When we begin our history from the Indus Valley civilization; there is no proper evidence of gender disparity. Although women used to wear makeup, anklets (only women), were prohibited from using the pottery wheel, and there was labour division; there are no concrete pieces of evidence to determine that the civilization was patriarchal. Later, an egalitarian society was established keeping gender equality in mind; women were allowed to attend sangha, read Vedic books, choose a life partner, and so on.
Till now prohibitions to Sati, child marriage, widow remarriage were merely a debate. A new phase began with the Vedic age where religion, trade, kingship, etc. dominated and the desire for a son (an heir) increased. Now, wanting a son hardly mattered until it became obnoxious for daughters. This desire for a proprietor resulted in the rejection of the entire female population, reducing them to liabilities. Unfortunately, this led to social evils such as Sati, child marriage, female foeticide, Devadasi culture, and many other ill practices.
This cycle of acceptance and rejection continued, more or less in the reigns of every ruler from Mauryan to Gupta similarly from Akbar to Aurangzeb. Women’s circumstances started to change during and after India’s struggle for independence with women’s participation in revolutions, Sati ban, widow remarriage, ban on Devadasi culture, voting rights, etc. But some social evils have made their way into the 21st century India, and gender disparity is a significant barrier for women. In India, only 51% of the women are literate, they do 60-80% of all the farm work, but only 13% own any land, and while there were more than 260.6 million women voters, only 76 women representatives won seats (out of 542) in the last Lok Sabha elections (the highest ever).
How honestly does the changing face of India reflect the socio-economic position of women in this country? Despite the sacrifices and struggles, women do not have a share in the rewards of social and economic growth the country has witnessed. Where is their freedom?
Why are girls not allowed to travel at night? Why aren’t they allowed to travel outside their hometowns to pursue an education in major cities like Delhi? Why can’t they travel abroad for jobs? Why can’t they inherit their father’s property despite the law sanctioning them the right? Every individual choice starting from what to wear to whom they marry—they have been systematically stripped of their fundamental rights in this so-called progressive nation.
Now, it’s not that our society is conservative, no, we are just “protective” at least in the majority of cases not conservative just protective.
If we talk about India’s female population, which is 586.47 million (48.5%), there must be n number of reason for our society to be “protective” of its women. I am going to throw light on just one reason here, which is probably the most common: the question of their security/safety-
1. In 2016, India recorded 106 rapes per day, highlighting the mammoth rate of crime against women.2. Sexual abuse, eve-teasing, online trolling, etc. increase rapidly every year with thousands of cases filed against the perpetrators.
3. If economic prosperity brings security, then there would have been no #metoo, as the majority of woman who spoke up in this campaign were working women.
4. Every third woman in India experiences sexual and physical violence at home.
5. At least 72% of reported acid attacks in India have involved women.
6. Kidnapping and abduction of women and girls is on the rise.
In short, the crimes against women are on the rise in this country. The above data does not even contain information about the numerous unreported crimes!
I think it’s pretty clear now that India is neither protective of its women nor does it care about their progress in society. It’s not that the Indian government has not done anything. There are strict laws against dowry, rape, kidnapping, murder, sexual abuse, sexual harassment etc. They have also tried to empower women by providing them 2/3rd reservation in Panchayats, loan benefits, schemes like Skill India, introducing one-stop centres, promoting menstrual hygiene products, etc. to bring social justice to them in the form of various policies and laws.
But is it enough?
Actually, it would have been enough if these were properly implemented. But poor implementation has rendered women helpless. If Visakha guidelines were really followed, could there have been a #metoo? Every 15 minutes, a girl child is abused in India. If all these were properly implemented, would there be a need for a “protective society”? The question is, what next?
Indian society needs to accept and love a daughter as much as a son. A law to make this possible only needs an “implementation” by society, by families, and by women themselves.