Women Empowerment: A Distant Dream?

The world celebrated international women’s day on 8th March, a day that would ideally represent the political economic and social achievements of women. In India too, women have come a long way. In a nation where women, throughout history, have been subjected to social and religious oppression through systems like “purdah” and “sati”, finally have the law is on their side. Yet more has been done on paper than in practice. There are laws protecting women against the dowry system, domestic violence, and harassment at workplace and yet these social evils are far from being eradicated. Though many women are playing significant roles in national politics today, right from Sonia Gandhi, Mayavati to Mamata Bannerjee yet political representation is also far from significant as barely 8% of the Lok Sabha seats comprise of women. The problem lies deep within, amendments in the constitution will remain inactive until the perspective of the society changes, the root of the problem lies in the human mind of an individual accustomed to patriarchal values for years.


The urban population which takes so much pride in its “education” is not far behind their rural counterparts in terms of atrocities against women. If the brutalities in rural areas are more grotesque and the tales of female infanticide and dowry deaths in the urban population have been conveniently kept behind closed doors. The cases of harassment and domestic violence are registered even in urban areas and among married couples; the ones inflicting violence are not the uneducated rustic but the educated generation working in respectable position. The woman or the victim is also not always the distressed housewife in many cases she is a financially independent woman. This is not to prove that education has no role in empowerment in fact it does that is why more and more cases are being registered these days. Yet education can play a prominent role only when the correct values are instilled. In rural areas often the girl child drops out of secondary school because the family can only pay for the education of their male child, the son graduates while the daughter is married off. This is despite the fact that the constitution guarantees free primary schooling for every child up to 14 years of age. When we, in the cities, read about such cases we scream about injustice and yet it is in our urban neighborhood where daughters are married off forcibly , it happens in the city too. These are exceptions obviously yet they cannot be ignored.


In terms of security, the countless surveys only show how dismal the situation is in the metropolitan cities which stand as glorious symbols of national progress. Any working woman with late night shifts is looked upon with suspicion. If she chooses not to care about the prying eyes of the society, she is forced to care about her own security. This is because hers would be only one of the thousands cases of harassment that pile up in the cities. Its not just at night, even in broad daylight, attacks on women like the one in a pub recently in Mangalore under the pretext of moral supervision are prevalent. Who decides the boundaries of traditions and morality? Why does a woman who is smoking invite more stares than a man? Is it medically proven that her lungs are more susceptible to cancer than a man? It is equally hazardous for both genders, then why only one faces the drama of public attention. The society as a whole is responsible for the state of women. Even the women themselves in several layers of the society undo the acts of development. There are cases where the mother-in-law abuses her daughter- in- law due to trivial issues like the birth of a girl-child or dowry issues. It is often women who cling on to the shackles of distorted religious values and traditions, without questioning its validity in terms of human rights.


We cannot look at the entire situation totally in a negative light , much has been done women are playing leading roles in every sector from politics , service, finance to even entrepreneurship. Few years earlier it would be hard to believe that a popular news channel would live telecast the women’s cricket world cup, and that is a reality now. Yet the things achieved have been gained after a long period of struggle and much remains to be done. The spread of education and awareness about the rights of women is the only way to ensure their progress. The voices have to be raised against social discrimination and action needs to be taken against perpetrators of the freedom of women.


Shiny Das

[Image source:http://www.flickr.com/photos/worldbank/2277349809/]