Status of women in the 21st Century India

Throughout ages women in India have faced gruesome atrocities.  One side of history shows the faith among the Indians about “Shakti” or the “Women Power” to be the strongest energy. The other side of history is colored in black, grey shades of dowry, child marriage, sati and other related mal practices.

Hinduism defines woman to be a man’s half-batsman. It is clearly indicated and symbolized through “Shiv-Shakti” that a man is incomplete without a woman. Holy Books have preached equality of both sexes. But even in today’s ultramodern India the situation remains the same as it was centuries ago.

The face and style of women exploitation has changed from visible to invisible. However, the cruelty and extent is unchanged. In earlier times, where women were prohibited from pursuing education, today, educated women are exploited at home and at their workplaces. Physical exploitation of women has it’s prominence in the rural areas of the country while urban women face mental torture that sometimes even extends to physical torture.

Modern educated women have become independent but their responsibilities have increased.  A modern Indian woman has to provide income as well as has to perform household duties to support her family. During marriage a woman’s family background and property still plays a major role for acquiring a good alliance.

So, the question remains whether have women really acquired independence through education or have become scapegoats to new kinds of exploitation. The answers to these questions are difficult. Education surely makes us aware of our rights but social conditioning makes us believe the unacceptable norms of the society to be our duties.

 A divorcee woman or a widow still finds it difficult to find a worthy alliance. But it still works for a man under similar conditions. Even if the woman is the sole income provider of the household and the man has proven to be incompetent, she is expected to be a socially correct “good wife”.

Female feticides have increased in the metropolitan cities due to advancement of science and technology while infanticides continue to grow in rural areas. The modern policy of countering population explosion and family planning has become an excuse for those who prefer sons over daughters.

A wife is discarded; a daughter-in-law is abolished for not giving birth to a boy child. Although it is scientifically proven, that it is the man who is the sole determinant of the sex of the child to be born. A girl child’s education is interrupted and she is diverted towards much “feminine” educational courses.

While a male child is encouraged to pursue his desired professions under the pretext that he will take the household responsibility on growing up. Whether he really does or does not, yet he is prioritized for being the “heir” who will carry on the family surname.

Even if it was Kalpana Chawla and Indira Gandhi who actually proved to be the “heirs”, it is beyond the understanding of the male dominated Indian society.

Marriage is security for a woman and it might be an easier way of accumulating wealth for a man. Parents of a girl child educate their daughter and accumulate wealth for finding a “better groom” for her. Still, her income generating capacities are tested by the boy’s parents.

If she qualifies in terms of property, education, income only then she has a chance to get a good husband. If she lacks in the first and the last category then her chances can be reduced to nil. Even her beauty cannot compensate for it.

Beauty of a woman has the last of all priorities during match-making. However, it becomes a potential determinant if a man is highly-educated and earns extremely well. Then, no matter his own looks and age he is considered deserving to get a beautiful, well-earning, and highly educated girl belonging to a well-settled family.

This gender bias is prevalent in workplaces as well. A talented and intelligent woman faces mental abuse from her male seniors who consider her as to be a potential threat to their designation. Physical abuse and exploitation is present to some extent in glamour industries.

But predominantly, women face the glass-ceiling effect. Despite of talent and skills a woman employee gets less number of promotions and her wages are often lesser than her male colleagues.  

Child marriage and sati are still prevalent in states like Rajasthan. Denying a girl her right to live and to live happily are heinous crimes of the same nature. But sadly, even in the 21st century India, women struggle to find their right place. Dowry deaths have not become a talk of past nor has woman’s secondary status elevated to equal.

The change that has happened is only that the picture is hidden, sometimes behind the close doors and sometimes underneath a dark region imperceptible to the naked eye.