Rural Indian Women Will Be Truly Empowered When They Get Equal Rights
Every person has the right to freedom and equality in our country, by our constitution. But the boiling question remains, is every person aware and can they actually enjoy their right to freedom and equality, especially women?
Most women are not even aware of the rights they are provided with by our constitution. Due to lack of awareness, they often get exploited. A society that prefers a male child has already condemned its women to an unequal world. The fondness for sons remains strong among Indian parents. They continue to see boys as an investment and girls a liability.
The Girl child is considered a burden
On the birth of a boy-child, there is an environment of joy and happiness and celebration in the family. Do they celebrate the birth of a girl-child with the same enthusiasm? The answer is “NO”. They consider her a burden. We can see the insult of women’s dignity every day especially in the rural areas of our country. The family blames the wife for not being the mother of a son sometimes abusing and torturing her. From childhood, boys and girls are subjected to gender-specific norms of behaviour, play, dress and so on. A girl is told her boundaries by her family and society. She can do this and can’t do this. She is taught household chores and to serve the family.
When her menstrual cycle starts, she is taught that she is impure and not allowed to enter in temples as well as other religious places during “that time of the month”. In some families, she is disallowed to enter the kitchen also.
From a very young age a girl, she is taught that the main motive of her life is marriage. She is considered to be “Paraya Dhan”. Conservative grandmothers used to say that girls are like sparrows who will fly away one day and the boys continue the family lineage. After marriage, a daughter is usually regarded as part of her husband’s household and expected to take care of her in-laws, but not her parents. Girls are supposed to be like a “cow” who is very innocent and never speak against her husband and in-laws even if they are violating her rights. After getting married, there is a lot of difference in the identity of a woman. There is no change in man’s personality. But women have to wear Mangalsutra, Sindoor, Bangles, etc., as markers of her conjugal status. Why all fasts are only for women, especially “Karwa Chauth”.
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Some parents save to send their sons to colleges and not do the same for their daughters. She sacrifices her education and career for the sake of her marriage. Marriage should be her personal choice, not a social obligation. Parents should make their daughter so capable that they don’t have to worry who will marry her. Instead of saving money for her wedding day, spend it well on her education. And most importantly, instead of preparing her for her marriage, prepare her for HERSELF! Teach her bravery, confidence, fearlessness and courage. Make her a strong woman who can raise voice against inequality and injustice for herself as well as for other women. Anyone can help anyone if they see women being exploited or helpless. As Martin Luther King said that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”.
Women treated as inferior
In Indian culture, the husband is called Patidev, who should be worshipped. A wife sacrifices everything, even her dreams for the sake of her husband and children. After marriage, a woman addresses her husband as “AAP” and the husband calls her “TU” or “TUM”. Women are considered to be like “Sita” who was dominated by her husband “Ram”.
Point to notice is that all abuses by people of the society include a sister, mother or daughter which is extremely humiliating. The question is that why all abuses include women?
Due to the good effect of one-third reservation, women do participate in village-level elections. But in reality, their father-in-law or husband work on their behalf. Her role is just limited to signing the documents. Most women follow men’s preference to choose their candidate during elections. They are also denied their due share in the ancestral property. Women are often not consulted in making important financial decisions in a family. The head of 99.9% of families is male. In our traditional clothes, the absence of pocket in ladies’ clothes is the sign of being financially dependent on men and often this dependence leads to domination.
Domination pushes women to a subordinate position which needs to stop now. It’s high time to eradicate the domination of the male members and make such an environment in which daughters and sons are treated equally. A home where women can enjoy their full right to freedom and equality. A change in the family can lead to a bigger change in the world. Girls also need to resist following biased customs. And remember feminism does not harm men but their deep-rooted patriarchy.
Why women must educate themselves
Mary Wollstonecraft said, “Strengthen the female mind by enlarging it, and there will be an end to blind obedience.” Usually, girls give up their education saying that girls don’t get jobs easily. Job as the only purpose of education will be a massive insult to what education stands for. Every woman should strive for knowledge.
Remember Simon De Beauvoir said “One is not born but rather becomes a woman”. Again and again, society makes you realise that you are a woman and you have some limitations. The strict restrictions on women hostel timings is also an example of a conservative patriarchal system. Caging women is a clear-cut violation of their right to freedom under article 19 and 21 of the Indian constitution.
Freedom and equality are two sisters who should go hand-in-hand to make real progress. Every woman’s choice and expressions of self-ownership must be equally and legally respected. Each woman has to speak in one voice and have to show full solidarity to each-other. Freedom and equality can be achieved by the spirit of sisterhood and united action. Girls, can you do that by uniting your efforts? If you can do then you are free from tomorrow. We should recognize female liberty and dignity of womanhood. Women have to show courage to liberate themselves from the web of patriarchy. Men also have to think beyond the boundaries of patriarchy and across traditions.
According to Swami Vivekananda, women must be put in a position to solve their problems in their way. And illiteracy was the main cause of the low status of women. Now women are gradually awakening. We can see a number of protests and strikes by women nowadays.
According to Dayanand Saraswati, it was an intentional action on the part of men to put women in a position of subordination and to have refused them the status of equality. According to Marx’s view, there is a need for class consciousness. We have to understand that there is the exploitation of women and the need for a change. Nothing great or good can be achieved until the consciousness is stirred up. History is proof that revolutions do bring radical change and change is necessary. Women in rural areas need to be uplifted or the progress of the country.
We all have to break the structure of our mind and build a new society without gender-stereotypes.
PC: Indian Express
The article was co-written by Promila Bishnoi and Ritu Bishnoi. The views expressed are the author’s own.