Patriarchy is a social system in which males hold primary power, predominate in roles of political leadership, moral authority, special privilege & control of property; in the domain of the family, father- figures hold authority over women & children. Many patriarchal societies are also patrilineal, meaning that property & title are inherited by the male lineage. Here, the female alternative is matriarchy. Historically, Patriarchy has manifested itself in the social, legal, political, & economic organization of a range of different cultures. Analysis of patriarchy & its effects is a major topic within the social sciences & humanities. Now a day, Patriarchy is a well-known term. It possesses everyday resonance, when used in casual conversation or in a descriptive sense, whether in English or in any of the several languages spoken in Indian sub-continent, the term implies ‘male domination’, ‘male prejudice’ (against women) or in simply ‘male power’. At its simplest, the term means ‘the absolute rule of the father or the eldest male member over his family’.
Patriarchal Nature of Indian Society:
Indian debates on socialism & patriarchy are complicated by a major shift in analysis. The subject of research & debates was not only capitalism & its relationship to patriarchy. Rather, Patriarchy came to be discussed in term of the modes of production & reproduction, specific to Indian realities. These were understood in terms of the family & household; kinship & caste; culture & religion & the Indian state, whose policies have a dynamic beaming on all other social structures. Indian discussion addressed & added their own concerns to the larger feminist arguments with English.
Various studies are available which is documenting the same. Their invisibility, position of women in the social, political & economic system, is clearly more an outcome of the ideology governing public policy relating to women. Hence, women are noticeably absent from the discussions of development theory too.
Women in Indian Society:
India is one of the countries where the female population is counting in less proportion to male population. According to UNICEF India’s Report on Child Sex Ratio, the birth of female’s children is declining steadily. Figures from 1991 showed the sex ratio was 947 girls for 1000 boys. Since 1991 in 80% of all districts in India had recorded a declining sex ratio with the state of Punjab being the worst in leading the statistics. States like Maharashtra, Gujarat, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh & Haryana have recorded more than 50 point decline in the child sex ratio in the same period. The Kerala state is the only one in India where overall sex ratio is constantly in favorable to women.
The Status of Women in India:
Women from about half of the population of the country, but their situation has been grim. For countries, they have been deliberately denied opportunities of growth in the name of religion & socio-cultural practices. At the social-political plain, women suffered from the denial of freedom even in their homes, repression & unnatural indoctrination, unequal & inferior status, rigid caste hierarchy & untouchablity . The religious tradition & social institutions have a deep bearing on the role & status of women.
Protest movements within the Hindu fold, like Buddhism, Jainism, Vaishvanism, Veera Shaivism & Sikhism contributed to some improvement in the status of women. Particularly in regard to religious activities. However, they continued to regard women primarily as mothers & wives, & inferior to men in the society. From the mid of 19th. Centuary reform movements like Brahma Samaj, Arya Samaj, Ramkrishna Mission, etc championed the cause of women, but nothing concrete could be achieved. It is also significant that upliftment of women was an important item in the agenda of MK Gandhi.
Exploitation of Women:
A woman in Indian society has been victim of humiliation, torture & exploitation. There are many episodes like rape, murder, dowry, burning, wife beating & discrimination in the socio-economic & educational fields. Indian society is pre-dominated by men, hence women are a victim of male domination in the respective sphere of life; especially in economic life, for instance, over decision making on resources, on utilization of her earnings & on her body. Hence, a woman’s life lies between pleasures at one end & danger at other end. In daily life, women are routinely defined by sex & they are potential victims of kidnapping & rape.
The Vulnerability of women:
The condition of women is more miserable in the rural India with respect to various Socio-Economic aspects.
Poverty is one of the important characteristic of India & nearly 45% of rural people are below poverty line. Most of them are just surviving with day-to-day earnings. If we take International Poverty Line (1994) into consideration in India, there were 47% of population at below $1 a day category & 87.5% at below $2 a day category. Better health care & higher educational opportunities are far reaching dreams for their children & is no need to say about the status of girl child in such families. She (girl child) is treated as a ‘silent lamb’ born to suffer all evils in male dominated societies.
Indian society has been bound by culture & tradition since ancient times. The patriarchal system & the gender stereotypes in the family & society have always showed a preference for the male child. Sons are regarded as a means of social security & women remained under male domination. Due to her subordinated position, she has suffered fears of discrimination, exploitation & subjugation. She became the victim of several social evils like child marriage, sati, polygamy, purdah system, female infanticide forced pregnancy, rape etc. In such incidents/recorded cases mother-in-law are also taking active part. This discrimination & violence against women has an effect on the sex ratio in India also. The main causes of violence are unequal power relations, gender discrimination, patriarchy & economic dependence of women, no participation on decision making process etc.
On the world level, women & girls together carry two-third of the burden of the world’s work yet receive only a tenth of world’s income. The condition of women in India is also more miserable in every field of social life. They are paid half of three-quarters of the money while their male counterparts earn for the same job. In India a predominantly agricultural country, women do more than half of the total agricultural work. But their work is not valued. On an average, a woman works 15 to 16 hours a day unpaid at home & underpaid outside.
In India, the literacy rate of women is much lower than men because boys receive more schooling than girls. India is one of the 43 countries in the World where male literacy rate are at least 15% higher than female rates. Educational deprivation is intimately associated with poverty.
However, in India modest improvement is gradually coming up in educational level of women. After the independence, many steps have been taken to improve the lots women. The present govt’s program “Beti Bachao,Beti Padao” is also remarkable step by the Govt to fulfillment the need & aspiration of girl child. There are many laws have been also passed. A National Commission for Women was set up to act as a watchdog on the women issues in 1992. Many programs in the areas of education, health, & employment have been initiated for development of women, rural as well as urban.
The review of the status of women in India tells the story of a fall in the status of women to an abysmally low position from a relatively high status & notability of the Vedic times. The fall in status has led to a socio-economic & religious- cultural deprivation of women. Off course, there are certain initiatives in the country, especially after the independence towards raising the status of women. But still there are many miles to go in order to reach out the goal of gender equality.