India gained her independence in 1947 but do the women in India feel free?
Women have been subordinated across the globe throughout history. It’s paradoxical that on one hand, the world was experiencing enlightenment but on the other hand, women were still subordinated. The Encyclopaedia, a collection of articles produced during the Enlightenment Period by scholars like Voltaire, Denis Diderot etc., was originally written under the shelter of salons run by educated women in 1780s as discussing revolutionary ideas in courtrooms was a taboo. But ironically, its pages do not even acknowledge women. Rather educated and liberal women were condemned and qualities like physical weakness, emotional sensitivity etc were highlighted.
Interestingly, India have always been addressed in feminine terms like ‘she’,’ her’ etc. One way of interpreting this is just like India was oppressed and denied self-rule under dominant Britishers; women were oppressed and restricted by dominant males.
But today women have come a long way. Feminism, a movement for women’s emancipation, has contributed significantly towards gender equality. Today’s urban women have come at par with their male counterpart. Nevertheless, they continue to face oppression and gender discrimination in some or other form. Crime against women is rampant in the form of eve-teasing, sexual harassment, domestic violence, dowry, workplace discrimination, rape, molestation by landlords, honour killings etc.
Different people interpret independence differently. For some it is the freedom from oppression, for some it is self-rule while for others it means doing whatever one wishes to without any hindrance. But what does independence mean for today’s woman? And how safe does she feel in Delhi, the capital of an independent country, India?
For majority of women, economic independence is of prime importance. Jane Austen aptly wrote, “It is only poverty that makes celibacy contemptible. A single woman of good fortune is always respectable.” However, I believe that independence is a relative concept. An economically independent woman might not be as free as she seems to be because of restrictions by the society. For eg, she might be dominated by her husband, parents or boy friend and feel restricted in her actions. On the other hand, a student away from home, who is not economically independent, may feel more free in the sense that she can do as she wants to, free from responsibilities. In fact, girls who come to Delhi for higher studies or work from small-towns with orthodox cultures feel safer here as Delhi’s cosmopolitan culture accommodates everything and everyone. Nevertheless, women frequently become victims of eve-teasing as Delhi is not a crime-free city.
Delhi police has set up a separate department, The Crimes Against Women Cell, to investigate matters relating to denial of women’s rights, non-implementation of laws and for providing relief to women. But very few women actually lodge complaints with it which is partially because there is a lot of social stigma attached to women going to a police station. Moreover, women feel scared to take action because there have been cases in the past when such women were condemned by their own family or harmed by throwing acid on their face and scarring them forever. Fortunately, there are some women who have the courage to speak up and teach such people a lesson. Even so, we should be mature and responsible enough ourselves so as not to invite trouble and it actually depends on person to person that how safe you keep yourself.
Personally for me, independence means freedom of choice – to study what one wants to, to choose one’s profession and to roam around without fear. In this sense, women today are not completely free as they face societal pressure and parental expectations, they have to fulfil expectations and tackle eve-teasing.
India’s President is a woman. Delhi’s Chief Minister is a woman. But it will take India still some more time to accept women as modern and progressive, and at par with men. The young women must raise their voice against eve-teasing and sexual discrimination and harassment. Their actions today will go a long way in checking tomorrows’ crimes. Women must learn to challenge things rather than accepting them as they are. Let’s end on a hopeful note that the all crimes against women are curbed and Delhi becomes a safer place for women.
[Image Source: [http://zunia.org/uploads/pics/EqualityMenWomen_EU98.jpg]