Today, women across the world enjoy rights, privileges, entitlements, etc. These have been possible due to rigorous struggles by women and the subsequent enactment of legislation by different countries. Also, women are contributing in every field which was supposed to be the domain of men. Apart from domestic responsibilities, they are leading the world in an optimistic way. But, are they really free from fear? Are they allowed to take life decisions? Are they free to walk at night without a male guardian? Does their domestic responsibility get the same recognition as the work they do outside as an employee? Are they still being sold off for prostitution? Are they still childbearing ‘machines’? Are they going to school? These are some questions which need to be answered by society, which is, unfortunately, still patriarchal in form.
In India, women have political and economic rights that are protected by law, but at the same time, it is also a matter of concern that India’s sex ratio (940/1000, Census 2011) reflects some serious issues within Indian society. The irony is, rape is an offence by law, however, marital rape is not considered a criminal offence! Is this a joke? Can a man force himself on a woman in any situation? Is her willingness not important in a marriage?
Akansha Mehra, an executive working at a remote sensing firm, is of the view that marriage is a sacred bond and both partners should have equal say. “Women face discrimination at not only at home, but everywhere. Be it a garden, market, school, college, workplace, everywhere she faces harassment and sometimes she loses her life like Nirbhaya,” she adds.
Moreover, a 2015 study by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry and EY suggested that 36% of Indian companies and 25% of multinational corporations in India were not compliant with the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013. This situation is prevailing despite the principle of gender equality being enshrined in the Indian Constitution that empowers the state to adopt measures in favour of women.
Women like Rani Laxmi Bai, Begum Hazrat Mahal, Aruna Asaf Ali have contributed incredibly to the nation, but the Indian Parliament does not respect their contributions. A report by the UN ranked India at 148 in the representation of women in government. So, are women not required to raise their views? Or can a man just decide for a woman? These questions are simple, but their answers are not. Taboos and stereotypes must be foregone, not just by men, but by women themselves. Until and unless women are in leadership positions, the dream of becoming a superpower is an illusion.
Therefore, without taking women on board in decision making and without granting her all the rights she is entitled to, we cannot and should not think of becoming a world leader. Should there not be a limit on hollow claims of women’s safety? Who will answer this, the government or Khap Panchayats? A true celebration is still waiting, for the time when a girl’s character would not be decided by her clothes. For a change, introspection is the need of the hour, and the sooner we realize that the lesser the damage caused to society. After all, Beti Bachao is India’s first priority, and only then comes Beti Padhao.