Women in have been given a place of Goddess in our society as women give life, guards it and strengthen it. Half of our population constitute of women. They have played a significant role in the history of the world not as being the mother of great leaders but being in different roles. We are the largest democracy today; we claim to practice equality in all perspective. But do we really follow what we tend to depict to the world? It is ironical that we place women and girl child on a pedestal for worship but still sex ratio in India is declining despite so many efforts by the government.
The dark side of Indian society looks down at birth of a girl child as a burden and welcomes the boy as light to the family. The declining sex ratio has many factors infanticide, dowry, malnutrition, inadequate sanitation, superstition and neglect. Female Infanticide practised had become a common way to get rid of daughters and not carrying forward the burden of bringing up someone who will take away assets in the form of dowry. The test became popular to determine the sex of the preborn baby and aborting if it is female. There was a continuous decline in female-male sex ratio between 1901 to 2001.
The word Patriarchy is derived from the word ‘patriarch’ which means male dominance. It is the main obstacle to the development of women. Patriarchy suggests male are born superiors to female and they have right to foam society and dominate in society. The nature of dominance and decision making power may differ in nature. Existence and origin of patriarchy are believed to exist since the birth of humans, they consider it as a rule of nature which cannot be changed.
Under conditions of patriarchy, men control women’s labour and their reproduction. They force them to reproduce. They determine conditions of their motherhood and restrict them to reproduce male dominance. Only births that take place under his terms and condition are allowed to live in society. Men dominate their mobility, behaviour and dress code to be followed. Indian societies are also considered as patriarchal society and imbalance in sex ratio is much prevalent here.
The physical neglects of females, female infanticide, dowry, sex-selective abortion etc are factors prevalent in India. Many practices were performed to kill a baby child before the advent of technology girls were drowned in the basin of milk, poisoned by opium applied to the breast of mothers, and strangulated to death. There was very little awareness amongst women to fight back for rights and they had thought it is ethical because society and culture all wide world practices the same. Cultural relativism has totally supported patriarchy which says to deny the rights of women to which community they belong.
Feminism is the movement and theory that made the world aware of the rights of women and put efforts to overturn gender inequality around the world and also influenced India. Feminism stands for the struggle of women against set norms, oppression (by state, society and men) and getting their rights. The history of western feminist is divided into three waves.
The first wave is often called “The suffrage movement” from 1860 to 1930. This movement helped in uniting women from different backgrounds to come together and fight for their right to vote and their position in society and say in the decision of the country. The first wave feminism started with the publication of Mary Wollstonecraft’s “A Vindication of the Rights of Women” and activities and writings of Gimike sisters (United States). The early feminists such as Elizabeth Candy Stanton, Aphra Ben and Mary Stell advocated women’s welfare and the importance was given to the notion of natural human worth, individual value, equality, equal rights, reason, education, free opportunity, privilege, heredity, wealth and power. Margaret Fuller and Lucretia are other feminists who were concerned with securing legal rights for women in marriage, education and employment.
The second wave of feminism occurred during the 1960s and 1990s. It focused on class recognition of women, gender inequalities and recognition in routine work. It had major effects in the USA and France. This movement got famous by name liberalization movements. Major feminist were Simone de Beauvoir, Betty Friedan and Kate Millet.
In the third wave, feminism started in Anglo-America where there was a growth of Radical binarism. This concerning sexism and issues related to it. It concerned about the taboo that was prevalent in society for women like lipstick, tattoo and high cleavage clothes.
Feminism in India – Difference between the Feminist Views of India and the West
Cultural variation of foreign and India created the difference between movements of feminism in places. Western movements focused on democracy, equality and legal rights but in India, we fought for social evils like sati and devdasi. The similarity was a concept with which we were fighting to spread awareness and get rights equal to men and break the orthodoxy. The time passed and the condition of women changed but equality was always the issue. The history of feminism in India can be divided into three major phases.
First Phase: 1850-1915
The feminism in India was part of national movements and social reform movements on caste and gender. These were initiated by men to eliminate evils like sati, child marriage and illiteracy. The needs of proper law against these norms were felt. Women got impressed by queens like Rani Laxmi bai who ruled the kingdom and fought for their rights. Maharani Ahilyabai Holkar had become iconic figures in the Indian political Arena.
Second Phase: 1915-1974
With the fire on the movement of nationalism (1917-1945), the women’s movement had emerged with two issues of political rights and reforms of personal laws. The organisation named the Women’s Indian Association (WIA) in 1917 by Annie Besant.
Third Phase: 1974 onwards
Women started to fly heights in this phase. A new wave of feminism with issues of domestic violence, rapes, dowry and infanticide started. They question the patriarchal assumptions underlying women’s role in the family and society based on the biological sex differences.
After so much of struggle, changes in society could be noticed and need of women could be noticed. Women were granted position and thoughts of balance in society came to mind. Then a gap of sex ratio was thought unethical and steps were taken t maintain it.
Sex ratio is all time burning issue. Ancient days in India were living under orthodoxy environment where sex ratio was not an issue to pay heed and people had more of patriarchy mindset where it was ethical and right in eyes of society if females were killed. With the movement of feminism, women got aware all over India and got to know their rights but still, we could not come out of curb of a superstition of society. When factors and superstition continued to rule over society and tried to pull down women, many reasons were given for declining sex ratio which was boys can only perform religious customs of salvation and they can be only supported in old age parents. Girls were thought burdensome because of customs like dowry. Uneducated classes and also patriarchist went on to practices like infanticide using technologies. Women were suppressed to follow these because they were economically independent on the male counterpart for survival. Education is the only key to attain equality in society; education will bring awareness amongst people.
The arguments for issue only speak of financial investment and religious reforms that boys can only fulfil. This mindset can only change when people will be enlightened to understand that religious reforms can be amended like laws of any country and customs like dowry are banned and not practised in a country like India where marriage is thought to be a relation of many lives. Awareness is important to change the mindset of society. It is important to release that instead of favouring son through old religious practices. It is more important to invest in a daughter’s education and making her self-reliant. Feminist like Annie Beasant has talked of society and said that it will continue to live in the darkness of myths and custom until education does not reach the mind and people become aware and open-minded towards their rights and duties.
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- MCCULLOUGH, F. A. (2009). Sex determination by ultrasound: ethical challenges of sex ratio imbalances and invidious discrimination. Wiley InterScience.
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Student, Symbiosis Law School NOIDA
Deepanshi is Human rights and Corporate Law Enthusiast. She is an avid reader and Researcher. She doesn’t like sitting idle and keeps herself updated with the latest happenings around the World. For any Clarifications, feedback, and suggestion, you can her at firstname.lastname@example.org