Status of a Woman

INTRODUCTION

There is an extreme manifestation of unequal social relations between men and women within the family and the economy. The state fails to transform the existing social relations based on dependence, oppression and exploitation. Socio economic arrangements of sex / gender based disparity are reflected in lower wages for women, their under reporting in the labour force and the disadvantaged position of women in health and education. The constitution of India declared the equality of sex as a guiding principle. As such family should be basically an egalitarian unit founded on equal rights of the individuals who form a family. The subordination of women to men pervades family life in all classes and castes in India.

WOMEN IN INDIAN SOCIETY

A study on the status of women in Indian history is a difficult task for several reasons. The idea of better status for Indian women has been slowly evolving, through social and religious reforms and change. It had several ups and downs. In fact, the real emancipation of women began with education, occupational mobility, diversification of their roles, changes in child marriage, widow remarriage, sati and the like. Woman is the companion of man gifted with equal mental capacities. She has the right to participate in the minutest details of activities of man and she has the same rights of freedom and liberty. Indian women have diverse multi-dimensional characteristics. They have progressive as well retrogressive, roles and values among several religious and caste groups all over India. Most of them are housewives. The urban women are better placed and have benefited from the existing opportunities for development at a faster rate than the rural. In the field of science and technology they now play a great role. They have many hurdles to overcome yet.

GENDER BIAS IN INDIAN SOCIETY

In a patriarchal society like India, repression of the women has always been justified as a natural thing. Indian thinkers and social activists did not take the issue of gender stratification very seriously. Indian Constitution and legislations provide equal status to men and women. According to Article 14 of the constitution, the state shall not deny any person equality before the law. But in reality, all women do not enjoy this equality of status with men. Especially in the home, married women are likely to experience relative inequality due to patriarchal mind sets, rigid sex role stereotypes and socio-economic powerlessness. In India, the family is mainly patriarchal and patrilineal which denies egalitarian gender relations. There prevails a great gender bias in society which stops women from coming forward on any front of life.

TECHNIQUES FOR THE ATTAINMENT OF GENDER EQUALITY

Conscientization of Women

Conscientization of women makes them aware about their social economic conditions, their duties and rights and the way to break the chains of their ignorance.

Building confidence in women

Unless and until, confidence is built in women that they are no way inferior to men and society, they will not be able to recognize their identity and their role in society.
Change in social Attitude

We can make laws and enact legislations, but legislations alone are not going to stop atrocities on women. These can be stopped only when we in society build public opinion against these atrocities. For this, there is a need to change social attitude towards women.

Collective Awareness

Collective awareness should be brought amongst women about their roles and rights in the society. For this, action may be initiated through mass mobilization of women for their empowerment. Media can play an important role to bring about radical changes in the attitudes of people in society.

WOMEN’S STATUS

According to 2001 census the sex ratio is 933 females per 1000 males. The adverse sex ratio and its decline age groups has emerged as matter of concern in India. Preference for sons, intra-household gender discrimination and limited access to health care can explain this trend. India has enacted legislation banning the use of prenatal diagnostic techniques for sex determination. Efforts are being undertaken for implementing a master plan of action to tackle the problems of violence against girl children through infanticide, sex selection and trafficking.

FIVE YEAR PLANS AND WOMEN’S DEVELOPMENT

The approach to women’s development in first five year plan (1951-1956) was not clear. Women were projected as beings in need of education, health and welfare services only. The Central Social Welfare Board (CSWB) set up in 1953, undertook to promote a number of welfare measures through voluntary organisations. Manila Mandals were promoted for rendering essential services of education and health both by the CSWB and community Development program through the first and second five year plans. The third, fourth and fifth plans continued the same approach without giving any support to the strategies of development perspectives and empowerment of women. The sixth five year plan (1979-84) failed to remove disparity and injustice in both social and economic life. The seventh five year plan (1985-90) highlighted the strategy of direct attack on the problems of poverty, unemployment and the provision of gainful employment to the women and youth.

The strategy in eighth plan (1993-97) was “to ensure that the benefits of development from different sectors do not by-pass women and special programmes were implemented to complement the general programmes”. Education and nutrition, legal literacy and “changes in social attitudes and perceptions in regard to the role of women were mentioned as essential for empowerment. The most dramatic development during this period was the passing of 73 rd and 74th (constitutional) amendment in 1992 making provision for reservation of one third of seats for women in the local bodies. The Ninth plan (1997-2002) declared the empowerment as one of the objectives of the plan. The strategy of empowerment of women was through women’s Self-Help Groups.

NATIONAL POLICY FOR THE EMPOWERMENT OF WOMEN -2001

The policy document is devised into seventeen sections. A number of steps were taken to build a strong foundation for empowering women and making them participants in decision making. The goal of the policy is to bring about the advancement, development and empowerment of women. The objectives of this policy include full development of women, enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedom, equal access to participation and decision making to health care, quality education, employment, elimination of all forms of discrimination against women, changing societal attitudes, elimination of all forms of violence against women and building and strengthening partnership with civil society particularly women’s organisations.

CONCLUSION

While a number of legislative measures were adopted to guarantee legal equality to women, in practice these measures could not reorient and redefine the new roles that women are expected to take up. Legislation alone cannot create proper environments for eliminating gender inequalities, and transform the unequal social relations based on oppression and exploitation. We need a radical reformation in the organization of economy along with a radical change in the structure of family, including reorganization of our attitudes towards gender relations. Women should be perceived as producers and participants, not merely clients for welfare.