(Last Updated on : 18/01/2013)
Women in India have always been topic of concern since ancient times. Poet Mallika Sengupta's voice renders the picture of Indian women:
"I am that woman - I speak of her.
I read tears, I write fire,
I live in infamy and consume its ashes.
I endure violence, and still breathe fire.
I live as long as this fire burns within me."
Though on one hand, the society talks about the respect of women and preach them in the name of Goddess Durga
, Goddess Saraswati
and Goddess Kali
, but on the other hand the society also abuse women in the form of several evils like child-marriage, female infanticide, Sati, sexual harassment and many more. Society have had used women according to their convenience, and assorted woman typified role playing. Ramayana
teaches that because Ravana
his entire clan was wiped out. Further, Mahabharata
also teaches that the Kauravas were killed because they dishonoured Draupadi
The Women Question and the Present Condition
From an unknown period in Medieval India, generally perceived to be Muslim Era
to the modern times the condition of women lies constant with hardly any change. Twenty first century has ushered its trail a promise filled era. Tides of evolved revolution have mapped the role, ambitions and attitude of women within the framework of traditional India. Women have transgressed their traditional role of reproducers, mothers and wives of a non-entity; they have carved a niche an identity of their own in the modern society. However all is not bright. Like the other side of the coin, darkness prevails, She is still a commodity handed from father to husband in lieu of dowry; still her birth is a resolute verdict adopted by the father, her entity, her basic existence at the mercy or dominance of patriarchal hegemony especially when she is bound by the shackles of economic dependency.
In India, the families bear the flag of "Patriarchy" that is male dominated, the male members being the bread earners, are the decision makers. Women were never given any rights of liberty and equality rather they had to earn it fighting for the same. Treated in an inferior way, Women were considered as machines for giving birth to children. They were hardly provided with any education, as education would mean enlightenment, and thus equal status. The condition of women was terrible; if she gave birth to a girl child she was treated in a humiliated manner. Women were not only abstained from being educated but also were not permitted to step out of the house. They were asked to eat after their husbands have eaten and in fact were given to eat the leftovers of their husband's meal. In the 19th century European scholars observed that Indian women were virtuous and "naturally chaste" while modern women are precocious. The emergence of Women rights thus has become an energetic protest against marginalisation, interrogating women's position in society as the oppressed "other."
But such a situation no longer exists and there has been a considerable shift in the position of women in society. Present day women in India participate in all types of activities such as sports, education, media, politics, science, technology and culture. Indira Gandhi
, who was the longest serving woman Prime Minister, held office for fifteen years. The Article 14 of the Constitution of India
guarantees equal opportunity for women. Article 15(1) states no discrimination by state, article 16 states equal opportunity for women. The female activism in India picked up the pace in 1970's. In the process there are lots of women leaders who have emerged as local leaders like, Medha Patkar of the Narmada Bachao Andolan. Government of India
declared 2001 as the Year of Women's Empowerment, also known as Swashakti.
During the British rule, there were many reformers like Raja Rammohan Roy, Jyotiba Phule
, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar etc who fought for equal rights of women. Apparently it may seem that there was no positive contribution of British during their rule in India, but that is not entirely true. The wives of missionaries like Martha Mault nee Mead and her daughter Eliza Caldwell Mault pioneered the women education in South India. Later, with constant efforts of Raja Ram Mohan Roy
, the practice of Sati was abolished, and it took Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar
's crusade to improve the conditions of widows in India. The Widow Remarriage Act of 1856 helped the cause through a formal law.
Some of the rebellious women leaders in India are Kittur Chennamma, Abbakka Rani, Rani Lakshmi Bai
, Begum Hazrat Mahal and the Begums of Bhopal. These are few of the popular and notable female rulers, who were trained in martial arts and did not observe purdah. Some of the earliest Indian women who obtained educational degree were Kadambini Ganguly, Chandramukhi Basu and Anandi Gopal Joshi.
Indian women played a critical role in the independence movement. Some of the famous names in the freedom struggle include Dr. Annie Besant, Bhikaji Cama, Pritilata Waddedar, Sister Nivedita
Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, Vijayalakshmi Pandit, Sucheta Kripalani and Kasturba Gandhi
. Apart from these names there are; Durgabai Deshmukh
, Muthulakshmi Reddy etc.
Notable Indian Women in Education
was a renowned social reformer, who along with her husband Mahatma Jotiba Phule played a crucial role in enhancing the women's right in India during the British Raj. She was the first female teacher of the first women's school in India, and she is also considered as the face of modern Marathi poetry. She even opened a school for under privileged children.
Notable Indian Women in Arts and entertainment
Vocalists and singers like Gangubai Hangal
, M.S. Subbulakshmi, Lata Mangeshkar
and Asha Bhosle
are widely revered in India. Anjolie Ela Menon is also a popular painter in India. Starting from Thankumani Kutty to Tanuja Chandra, Deepa Mehta the sky is adorned with stars.
Notable Indian Women in Sports
The condition for women sports in India is yet not popular. But still some women have made a name for themselves in the field of sports. Some of the popular female sportspersons are J.J.Shoba, P.T. Usha
, Kunjarani Devi, Diana Edulji, Saina Nehwal
, Sania Mirza
, Koneru Hampi and Karnam Malleswari.
Notable Indian Women in Literature
Many popular women writers India are renowned poets and story writer world wide. Kamala Surayya, Sarojini Naidu
, Shobha De
, Arundhati Roy
, Anita Desai
, Kiran Desai
, Kamala Das
, Jhumpa Lahiri are some of the popular faces in Indian literary circuit. Arundhati Roy and Jhumpa Lahiri
were awarded the Booker Prize and Sarojini Naidu
is called the nightingale of India.
Time has arrived when women in India have self willingly been following the direction that the fairer sex of the Western world chose more than a decade ago say eighty years; demanding treatment as human equals. Instances have shown that as the revolution is on its hedonistic way Indian women may have to adapt the Western feminist regime to their juxtaposed traditional and religious culture. However, the Indian sky is silhouetted the basic inconveniences like lack of sanitation, education and job opportunities, equality between men and women in the public and private fundamental domains. The additional sectored complexities that Indian fairer sex is walled with include the caste system, or religious customs, and the practice of assorting of roles. The status was at one time accepted, but with the Western women's revolution and perception, the role is slowly succeeding in its development through both independent groups of women and national and worldwide organizations based on the goal of acquiring equality.
Having accomplished much, women folk are yet to overthrow the male dominated society. There is a confusion, constant aromas of pressure in women's mind about her role playing, the one of mask and face, of individual chosen one or the one thrust upon. Psychological strains bloom fully by the need to conform to socially induced images of femininity - to be a good wife, perfect mother and efficient home-maker. On the other, desire to establish their own identity or financial strains in family life force them to become career women. The future seems promising as "An enlightened woman is the source of infinite energy."- Swami Vivekananda.