Modern Gender Equity Factors and Women in India

Gender discrimination continues to be an enormous problem within Indian society. Traditional patriarchal norms have relegated women to secondary status within the household and workplace. This drastically affects women's health, financial status, education, and political involvement. 

Modern Gender Equity Factors and Women in India

Women are commonly married young, quickly become mothers, and are then burdened by stringent domestic and financial responsibilities. They are frequently malnourished since women typically are the last member of a household to eat and the last to receive medical attention. Additionally, only 54 percent of Indian women are literate as compared to 76 percent of men. Women receive little schooling, and suffer from unfair and biased inheritance and divorce laws. These laws prevent women from accumulating substantial financial assets, making it difficult for women to establish their own security and autonomy. 

In Rajasthan, all of these problems are aggravated by high levels of seasonal migration. For many men in Rajasthan, migration is required since rural parts of Rajasthan often lack a sufficient economy to provide income for a family year-round. Women are commonly left behind to care and provide for the entire household. This is increasingly difficult because it is estimated that an average woman's wage is 30 percent lower than a man's wage working in a similar position. While these mothers work, they must also tend to domestic responsibilities. This formula for supporting Rajasthani families leaves little resource for the growth and development of women's rights and education levels. A strong "son preference" exists in the region, as it does throughout the country, and high rates of female infanticide and female feticide plague the area. In 2001, for every 1,000 males living in Rajasthan there were only 922 women (Marthur et. al., 2004). Having sons is economically advantageous to families due to cultural institutions; these institutions serve to drastically devalue the roles women play in the traditional society. Women continue to struggle to achieve equal status to men, making gender equity an issue of particular importance for Rajasthan.

In Rajasthan several NGOs that have hosted FSD participants are instrumental in providing opportunities for women. These organizations help to build networks among women to create financial self-help groups. They introduce ideas about microfinance, allowing women to participate in management activities. Other local NGOs implement projects that export the skills of women abroad to generate significant income. In 2006, Olen Crane, an FSD intern, helped nearly 400 women artisans in the Udaipur area by collecting samples of their textile products and shipping them abroad to sell to American companies. Similar projects have enormous potential to improve the financial and social status of Rajasthani women. Organizing change at a local level and planning participatory action will help to eliminate bias and stereotypes, and generate awareness of the significant gender divide that exists within Indian society. India is one of the few countries where women enjoy a comparatively better status than many women in other parts of the world. 

True Indian women face many problems and are subject to the same social pressures which women experience in other parts of the world. But relatively speaking, their situation is much better than what it used to be in the pre-independence era. On the positive side women have made rapid strides in every aspect of modern life. The constitutions guarantees equal opportunity and where necessary provides necessary safeguards from possible exploitation or injustice. Indian women of today are not afraid of voicing their opinions or joining forces with other women in the local community to fight against social maladies and injustice. They have opportunities to take bold decisions or lead unorthodox lives, which might have made them vulnerable to social ridicule and family pressures few decades ago. Undoubtedly, women of today in India enjoy better status and freedom than women in the past. On the negative side, Indian women suffer from many disabilities and social injustices. 

This is true for all Indian women, to whatever religion they may belong, except where their status, roles and responsibilities are directly influenced by religious beliefs such as marriage and inheritence. Indian women rank high in terms of the number of prostitutes in the world, girl children neglected, abused or often sold purely for economic reasons, as victims of AIDS, and women living below the poverty line or forced to do physical labor even when they are pregnant or sick. And speaking of the sexual attitude of Hindu males...we know they are not much different from their counterparts in other religions. It is difficult to generalize the situation of women in India due to the heterogeneous nature of Indian society. Women belong to different social and economic strata and what is true in case of one particular category may not be true in case of others. So much has been happening in Indian society as of late that, it is difficult to make objective conclusion about the situation of women in India without inviting an opposite reaction. And this often gives scope for distortion and misinterpretation of the facts. The internet itself is a glaring example of such distortions. 

There are many websites on the Internet today that present a very pathetic situation of Indian women, especially Hindu women. Some of them do it to catch attention while some do it purely with malice and an aim to distort Hinduism for personal or political reasons. Some of them quote from Hindu scriptures to prove their point, but fail to present the other side of the argument also. Obviously the people who publish one sided information about Hindu women of Hindu society have little sympathy and tolerance for whatever that Hinduism represents. Their approach is one sided, utterly biased and intended to convert people to other faiths or draw attention to themselves. 

It is true that some of the ancient scriptures were very partial to women and treated them with disdain, but we have no evidence to suggest that people followed these scriptures to the word. In ancient India there was a great deal of social diversity and hardly any organized political or religious machinery to implement the religious laws universally. 

Religion was then, as it is now, mostly a matter of personal choice. The smritis, or the law books of Hinduism had little impact on the day to day lives of a vast majority of the people. The kings and the nobility had little interest in the masses beyond collection of taxes. It is therefore incorrect to base ones conclusions exclusively on scriptural evidence. 

We therefore request the readers to be careful about such articles and websites when they search for information about Hindu women on the internet. The problems of Hindu women are not peculiar to Hindu women. They are problems common to most of the women irrespective of the religions they practice.
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About Neha Nair

Despite being raised Hindu where parents enrolled in a Catholic school and proceeded to enroll in university to study medicine but become model cum entrepreneur.
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