India, as a nation has since the most ancient times been culturally diverse with complex and elaborate social nuances and hierarchies which in many places is persistent till date and can be hoped to continue for the foreseeable future. In such a myriad social scenario, delineating a subject as delicate as the position of women in society, in general, can be an extremely daunting task. However, our daily experiences which constitute a formidable share of what we designate as life, can serve as a decent ,if not entirely accurate mirror for where exactly the so called fairer sex stands in the social scheme of things.
The twenty-first century Indian woman is every bit as strong and powerful as her male counterpart in terms of ability to lead life in a self-sufficient and dignified manner. She is strong, intelligent, fearless and armed with a passion that enables them to attain excellence in any field she might choose to take on. Women today do not treat their equality with men as a privilege bestowed upon them by men themselves, but rather as a natural right that every woman should be able to exercise. A cursory glance at modern cosmopolitan Indian society might project the image of the Indian woman as a mighty force to be reckoned with in every modern field worthy of attention. However, a deeper and more disturbing picture lurks beneath the surface of this happy and hopeful facade of the progressive Indian female; one that in many cases is incredulous, and in others, downright despicable.
Whenever we think of the degradation of women in our current social scenario, the first image that comes to our minds is the rampant crimes against women being committed on a daily basis,many of which go unreported on account of the fear of the victim to be somehow implicated for the crime commited against her, a cruel irony of fate indeed. It is true that the rate of crimes against women in this nation has gone through the roof and everyday we are faced with new forms of atrocities and ever more barbaric instances of bestiality inflicted on innocent women. Law enforcers seem to be completely outdone in their feeble attempts to bring the tormentors to justice, and in many cases they are openly hostile to helpless victims who might have turned to the law in a desperate plea for safety. In such dark times we are inclined to think that women are unsafe in general outside their homes because of vicious criminals who are waiting to prey on their next victim. In a number of cases that might even be true, However, the real deterrents to the actual progress of women are far less dramatic and far more subtle than the media would have us believe. They are ingrained in our general social outlook and psyche, and hence easy to overlook and infinitely more difficult than the mere apprehension of criminals.
Typically,the role of women in our society has been that of the mother,the wife and the homemaker, all of which are readily proclaimed as highly noble and praiseworthy roles in the quintessential Indian family. Granted, these roles are absolutely essential to the functioning of the family and the society as a collective unit. However, recognizing the woman as an individual-as a flesh and blood human being with desires and flaws and imperfection-that is another matter altogether. Even today, in the lesser urban and semi-rural areas, women are still expected to adhere to the age old patriarchal standards for female behavior, which can range from mildly oppressive to glaringly sexist and misogynistic. The situation is even more outrageous in the rural areas where in many cases women are regarded as nothing but a source of dowry and a vessel to bear male children. They are doomed to spend a life of illiteracy, poverty and near slavery under their in laws, and it is deemed as nothing unnatural. Education for women is still a far cry in so many places,some of them not too rural. The obsession with a male child even in highly educated and respectable Indian societies has not helped either. Female foeticide Is a new age vice that is a looming threat to our social balance. In many cases, women themselves act as advocates of retrogressive patriarchal practices for personal or political ends, or simply because they believe in the subjugation of women by men as being only natural.
A multitude of measures can be suggested for the elimination of the aforementioned vices which threaten to stagnate the development of women’s social standing in India. Education is the single most powerful weapon that can achieve long run benefits for all women in our country. It is only by educating every girl child out there that we can truly open their eyes to the rights that they deserve and their path to self-sufficiency and a healthy life. The general public mindset regarding women needs to undergo a change and people need to recognize women as fellow human beings rather than merely role players carrying out specific roles assigned to them by patriarchy. Women in India are yet to be accepted as wholesome individuals, complete with their beauty and their flaws, as creatures who are just as human as males.