized country, but in India, where women are theoretically perceived as deities and worshipped as Goddess.
This incident is a pointer to this problem. Indian society has traditionally been a highly stratified and hierarchical society due to the caste system. In a patriarchal system, women generally have a raw deal. This creates a value system which seeks to propagate itself through an invidious process of institutional crimes and atrocities Social inequality occupies the central stage of Indian reality.
A woman, it is said, is physically and mentally inferior to a man and therefore, naturally and biologically the second sex, her primary social role being that of a child bearer. The familial division of labour enforces a gender discrimination in which women are assigned tasks associated with the care of the household and other members of the family which naturally leads to their subjugation.
Thus I think that oppression of women is historically intertwined with the division of society into classes. Through the interaction of inequitable forces an endemic culture of crime is created which finds expression in discrimination, deprivation and marginalisation of women.
For centuries women have struggled to participate in society on an equal footing with men, but with the exception of a few, their spirited attempts to break out of the mould has been met with defeat.
The odds they are up against are too many. An insight into the dismal scenario will show that barring a few exceptions, the vast majority of women, both urban and rural, are condemned to live a life of seclusion and deprivation due to lack of education, awareness and various social stigmas like superstitions and conservative mindsets.
Realising the cruelties perpetrated against women, Raja Ram Mohan Roy attacked polygamy and the degradation that women are subject to. It is a gender bias, the male ego that have ingrained the malaise and have refused to give women an equal position in the male dominated society.
These days stories of women’s confinement usually originate in marital homes with dowry extortion and torture. An U.N. Commission Report says, ‘Women in India – how free? How equal?’ clearly elucidates the above. This is one of the most reliable pointers to the social scenario.
If female foeticide, female infanticide, girl child marriages, homicide, bride burning, dowry deaths and witch hunting continue, then the nation is deprived of half its resource, energy and creativity.
So the various reasons for women backwardness lie in social issues, problems and taboos against women. Economic self-sufficiency alone will not keep subjugation at bay, the root social causes need to be addressed.