Saturday, December 15, 2012


2nd B.A Sociology
Stella Maris College.

(This entry secured 2nd place in the Article Writing contest held as a part of SocioFest LIBERATE'12 of Department of Sociology, Loyola College.)

“The question isn’t who’s going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.” - Ayn Rand

Emancipation holds significantly different meaning form individual to individual,culture to culture and from society to society. Before discussing about the problems, status and the emancipation of women in India we must be clear about the concept and nature of emancipation. In the essay on Marx, Tocqueville, and the Problem of Emancipation, Scott beck says that “True emancipation is the result of a balance between community and personal freedom, between political and civil life, between solidarity and self-interest, and perhaps above all, the balance between the specific and the general interests of the various groups within society. Thus, the problem of emancipation is ultimately the problem of balance. More specifically it is the problem of sustaining such a balance long enough for norms of emancipation to thoroughly saturate the everyday lives of society’s denizens. How we are to arrive at this point is a question for the science of emancipation, a field which is still awaiting consideration.”

Scott beck also adds that “We might posit two alternate visions of emancipation: emancipation as inclusion, where the oppressed individual or group acquires equal rights of participation in the existing social or political structure, and emancipation as revolution, or the wholesale eradication of the existing social structure, with the assumption that that very social structure itself is both the cause of oppression and beyond reform”. Thus taking the nature and complexity of the Indian society into consideration, the process of emancipating the subjugated women minority becomes more intricate. And the worst part is women in India even today (the women indicates the women activists, educationalists, lawyers who constantly fight on behalf of the subjugated women who are the majority) contest for various reservations which are necessary but denied just because of male favored politics.

Indian society has a relatively strict social hierarchy. By the words strict social hierarchy I not only mean the caste system but also the unequal status between the gender and historical subordination of women in our country. Indian society is a male dominated society which is patrilineal and patriarchal in nature. Tracing the oppressed background of Indian women takes us back to the medieval period which is considered to be “dark ages” for Indian women. Many social evils took place against women in the name of religion and tradition. Over the ages in India women have been treated as the sole property of her father, brother or husband, not been given any choice or freedom of her own. Subordination of women was said to be aimed at the protection of women. Hence a vicious circle started in which women were at the receiving end. All this gave rise to some new evils such as Child Marriage, Sati, Jauhar and restriction on girl education.

“A woman is the full circle. Within her is the power to create, nurture and transform.”

Today the status of women in modern India is a sort of a paradox. If on one hand she is at the peak of ladder of success, on the other hand she is mutely suffering from various violence. As compared with past women in modern times have achieved a lot but in reality they have to still travel a long way. Women have left the secured domain of their home and are now in the battlefield of life, fully armored with their talent. They had proven themselves. But in India they are many crucial challenges in liberating women.

Women in India are mostly economically reliant on their male counterparts which make them dependent. Literacy level of women is rising in a very slow pace which is a major reason for the economic dependency. Even educated women in most scenarios consider that they are inferior and fragile to the men and limit their development. Another important concern is that women today more and more became the objects of advertisement and sales object. And racial discrimination between white and dark complexioned women in our society increases the complexity of the problem. Having said about the outline of the concerns faced by Indian women, let us notice certain important facts that studies reveal as the major issues of women in India at present.

The sex ratio of India shows that the Indian society is still prejudiced against female. There are 944 females per thousand males in India according to the census of 2011, which is much below the world average of 990 females. The high number of female foeticide, infanticide and human trafficking prevalent in India has placed it as the fourth most dangerous place for women in the world, according to a survey. In 2009, India's Home Secretary Madhukar Gupta had remarked that at least 100 million people were involved in human trafficking in India, according to the survey.

The CBI has estimated that in 2009 about 90 per cent of trafficking took place within the country and that there were three million prostitutes, of which 40 per cent were children. Other forms of exploitation include forced labour and forced marriage. “In India, up to 50 million girls were thought to be 'missing' over the past century due to female infanticide and foeticide," as per the UN Population Fund. Today Indian courts are filed up with the crimes against women. So even after 65 years of independence with a lot of social, political and economic changes the status of women has not significantly raised but the kind of problems concerning women have worsened.

The Indian Constitution, in Articles 14, 15 and 16, provides for equality between men and women. But in practice there is often denial of equality for women in large parts of India, particularly in the rural areas, due to the disgusting survival of remnants of feudalism and medievalism. Female foeticide is common in all parts of India despite the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act, 1994 been passed. As MARX believed political equality and rights has not created liberty and emancipation. Emancipation is thus more than politically gaining equality.

In India we live in a transitional age, the transition being from a feudal, agricultural society to a modern, industrial society. We are neither totally backward nor totally modern, but somewhere in between. Hence remnants of the feudal culture, for example, casteism and communalism, persist. It is for this reason that our society is still largely male-dominated, and most women do not have real freedom. For instance, we often hear of ‘honour killings’ of young men and women of different castes or religions. They are killed, harassed or threatened merely because they want to marry a person belonging to a different caste or religion. This is really barbaric, and shows how backward we still are. (The ideal of women’s emancipation by

Markandey Katju, THE HINDU FEBRUARY18, 2009)

And in the article Markandey Katju adds that the remedy is spreading of scientific thinking on a massive scale, and encourages people to give up superstitions and backward, feudal ideas, for example, casteism and communalism. This is only possible by means of a complete revolution in our thinking and attitude towards women. What is needed is a massive cultural struggle involving hundreds of millions of people which will sweep away all remnants of the disgusting feudal and medieval practices and mentality, particularly with respect to women. These should be replaced with scientific thinking and genuine and complete equality between men and women.When and how this will come about is not known. But come it will, and all patriotic people in India, including men, must strive and contribute to this goal.

“The thing women have yet to learn is nobody gives you power. You just take it.”
-Roseanne Barr

The process of gender equality and women's empowerment still has a long way to go and may even have become more difficult in the recent years. Further, women should be better educated , better informed – only then can take rational decisions. It is also necessary to sensitise the other sex towards women. It is important to usher changes in the societal attitudes and perceptions with regard to the role of women in different spheres of life.

Meanwhile, a woman needs to be physically healthy in order to work equally. This is sadly lacking in a majority of women especially in the rural areas. They have unequal access to basic health resources and lack adequate counseling. The result is an increasing risk of unwanted and early pregnancies, HIV infection and other sexually transmitted diseases. There is no doubt that the status of women has improved a lot. Evil practices such as the purdah system, child marriage and the like, have not been completely eradicated but have seen a downfall. Thus, a clear vision is needed to remove the obstacles to the path of women's emancipation both from the government and women themselves. Efforts should be directed towards all round development of each and every section of Indian women by giving them their due share.

“It doesn’t matter who you are, or where you came from. The ability to triumph beginswith you. Always.” ~Oprah Winfrey

I would like to conclude my article by stating that women should realize their status and set their goal for their emancipation. Education, developing the skills would help them be independent but emancipating from various bonds of the conservative society needs much more efforts. Women should understand their issues to tackle and overcome them. Indian women have rich culture and patience and persistence as in born nature as Mahatma Gandhi always believed, so it’s our turn we have to show the world our strength through our emancipation.