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Plight of women in India

“An enlightened woman is a source of infinite energy” Swami Vivekanand “Respect for women and their rights flow from the ancient traditions of the Indian civilization and are now enshrined into the Constitution and laws of modern India.” Introduction Everywhere in the world,  gender equality is preached, but not practiced. By nature women possess the ability to give, while men are takers. women are more powerful than men in many ways. Still, in male-dominated society,  50% female population face innumerable problems of different kinds – whether in the past or present; whether living in urban or in rural areas (disparity is at its worst in the remote parts of the country); or whether as home-makers or gainfully employed. There are many instances, when women are treated inhumanly. Woman passes through many transitions in one life – 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 – as a child living in a care-free atmosphere, as an adolescent; some disturbing physical changes in female body; as a married women; and as a mother. She constantly 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 around her, at every stage of her life, who make her life miserable. Unfortunately, most of the times, it is her own family and near and dear ones, who are responsible for her sufferings.Discrimination against her starts much before she is born- in the form of feticide and continues till her last breadth. Most of  Women generally prefer to suffer silently rather than going 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. Travelled along way – Women have travelled a long way. At present,  women are more aware than their predecessor about their rights and are keen to exercise them. They know their worth in within the family, in the society and in the world. Contributions of women – 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 emergency – with ingenuity. Like a financial expert they meet the challenges of the present times of ever rising prices and manage everything within the income. Outside as well, women work shoulder-to-shoulder with men almost in all the areas. Many of them are financially independent. But the number of such women is very small. The condition of majority of women is still pitiable. In a male-dominated society, they have to face innumerable problems of different kinds.  Women, Second to none – Educated and enlightened women have proved second to none. With changing times, they have risen up to the occasion and managed the work both inside and outside the home at her work place, in different areas, which are far away from their traditional role as a housewife, such as in industry, media, IT, politics, technology, administration/ management, armed forces or civil services. Twenty first century has brought in its trail a new hope for women. Dramatic changes have happened in the role, ambitions and attitude of women during twentieth century and twenty first centuries, especially during last few decades of twentieth century. Women have departed from their traditional role of reproducers, mothers and wives only. Established their own identity – From a non-entity, they have been able to establish an identity of their own in the modern society and in the mainstream of the nation. Women empowerment to such an extent has not happened overnight. Women fought a fierce battle to reach up-to present position. It did not happen overnight. They have continuously worked hard to get equality, liberty and opportunity. But still there is a long way to go. Some basic issues – There are some basic questions. Is present day women are more insecure, unhappy and dissatisfied, than the women of older generation? Why are they confused about women’s role and their position in modern society? Is employment making women economically strong, but socially and emotionally broken? What can be done to empower women? Is there any mid-way, which could make women secure, aware, confident and happy without disturbing the familial peace and social harmony? Why women are relegated to secondary position? Women comprise of 50% of the world population. It is not an anomaly that though they possess diverse capabilities and are contributing valuable service in various nation-building activities, they had been relegated to secondary position till very now, even by the modern society. Why? Is it because they belong to weaker sex? Or are they incapable or incompetent? Nay, it is not so. Why insecure – It is a point to ponder why modern women are so 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. Still Women-folk have to suffer innuendo physical and emotional problems despite of all the changes and developments happened in the modern women’s world. Why there is so much confusion about what her role in real-life? Feminist Movement for empowerment in East and west – Woman’s movement for empowerment in India is quite different from the similar movements in Western nations. Women in western world – Feminist movement started in the ‘West’. 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 their society. There the governments and the society made many efforts/reforms – legal, social, economic and political to give to women more and more freedom and liberty to take their own decision without being influenced by the men-folk. Stress on the freedom and liberty of women – 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. Enjoys more privileges – Women of Western world today enjoy more privileges in matters of education, employment, freedom, liberty & equality than their counterparts in eastern world. Classic example of women empowerment – Margaret Thatcher has shown to the world that women are capable of wielding political power even in a “Developed country” like England. During late nineteen-eighties, the Prime Minister of United Kingdom 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. Concerned about the erosion of family values – 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, women are still struggling to get their rightful place in social and political spheres. 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, under able guidance, encouragement and support  of eminent national leaders and social reformers like Gandhi, Nehru, Patel, Raja Rammohan Roy, Ishwar Chand Vidyasagar, Vivekanand etc., women in India have marched ahead and challenged those quarters, which have been interested in keeping women ignorant and assigning secondary role in society. Position of women in ancient India Position in ancient society – 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. Women 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. Position during later period of Vedic age – 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, and afterwards of British, the position of woman deteriorated fast. Foreign domination of Mughals and then of British for centuries gave birth to multiple social evils, like Chlid-marriage, Sati, ‘Purdah-system’, confinement of women within the four-walls of the house etc. with an intention to protect their women and their women’s honour from aggressive actions of ruling community and protected. Poverty of natives, illiteracy, ignorance due to superstitions and blind following of outdated customs and social practices, added agonies, women being its worst victims. Right to education was taken away from them. Circumstances forced them to remain within the four-walls of house, under complete male-domination. They were under 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 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 reformative and 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, Mira Bai, Razia Sultana etc. who came fotward, led people and earned fame and respect of people. Position of women in modern period – Up-till 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. Introduction of Modern education in 1934 drew the attention of some sensitive Indians and social reformers like Swami Dayanand, Maharshi Karve, Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Gandhiji etc. towards the oppressive and evil social customs, practices and traditions, which made women’s position miserable. They tried to put to an end all such evil practices and continuously 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 Non-government (NGOs)  organizations emerged – Wives of some viceroys and other British official’s wives along with Indian educated ladies showed interest in the uplift and education of women. They started some colleges and institution for women like Lady Irwin college in Delhi. Many women’s Associations/organizations emerged allover the country. In 1923, due to sincere efforts of Mrs. Ramabai Ranade, Women India Association was formed with branches allover the country. All India Women’s Conference was formed in 1926 and is working since then for education, empowerment and emancipation. It is continuously fighting for legitimate demands of women. It has rendered valuable service to the cause 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. Reformatory movement with focus on enlightenment – Since beginning the focus of  reformative movement for women’s emancipation/empowerment has been to improve and not to denounce the traditional values and systems. Its aim has been to lead women to freedom and remove darkness spread allover them due to ignorance and apathy of powerful lobbies in social and political spheres, which has crushed the spirit of men and women alike. Its aims have been to empower not only the women-folk, but the nation as a whole. The strength of the whole reformatory movement has been based on its being above party, caste or communal politics. For enlightenment and empowerment of women, reformatory movement has focused on education, social and legal reforms like equal civic, personal and equal property rights to men and women. Stress has also been laid on ‘Stree Dharma’ (fundamental duties of women). Position after Independence: Since Independence, India is passing through times of rapid changes in social behavior. 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. But still, as far as development,  responsibility of safety and security, better condition of living, better education, better medical facilities, better job-opportunities and opening up enough avenues for them to grow to their fullest stature is concerned, much more is required to be done. Brighter side – Constitution of India gave women freedom, equality and access to education and employment. Many laws were legislated to curb violence against women and protect women’s interests. 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. 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. Women joined main stream of the nation – 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.  Mrs. Indira Gandhi – The name of Mrs. Indira Gandhi, former Prime Minister (1965 to 1984) is worth mentioning here. Till recent past, an important place had been occupied by Sonia Gandhi. Darker Side, 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. Contributions of a home-maker – 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. Multi-taskers – women do 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. 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 also saves almost as much money as their US counterparts. • Performs thankless mundane jobs – 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 to make all the members of the family comfortable. Lip service – In return, what she gets is only lip service and apathy of the society or the nation. She spends all her time, efforts 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. Household chores are considered as a thankless job by modern society. 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. Most neglected person – 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. 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. Regarded as ignorant drudge – Homemakers are regarded as ignorant drudge, unworthy of interest, useless and dull creatures. Quite often, they blamed 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. Disincentive – Such an attitude of society either shakes confidence of women and works as a disincentive. The whole atmosphere becomes quite suffocating for them. Many women consider management of household as a thankless job and desires to join the mainstream and earn directly. Plight of career women – In  recent past, 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 for paid jobs 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. Two income families – Two income families are fast becoming the norm of urban modern society. 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 modern Indian Society. A regular paid job makes her financially secure and satisfied, liberated and empowered. Plight of Working Women – But at the same time, it puts a great pressure on working women. Modern trend of nuclear family system and desire of woman for complete freedom have aggravated their problems. Employment is making woman economically strong, but socially and emotionally broken. She faces many difficulties like – • Difficulty in getting an employment – A career women faces, has to face many difficulties. Rejection becomes a big hurdle on her way to get employment. 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 strenuous – Taking up a full time job is not much of a problem for single women/childless women or women with grown-up children. The number of single women, who take up career and do not enter into matrimonial bondage, is very little. 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. • Have to work hard – 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. • Sexual assaults at work-place – With the growing number of women workers, problem of their safety and security at work-place is becoming severe. Even stringent laws have not been able to prevent sexual assaults at work-place. • Causes health problems – 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. Consequences of ‘Women’s lib’ Loosing her grip within family – The darker side of women’s lib is that a woman, who has been acting so far 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 lives in the world of, “I, My and Myself.” 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. Increase in Separation/divorce cases – The cases of split up of legally married couples or cases of abandonment are increasing everyday, almost in all communities – be it Muslims, Hindus, Christians, or Sikhs. According to census 2011, separation and divorce cases per 1000 marriages are as – Separation                   Divorce Hindus            6.9                              2.2 Muslims           6.7                              4.9 Christians          11.9                           4.7 Sikhs                   4.1                             2.2 Buddhists          12.0                           5.6 Jains                   3.6                             2.7 Overburdened Career women – There exist many support systems, but not without constraints. If working woman depends on her/his old parents for taking care of her children and in performing daily household chores, it becomes difficult for old parents to cope with the responsibilities properly due to their fading energies and health-problems. 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. • Full justice? – Neither working woman can do full justice to her familial responsibilities nor to her duties at work place. At home, her 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. • Proper child-care demands enough time – Parenting and inculcating right values in children requires a lot of time and patience during a child’s growing years. To prevent harmful incidents 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 of being wanted and being loved. Women should provide toddlers a secure and stable home environment. Children needs to be kept busy under vigilant eyes of loving mother with sports, hobbies and other useful activities, which could which could slant them away from evil outlets. • Spending ‘Quality time’ with children? – Spending ‘Quality time’ with children is a myth to clear their conscience. It is the irony of the modern times that when children need their mothers,  mothers are busy in earning money. They hardly get time to spend with their children because of the commitments at their work-place, mind remaining busy, all the time, in unresolved problems at work-place or in planning for their career progression. When they find spare time after getting adjusted at their work-place, their children grow up mentally. They  learn to be busy in activities of their own interests along with their friends at school or in neighborhood. They learn to remain happy in their own world and dislike mothers’ nagging all the time. Dearth of time – Working mothers’ concerns due to dearth of time 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. Good parenting requires attention of parents at right place on right time. Lack of stimulation at home due to lack of time, 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 thinking to spend her enough ‘quality-time with children does not work well. Because women get tired after working the whole day at work-place. And when they come back home fully exhausted, they get irritated, when little children insist for mother’s attention. It is easier to satisfy the little ones by buying costly toys/presentations or make them happy by other tempting offers and clear their guilt conscience for not paying enough timely attention to them. • Is Child-care a dilemma? – Many ‘liberated Women’ consider child-care a dilemma. They prefer to thrust this responsibility on other – it may be the husband, old parents, crèches, or domestic help. Nobody can perform the task of child-care better than a mother. Child care and proper upbringing of small children need twenty four hours attention of mother and her very presence. • Alienation – Sometimes, improper handling during their tender age may make children irritant or undisciplined or hamper normal growth of children’s abilities. Many children 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. Plight of an urban and rural woman Problems of urban women – The women usually suffer due to financial constraints, costly and strenuous urban living and lack of support systems. Child-care is a big dilemma for young couples living in urban areas as day-care or crèches are too expensive. Old traditional support systems are gradually vanishing and new systems supposed to replace them are not up to the expectations and satisfaction. In addition to it, increased necessities due to consumerism and lure for luxury items have added to the miseries of urban women. Urban women suffer more than rural women due to social evils like infanticide, dowry, divorce, child care dilemma, polygamy etc. Plight of rural women – In rural India, women get laxity in regard to all those social or religious restrictions, rituals and observances, by which urban women or middle class women suffer in urban areas like infanticide (though prohibited by the pre-conception and pre-natal diagnostic Technique Act, PNDT)”, polygamy etc. Widows have lesser ritual or religious restrictions in rural areas. Divorce or remarriage is allowed to them. However, most of rural 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: – • Access to education, • Reproductive health, and • Credit Resources. Apart from it, rural women suffer from –  Illiteracy – 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. Male chauvinism/Vices of rural men-folk – 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.  Lack of courage to defend their women from sexual abuse -Male members of the family lack courage to protect own women from powerful exploiters/musclemen. They tolerate sexual assaults on their women by them with down cast eyes. Nobody comes forward to rescue women or gather courage to raise their voice and condemn harassment, their own women face. In addition to it women’s own helplessness, unawareness or inherent weaknesses put them in difficult situations. 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. Present position of women in twenty-first century Far away from being satisfactory – The position of women in real life is far from satisfactory. Confusion in present generation 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 women insecure? – There is still a deep entrenched discrimination against them almost in every walk of life. It crosses all the borders, age of region, caste, class or community. 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. 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. Declining 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%). Reason’s for vulnerability of women 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. Besides other 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. • Strains due to economic depression – 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. • Outcome of too much of assertion of their rights – At times in an attempt to safeguard/uphold their independence/authority within the family or at working place, some women cross the limits and become insensitive, narrow minded and sometimes ruthless. Too much of assertion of their independence or authority lead to adverse reactions and create complications in their own life and in others’ lives as well, which makes them more insecure. • Draconian laws – Government of India has made some draconian laws in favour of women with an intention to protect them violence and discrimination. It has led to earn the wrath/ire of opposite sex and the society, instead of gaining the sympathy. Such laws are being misused by some shrewd women to teach men/society a lesson. Male members or his relatives can not raise their voice in cases of false implications or misuse of such legislations. • Ineffective implementation of existing laws – Government’s inefficiency/failure to implement honestly and sincerely the laws passed to protect the interests of women. • Disoriented psyche of Modern Woman – Many people feel 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 loyalty. They are in a hurry to fulfill their desires and in the process end seems to justify means. • Uncompromising attitude – 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 due to this reason to a great some extent. Attempts done to empower women so far like few drops in the ocean? A drop 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. 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. The attempts done so far for women’s empowerment are just like few drops in the ocean. Much more is required to be done in this area. Slow pace of progress – 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. They still remain the most maligned/ill-treated person even in modern society. What is needed to be done? Change of mindset required – Deep thinking of authorities, national determination and political-will and each and every individual in society are needed to assess women’s properly problem-areas,to remove hurdles lying on their way to join the mainstream. It necessitates change of mindset by 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. Need to create a supportive infrastructure for women for safety – 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 necessary 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. Failure to yield desired results – So far, Government’s attempts to educate all women has not yielded the desirable results. According to 2011 census the literacy rate amongst women could reach only up-to 65%. 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, the number of educated girls is lesser than 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.” Why? • 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. 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. • Many girls seldom get opportunity to develop their personality and fulfill 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 has solved these problems to some extent. Prepare them to join mainstream Economic dependence – 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 they are dependent on man. Vast reservoir of human resource yet to be tapped – 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. Skill-forming learning – Therefore, more and more job oriented vocational course,s 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. Promote entrepreneurship – 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. Proper planning needed – 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 ‘Role 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. • Self-denial – According to feminists, society considers woman a “Problem”. Hindu religion trains them to seek fulfillment in self-denial and tolerate humiliation silently 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. • Patriarchal system – Patriarchal system of society has relegated women to secondary status in the society, strengthened and institutionalized unequal family laws and traditions. 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. Forceful and aggressive qualities of body and mind of man has imposed on women many kinds of restrictions. 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 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. Aping West not required – 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. Is equality worth pursuing for happy married life – Traditionalists think that compatibility between the couple is more important for happy married life than equality, for which feminists are clamoring. 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. 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. No substitute for loving care of a mother – 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, because women, by nature are more patient, tolerant, responsible, and possess better understanding of children than man. 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. Support for young and old – 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. Intolerance – Increasing intolerance amongst women creates a situation, where compromise between the couple is becoming difficult. Divorce is increasing. It 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. Requirements of 21st century Balance between femininity and ambition – 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 couples to grow and adjust with each other. Husband-wife share familial liabilities. Both have equal share in matters related to finances. Husband shares the responsibility for parenting/child-rearing and home-management. It is a difficult task for youth to create an environment needed for making comfortable for all 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 one’s 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 reasons. 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 sociologist 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.”

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“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…

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January 9, 2014 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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