Even though women are enjoying equal rights and opportunities in India today, this situation was just a dream till ancient and medieval times. Today in this article we will study the status of women in India. In this article, you will get useful information about how the status of women has changed.
Status of Women in Modern India
In the modern period, there was a radical change in the status of Indian women. Historically, the period after 1750 AD is known as the modern period.
The condition of Indian women during this period can be divided into two phases:
- The condition of women during British rule in India, and
- Status of women in India after independence.
Status of women during British rule
After the fall of the Mughal Empire in the decisive Battle of Plassey (1775 AD), the British administrators established their complete political dominance over the Indian people. During British rule, several changes were made in the economic and social structures of our society.
Although the quality of life of women remained more or less the same during this period, some significant progress was made in removing inequalities between men and women in education, employment, social rights, etc.
Certain social evils like child marriage, the Practis of Sati system, the devadasi system, the purdah system, the prohibition of widow remarriage, etc., which were great hindrances in the path of progress of women, were either controlled or removed by suitable legislation.
For the first time after several centuries, some efforts were made on an all-India basis to deal with the problems faced by women. Patriotic social reformers on the one hand and the British government on the other hand together took several measures to improve the status of women and remove some of their disabilities.
Status of women after independent India
There has been a radical change in the status of Indian women since independence. Both structural and cultural changes provided equality of opportunity to women in education, employment, and political participation. With the help of these changes, the exploitation of women was reduced to a great extent. Women’s organizations were provided with more freedom and better orientation to advance their interests.
Centuries of slavery had ended. Today women want equality, education, and recognition for their work. The advancement of women is the most important fact of modern India. Gandhiji once said, “Of God’s creation, the greatest creation is woman, supreme in her sphere of action.” These words are blooming now.
Right from its inception in the 19th century, the Indian National Congress included women and Mrs. Annie Besant was elected as its President. One of the proudest moments of Indian womanhood was when Mrs. Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit was elected as the President of the United Nations General Assembly in 1953.
In the national movement, hundreds and thousands of women shed their veils and left their sheltered homes to work side by side with men. There has been a profound change in the status of women in independent India. Considerable progress has been made in the fields of administration, science and technology, sports, education, literature, music, painting, and other fine arts.
It is of utmost importance that women in independent India have made great strides in all walks of life. We can say with confidence that India is the only country among the developing countries of the modern world where so many women have successfully held high administrative positions. The improvement in the status of Indian women, particularly after independence, can be analyzed in light of major changes that have taken place in areas such as law, education and employment, political participation, and awareness of their rights on the part of women.
Constitutional provisions and laws in support of women’s issues:
The Constitution of India has greatly enhanced the status of Indian women by throwing all its chains on them on equal terms with men. All men and women of India are entitled to fundamental rights including personal liberty and the right to participate in social, cultural, religious, educational, economic, and political activities.
The constitution provides gender equality and protects women from exploitation. It has given women the right to vote and in no way treats women as second-class citizens.
Social legislation protecting the interests of women:
The government of independent India took several legislative measures to protect the interests of women.
Some of them are discussed here:
(i) The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955:
It prohibits polygamy, polygamy, and child marriage and gives women equal rights to divorce and remarries.
(ii) The Hindu Succession Act, 1956:
It provides equal rights to women in ancestral property.
(iii) The Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956:
The Act gives a childless woman the right to adopt a child and claim maintenance from her husband upon divorce.
(iv) Special Marriage Act, 1954:
It provides women equal rights with men for inter-caste marriage, love marriage, and registered marriage. The Act fixed the minimum age of marriage at 21 years for men and 18 years for women.
(v) Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961:
It declares dowry taking as an illegal activity and thus prevents the exploitation of women.
(vi) Other legislation:
(a) Suppression of Immoral Traffic in Women and Girls Act 1956:
It provides protection to women from being kidnapped or forced to become prostitutes.
(b) Medical Termination of Pregnancy: Act 1971:
It legalized abortion, recognizing a woman’s right to abortion on grounds of physical and mental health.
(c) Criminal Law Amendment Act 1983:
It tries to prevent various types of crimes against women.
(d) Family Courts Act 1984:
It seeks to provide justice to women who are involved in family disputes.
Women in Education:
After independence, women in India took up education in relatively large numbers. For example, in 1901, the literacy level of women in India was just 0.6%, it increased to 39.42% in 1991 and 64.1% in 2001. Various benefits are being given like free-ship, scholarships, loan facilities, hostel facilities, etc. For women going for higher education in many towns and cities, educational institutions for girl children only have been set up.
The educational performance of girls especially at the high school and college level is proving to be better than that of boys, especially after 1980. Today we have some universities which are exclusively for women. Example- SNDT University for Women (Poona) (ii) Padmavati University for Women (Tirupati), Mother Teresa University for Women (Kodai Canal, Tamil Nadu) Sri Avinashi Lingam Homes Science College for Women (Deemed University, Coimbatore). Getting admission on a merit basis in a relatively large number of prestigious engineering and medical colleges during recent years.
The contribution of women in the development of various languages cannot be denied. While Mahadavi Verma and Subhadra Kumari Chauhan are famous for writing Hindi, Amrita Pritam has enriched the Punjabi language with her works. Kuntala Kumari Sabat has enriched Oriya literature, many women writers have been honored with awards by Sahitya Akademi and other organizations. There are hundreds of women editors, journalists, and columnists in the country who are rendering commendable services.
Women in the field of economics and employment:
There has been a significant increase in the number of women moving out of the four walls of the home to become workers, both in rural and urban areas. In the “job market” they compete successfully with men, the number of women in the workforce in every sector has been increasing steadily since 1991, although fewer women are being recruited into the Army, Air Force, and Navy. Too.
Employment has given women economic independence and a sense of importance. They now feel that they can stand on their own and take care of the entire family by themselves. This has increased their self-esteem and confidence. The provision of employment has made them feel that they do not need to live as parasites on their men. To protect the economic interests and rights of women, the government has enacted various socioeconomic laws, which cover areas such as the right to property or inheritance, equal pay, working conditions, maternity benefits, and job security.
(i) Maternity Benefit Act 1961:
It gives maternity benefits like 3 months’ leave with pay to married women workers during the pregnancy stage.
(ii) Equal Remuneration Act 1976:
It removes wage discrimination between male and female workers.
(iii) Factories Amendment Act 1976:
It deals with working laws, weekly rest, standards of hygiene, ventilation, first aid facilities, restrooms, etc. The law also provides for the setting up of crèches for the children of working women, separate toilets for women, and maximum working hours of 9 hours. A day for the ladies.
(iv) Hindu Succession Act. 1956:
According to this act, not only the daughter is given equal rights in her father’s property as that of her brothers, but a widow also gets an equal share in the property of her deceased husband as her sons and daughters.
Women in Political Field:
The Indian Constitution has provided women with two important political rights, women’s suffrage and eligibility for the legislature. After independence, there has been a substantial increase in the number of women voters and women representatives in legislatures and parliament. In the Union cabinet and at the state cabinet level, we find that some of the ministerial ministries are headed by women.
Late Raj Kumari Amit Kaur was a minister in the first Union cabinet of independent India. Sucheta Kripalini as the first woman Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh and Padmaja Naidu the Governor of West Bengal successfully fulfilled their responsibilities. Smt. Nandini Satpathy of Orissa State was also one of the worthy Chief Ministers. The nation witnessed Mrs. Indira Gandhi, one of the most powerful Prime Ministers who led the country for more than a decade.
Honorable President Mrs. Pratibha Patil, and the current President Draupadi Murmu, hold the most important and prestigious positions in our country. An amendment (73rd) was brought into the constitution in 1992, according to which one-third of the seats at the panchayat level were reserved for women. There are many women members and chairpersons of local bodies and legislatures.
With their full potential and capacity for hard work, Indian women can now make an impact in every sphere of human activity. They have already demonstrated that they can successfully discharge their duties as an administrator, ministers, ambassadors, etc. However, it may be noted that political awareness is more present among upper and middle-class women as compared to lower-class women.
Women in sports:
In the world of sports, Aarti Saha won the swimming championship by swimming in the English Channel. In other sports as well such as the high jump, long jump, running, etc., the women of India show considerable drive and initiative. PT Usha has achieved remarkable success in the field of sports.
Also, in the field of pure and practical science, women are not behind men. One cannot ignore the services rendered by women in the field of music, painting, and other fine arts. India can, therefore, rightly be proud of the success achieved by its women in every field of human activity.
However, it is a matter of regret that though the status of women has been elevated under the law, in practice they suffer from discrimination, harassment, and humiliation. They are not taken seriously in taking opinions nor are they considered equal to men nor given equal respect at home or workplace.
Experience shows that the tyrannical hegemony of men is too strong and deep for any change in the status of women. Boys are still preferred over girls in most households.http://www.histortstudy.in
There does not seem to have been a radical change in the social attitudes toward women, their roles, and their status. Therefore, there is no point in bringing more and more laws to ensure better opportunities to give more and more rights and concessions, unless there is a fundamental change in the attitude of people towards women and the role of women in society.
If we really want to see India in the future as a country that is economically prosperous, politically well-equipped, socially developed, and culturally dignified, then surely we must give women equal rights in all their activities. areas have to be progressed. The late President of India Dr. Radhakrishnan once said, “The progress of our land towards our goal of democratic socialism cannot be achieved without the active participation of our mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters”.https://studyguru.org.in
In this way, we can say that the malevolent society, which considered women as weak and incompetent, considered women as second-class citizens and confined them within the four walls of the house. From ancient times to medieval times, women were bearers of various social evils. It was the colonial rulers who opened the doors of education for women in India. Jyotiba Phule and Savitri Bai Phule opened schools for women’s education.
The Indian conservative society has always been against women’s education and rights. Bhimrao Ambedkar introduced the Hindu Bill Code in Parliament, which was strongly opposed by Patel and other conservatives, due to which Ambedkar resigned from Parliament. Today, if Indian women are moving forward like men, then the British officials and Ambedkar have the biggest role in that.