On one hand, in our ancient literature, we deified her, put her on high pedestal as the female version of God calling her the epitome of power as Durga or, the bestower of wealth as Laxmi, or the dispenser of wisdom as Saraswati.
On the other hand, in two of our most revered epics we held her responsible as the root of all conflicts. We gave her less rights and enormous responsibilities, in one case to manage five husbands and in another, to pass through fire to prove her fidelity.
In China women were not considered to be possessing a soul so that they could be treated and traded like any inanimate object. In the gambling episode of Mahabharata an impression is given that women could be put on bet like any other material object. Thus, treating women like an object has been the bane of all ancient civilizations. Even in a so called progressive free thinking country like US, it was not untill 1920 that women got voting rights. Even today, in certain religions, it is perfectly legal to treat women as dispensable objects.
Has the situation in India changed much?
Large segments of Indian population still are uneducated, underfed and live in backward areas. Fetal killing of potential female child is still prevalent in man y parts of India. No doubt many positive steps have been taken by successive governments like reservation in the local bodies and the latest campaign- “beti padhao beti bachao“. But, unless the mindsets of majority of people change, there will not be much change in the ground reality is spite of incentive schemes.
In the context of today’s India I would suggest the following six point program to empower women. I know a few of the suggestions are too serious to be implemented. Nevertheless, please do not laugh these off.
- Beti padhao and beti bachao should not just remain a slogan and should be implemented across all segments of society.
- In family settings it is seen that women act against other women. Many elderly ladies give preferential treatments to male children giving the impression that their female siblings are children of a lesser god. Thus, since early childhood wrong impression is given about gender parity.
- Even if women are give positions of power, quite often they are just used as proxies, as happened with Rabri Devi in Bihar. Ultimately, it boils down to the mindset of people. The society must be comfortable with women enjoying all kinds of rights at par with men. No discrimination should be made by the family or society or the state in terms of opportunities and compensation.
- The time has come for women themselves to come forward. I think it will be a mark of true feminism when women consider the plight of the less fortunate ones and fight for women of all part of the society in stead of restricting their movement to a few fashionable or intellectuals issues.
Now the more serious ones –
- All the feminists should come forward united at least for this issue. Now a days, a lot of wife bashing jokes are in circulation in social media giving it the impression that women are already empowered and there is not need to do anything further. They should call for a blanket ban on all such jokes and if required file a case in Supreme Court like it happened sometime back when someone filed a petition against Santa Banta jokes. (To hell with your sense of humour, you male chauvinists)
- Last but not the least, Modiji should create a separate ‘women empowerment’ ministry. As the minister for this department he should choose … no no not Sushma Swaraj, …….. no no not Smriti Irani…. but Rahul Gandhi himself. You may say that he does not belong to his party. Nevertheless, Modiji should show some compassion. After all, Rahul Gandhi is the only politician who has used the term ‘women empowerment’ more number of times than his biological age. Moreover, this is an opportunity for Modiji to compensate for all the jibes he has taken at Rahul till now.