Women in India: Then and Now

Women are an integral part of every society. As history bears witness, there have been many famous and successful women in our country and all over the world. But what about the woman who lives in every home? Is she being given rights and freedom on par with men? The answer to these questions, even in today’s age is invariablely a NO. Even today some women are not given the respect that every human being deserves.

Even in the olden days, in the age of old dynasties, though women were definitely an important part of their society but were not thought to be equal to men in anyway. They were not provided with the rights or the freedom that men were provided with. They spent their lives within the four walls of their houses and remained under veneers. In such an age a woman would never be exposed or be given the chance to show that she too had a brain or thoughts of her own. She was more or less like any other object in the house. One of the biggest examples is that of the wife of Mihir, one of the nine gems of Indian King Vikramaditya’s court. Mihir was a gifted soothsayer, but it is said that his wife Khona was bestowed with more talent than him. She is said to have cut her tongue off, in order to cease her prediction making. The woman had actually numbed one of her senses; she had crippled herself, so that her husband stood at a higher pedestal than herself.

No doubt that history had also witnessed strong and brave women, like the Rani of Jhansi, but such women were very few. There was a Queen of Egypt called Hetshepsut, even though she was a woman, she dressed like a man and used male pronouns for herself, as it was not acceptable for a woman to rule Egypt. Later, she was murdered by her own son for the same reason.

It is also seen in the world of literature that women don’t even feature in the list of great writers till the Victorian age. While reading the history of literature we can ask ourselves where the women have gone. I don’t think that any of us believe that women in those ages were incompetent or were not educated enough to write. It is easier to believe that women were not permitted to write, it was not proper for them to write. Virginia Woolf says in her essay ‘Professions for Women’, that writing was a difficult profession for a woman to pursue in those times, even though it was the cheapest. She says that, in no way could she let a male reader perceive that she had ideas or thoughts of her own, there was no way that she could betray that fact that woman could criticize men. There were other great woman writers before her like George Elliot, but in a male dominated world, many women took to using male pseudo names in order to get their work published, and she was one of them.

Is the condition any better today? It is definitely better than what it was then, but women are not liberated completely. A majority of women end up as homemakers, and being referred to as Mrs so and so. The identity of the women is lost in the process. Of course, there are women, who have made a mark amongst the greats in the world, and who are independent and stand on their own feet. But somewhere down the line, men don’t permit women to walk shoulder to shoulder with them. Women have conquered all possible arenas in the world, be it being a bus conductor or an astronaut, women of today have been there and done that.
Our grandmothers were probably only allowed to stay at home and cook and take care of all the work at home, but today things are different. Women have a say in the matters of the house, we get to be independent, earn and save our own salaries, and we get to voice out our opinions.

The change has begun, but we have more to do.

N. Trikala Satya

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