Madhuri Bapat was preparing for her first year BSc exam when her marriage talks sprouted. And within a month’s time, she got married, and her education came to a halt—as education after marriage required an agreement with her in-laws. At that time, it was a far-off checkbox in the dream list. In a nutshell, women needed to complete their education before marriage as they were not allowed to pursue it henceforth. Women’s education in itself was a challenge in India, where the female community were considered inferior to the male, and completing education after marriage was just a dream which never existed.
When we talk about education in India, fingers are always pointed at the minuscule percentage of female literacy rate. And when marriage comes into consideration, education jumps out of the window. Let’s take Madhuri’s case, born into a conservative family; she was taught from the beginning to obey her in-laws after marriage—as if they were her responsible handler.
Women in India have always been treated in an inferior way. They are expected to play the role society assigns them, no matter their situation. According to the data on marital status in 2011 census, the proportion of married women to the total number of women is 49.9 per cent and when we look at the literacy rate of women in India, it is 65.5 per cent. These numbers clearly show a disappointing attitude towards a progressive future of the nation. It is an aspect that has never touched the surface of a river, but its real-life examples exist in almost every family.
Casting aside of a woman’s interests and rights by her in-laws may seem like an act of ‘culture and tradition’, but the impact it brings is far greater than we could imagine.
Turning the rural pages of India, the vision they share with us has a totally different perspective regarding women’s education. According to the census of 2011, the literacy rate of females in rural areas is only 58.75 per cent. The orthodox mindset which governs these places is hard to get over, and they resist change—a change that may be fruitful for them. And when this change is about the education of their daughter-in-law, it is a straight no from the family.
Things have been going on a certain way for so long that they might feel insulted in sending their daughter-in-law to college or university to complete her education. The treat this issue as if sending their daughter-in-law outside will be a scar on the face of their family values and honor. Curbing their delight is what they feel their tradition asks for, and no matter what, they are ready to obey it, not caring whether it is wrong or right.
And it is even seen that girls, after getting married, completely overthrow their interests and satisfyingly engage with the household activities and settle with a financially-sound husband. Things won’t change if you don’t want them to change. It becomes a situation where no one can help you out, especially when you don’t want others to intervene.
Sometimes, family members do not allow them fearing that they would become more educated than their son. But they don’t understand the debt they are piling up, right inside their house, which will cost them the future of the nation. The path of truth remains in darkness because of these barriers, which have held society back with enough force to even tinker.
The Government of India has already provided rights that allow women to live a life she wants even after marriage, and this includes the right to live with dignity and self-respect. So a woman can pursue her education if she wants to. But there are no specified schemes which decisively argue for the right to education for women after marriage.
The Indian government has numerous schemes that have a constructive outlook towards the betterment of women and their empowerment, but there is an almost negligible focus on the matter of education after marriage.
The Ministry of Women and Child Development also have a clause for equal access to education for women and girls in their social empowerment of women plan, but there is no specification of special rights for the married women who are being barred from education—even if they want to continue. It seems like a diplomatic act of the government, which promises to provide full support to every aspect of women empowerment, but somehow skips an important aspect such as this.
The mindset that the future of this country mainly depends on men is a false assumption. It depends equally on the women, who have been invisibilised. The equality they deserve is the key to modern India. But here we are in a state, where women are being abused or being barred from acquiring education after marriage—as if they are burying their family values deep into the ground.
The root cause which remains is the mindset that women should not step out of their house once they get married. This has persisted for centuries now, especially the rural areas. And acquiring education by sharing platforms with unknown people in colleges or universities just brings disgrace to the family ‘reputation’. This is the kind of mentality we need to rid ourselves of.
It is this myth that needs to be repainted with the newness of the modern world. It’s the only way to walk on the path of progress. The only possible victory which may enlighten the way to a better future is the coming together of the government and society.