Pallavi Banerjee on Gender Equality in Indian Society

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“A Study of Gender Equality in the Indian society”

By Pallavi Banerjee


“It is impossible to think about the welfare of the world unless the condition of women is improved. It is impossible for a bird to fly on only one wing.”

-Swami Vivekananda


Swami Vivekananda’s metaphor of the bird actually justifies his claim that without the development of the condition of women, the welfare of the world is impossible. Gender equality has been universally accepted as a serious shift towards sustainable human development. In India, although some progress in women’s development has been made, yet women continue to lag behind which is an outcome of a web of complex forces. The adverse sex ratio, poor educational and nutritional status, inequality in wages and violence against women are prevalent in the Indian society, like many other patriarchal societies of the world, even today, and the gender discrimination certainly continues to be an enormous problem within the Indian society.

Not just in India, but since time unknown women have been looked down upon as inanimate objects all over the world. To fight for the equal rights for women, there have been feminist movements around the globe. It had started in France and UK, and gradually spread across the entire world. Modern Western Feminist history is split into three periods or waves. The first-wave feminism of the nineteenth and early twentieth century focuses on overturning legal inequalities. The second wave feminism includes cultural inequalities, gender norms and the role of women in society. The third wave feminism refers to both continuations of the second wave and a response to the perceived failures and it also refers to post-colonialism. While women in the western countries had to fight for the voting rights, women in India had been granted the voting rights by the Constitution of India.

Indian feminists had to fight against culture-specific issues within India’s patriarchal society. The patriarchal attributes include dowry, siring sons, among others. Also there are issues like female infanticide and female foeticide that exist in the Indian society. Saroj Nalini Dutt, Sarala Devi Chaudhury, Prem Chowdury are some of the well-known Indian feminists who have fought for the women’s rights. But, despite the progress made by the Indian feminist movements, women living in the modern India still face various issues of discrimination.

In India, there are women who get married young, they become mothers, and are then burdened by stringent domestic and financial responsibilities. They are frequently malnourished, they receive little schooling and suffer from biased inheritance and divorce laws. Not only this, there have been at least thousands of rape cases in the last few years in the various parts of our nation. Even after implementation of laws, people are not being able to put an end to the rape cases, molestations and eve teasing. Time and again, women have been victims of acid attacks and in this way, the dignity of women is at stake now. Especially, in the rural areas like Rajasthan, women are vehemently tortured and they are treated as inferiors in the male dominated society. In many villages in India, women are still not allowed to receive education. Not only in the villages, even in the metropolitan cities, women have been victims to rape cases and acid attacks. Almost every day women are being raped in India, yet, no one is being able to put an end to it.

Traditionally, right from the ancient days, India has been a male-dominated culture. Indian women were covered with many thick, slack layers of prejudice, convention and ignorance. However, today, women in India are struggling to be at par with men. The social reformers like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Pandit Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar and others brought a revolution in the Indian society by abolishing sati and encouraging widow remarriage. They also played a great role in introducing western education and in encouraging women to become educated by setting up schools and colleges especially for women. Even the political revolutionists like Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru gave women a new dimension. There have been women like Sarojini Naidu, Indira Gandhi, Kiran Bedi, Kalpana Chawla and many others who have been successful in proving the fact that they are no less than men. There are also women who have played a heroic part in the Indian freedom struggle. Therefore, women must be allowed to participate at all levels of society.

The condition of women has also been reflected in literature. While Jane Austen’s works addressed women’s restricted lives in England in the early part of the nineteenth century, Charlotte Bronte, Anne Bronte and George Eliot depicted women’s misery in their works. Likewise, even Indian literature has projected the terrible condition of women in the Indian society. In Roots and Shadows, Shashi Deshpande studies the issues and problems of the contemporary middle class women. Again, Rabindranath Tagore reveals the dark side of the Indian society in his famous short story, Dena Paona. Nirupama, the sensitive girl in Dena Paona, was humiliated to death as her father did not pay the dowry in full. Mahesh Dattani also projects in his post-modern drama, Bravely Fought the Queen, how every woman is crumbled by patriarchy in the Indian society.

It must be noted that while patriarchy persists in the Indian society, several communities in India, such as the Nairs of Kerala, Shettys of Mangalore, and some Bengali families exhibit matriarchal tendencies. In these communities, the head of the family is the oldest woman. The Sikh culture is also considered to be gender-neutral.

Several NGOs have been instrumental in providing opportunities for women. They help to create financial self-help groups and introduce ideas about microfinance allowing women to participate in various activities. They try to generate awareness of the gender discrimination that exists within the Indian society. Although there are women who have already proved that they are at par with men, the others are still struggling for equal rights. Basically, gender equality can come only when there is a transformation of the patriarchal structures and systems that lie at the root of women’s subordination and gender inequality. The prosperity of India depends completely on the condition of women. If there is gender equality, only then can India advance towards progress and prosperity.





Introduction to the Author:

Pallavi Gender Article Pallavi Banerjee is from Kolkata, India. Currently, she is pursuing master’s degree in English Literature. She loves to read books, to write, to listen to good music and to sketch. Anything that is creative fascinates her.



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