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Published by Nawal K Srivastava

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Published by: Nawal K Srivastava on Apr 13, 2011
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The presentation of women reservation bill in the Parliament has beenrepeatedly stalled at the behest of myopic political leadership reflected by most of thedominant political parties in parliament. The women reservation bill is facing thesame plight in parliament as women are facing in Indian society. Parliament hasproved to be a true representative of disintegrating value system of Indian socialfabric. Women in our society are pushed, torned, marginalised and given a lopsidedtreatment in all walks of life and same fate is being meted out to Women reservationbill also.Before advocating the need for women reservation bill it is essential topreview the general picture of women in Indian society. The common perception of women in our society is that they are not equal to men. The philosophy is perpetuatedand ingrained right from their birth ceremony. We don’t need to delve into history tosubstantiate this philosophy. Even after Independence, in theory the constitutionprovided equal status to all its citizens, in practice women, who constitute half of thepopulation, are not even half empowered as men.“This is a society where women are considered a personal possession and areviewed as the honour of the family and society. This patriarchal mindset restrictsfreedom of women and pressurizes them to act according to the set paradigm of thesociety, with no role of intervention in decision making. In majority of cases, from thelevel of education to choice of life partner, voice of family prevails, leaving lesser space for individual preference. In addition after marriage, women face oppression,but she bears it for the sake of family, the biggest institution of our society.”In the patriarchal society women are not only subdued physically buteconomically too. Economy plays a major role in life at all stages. Since most of thewomen are groomed and prepared for a life as a home maker, her contribution cannotbe converted into monetary terms. Thus despite working 24 hours a day hecontribution in the economy is nil. That also determines the deplorable status of women in Indian society.
According to Dhananjay Tripathi, “If we first take the gender nationsdevelopment index of the world, the position of India is reprehensible.” According toUN development program which prepares the gender development index, during theperiod 2000-2005, India’s standing on this scale dipped from 105 to 113. The sexratio, which reflects preference for male child over female child in a society theposition of India, has continuously deteriorated in successive censuses from 1901 to2001. As per census 1901 the sex ratio was 972 which went down to 933 in 2001.States having predominantly feudal social structures like Bihar, Rajasthan, Haryanafare poorer than the national aveage.TABLE 1: ALL INDIA SEX RATIOS NO CENSUSYEAR SEX RATIO1 1901 9722 1951 9463 1961 9414 1971 9305 1981 9346 1991 9277 2001 933SOURCE : CENSUS OF INDIA 2001There are innumerable reasons for these deteriorating trends. Firstly, dowrysystem where girl’s parents are required to take the responsibility of all expensesduring marriage. According to the National crime record bureau (NCRB) one dowrydeath is reported every 77 minute even today.Secondly, lack of education among girls prevents them from pursuing aneconomically independent life. Thus adhering to age old principle of Manu who hadadvocated for a dependent life for women- as a child she is dependent on father, as anadult on her husband and as a mother on her son.Thirdly, entrenchment of patriarchal society where a son is supposed to givemukti to parents on their death. Thus craving for a male child and abhorring a femalechild.
Fourthly, women are biologically weaker than men hence are sexuallyvulnerable. In numerous cases culprits are close relatives and family friends. Sincefemale virginity is a social stigma in a patriarchal society women keep mum for thesake of honour. In case of revolt girls are forced to death in extreme cases by their own family members or by caste panchayats.Fifthly, the “ Caste system which is not only based on structural inequalitiesbetween the high caste and low caste ‘untouchable’ but also involves social isolationand exclusion from participation in social, political and economic processes anddevelopment of society. The Dalit women are a victim of discrimination at two levels-by the high caste on the basis of her untouchable status by birth as well as on the basisof her gender by her own caste members.”Poverty also plays a major role in determining the specific role and position of women in any social structure.Though constitution of India provides for equality of sexes in economic,political and social sphere the empirical data proves otherwise. In the May 2004general elections, 539 candidates were elected to the 14
Lok Sabha, only 44 (lessthan 10%) of them were women. The low representation of women among successfulcandidates across the party line prompted the election commission to write to thegovernment about the need for providing adequate representation to women.A country’s level of maturity as a nation is reflected in the way it looks after its weaker sections and elderly. If India is to claim a developing democracy, creationof adequate and affective institutional structures guaranteeing full and equalopportunity to all its citizens in walks of life is an essential prerequisite. No countrycan claim to be either developed or democratic if it keeps half of its populationdistanced from the mainstream of development process. Despite being revered asgoddess and mother, women in our country have lived a marginalised life throughoutthe history of Indian society. The deplorable living condition of women startedchanging with social reforms, legislative measures and state driven executive andlegislative initiatives since independence. The emergence of many institutions likeNational Commission for Women, Women Rights groups, National Human RightsCommission and higher degree of education among women at least in urban India

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