So much has been said about women's rights over the years. Feminists, the women's lib movement, and human rights organizations have all been working tirelessly towards achieving a status of equal importance, dignity and respect for women in society.
India, unfortunately, has a long way to go. The results of a recent poll of G-20 countries conducted by TrustLaw, a legal news service by Thomson Reuters, show that India is the worst country to be a woman. We rank right at the bottom, just below Saudi Arabia.
So many female children are killed even before they are born. Female foeticide has assumed alarming proportions. As per the 2011 Census figures, the country's average sex ratio stands at 940 women per 1,000 men. The child sex ratio (0-6 years) is 914, as compared to 927 in 2001, and is the lowest since independence.
For many girls who escape abortion and are brought into this world, life is no easy journey. From the time they're born till the time they die, their decisions are made by men. First, the father. Then, the husband. And finally, the son.
In so many Indian homes, daughters' education is relegated to the backseat as they "ultimately have to get married, manage household chores, and look after their husbands and in-laws". A career and financial independence is not an option for many. It is this state of total dependence that makes women highly vulnerable to domestic violence and subjugation in their marital homes. A victim of domestic violence may leave her husband and return to her family, but is (more often than not) compelled to go back to him. Divorce is not looked upon favourably. "Your husband's home is your home now, you must adjust there and live with whatever happens. You can't divorce him, what will people say?" is a stand taken by many girls' families.
Financial burden and dowry are said to be the biggest causes of female foeticide in our country. Daughters are expensive. They're not going to add to the family's income, and prospective grooms will demand a large price as dowry. It doesn't stop after marriage. So many women are subjected to physical and mental torture; some are even killed by greedy husbands and/or in-laws whose demands never end. According to a report by the Times of India, 8,391 women lost their lives over dowry in 2010, which works out to one dowry death every hour. Another recent report by the Financial Times states that only about 18% of dowry deaths result in conviction.
There are plenty of laws against rape and violence, but if women are molested, society blames them for dressing or behaving provocatively. A rape victim is subjected to humiliation right from the time she files a complaint with the cops, to the archaic medical examination she must undergo to "prove" rape, right up to the courtroom drama. It doesn't end after that, either, she is likely to face difficulty in finding a husband. Marital rape is so common, yet the chances of an abused wife getting justice are slim, even though it carries a 2-year prison sentence and/or fine.
Then, you read about honour killings every other day in the newspaper, about young women being murdered by their families for eloping and marrying out-of-caste, or having a relationship which the family does not approve of. Men can be victims too, but a daughter's or sister's 'unapproved' relationship apparently brings more dishonour to the family, as most of the reported murders seem to be of women, or the young men they elope with.
What's unfortunate is that, in so many instances, women are their own worst enemies. In a society where mothers are primarily responsible for their children's upbringing, it is the woman who brings up her son as a chauvinist, who puts him on a higher pedestal than a daughter. A lot of expectant mothers are party to female foeticide. It is the mother-in-law who holds the worst reputation among the in-law clan, for making the daughter-in-law's life difficult (and sometimes, vice versa!). When dowry is being demanded, when brides are being tortured or killed over it, are the mother-in-law and/or sister-in-law not usually active participants?
Aamir Khan's show 'Satyamev Jayate' has revealed some shocking facts, the worst of all being that these horrors are fairly common within educated and urban families too. It isn't just the illiterate and/or low-income strata that is responsible. Indian society largely does not support women.
It does seem then, that ours is no country for women. Is there hope? I don't know. Yet there are plenty of Indian families which give equal importance and love to daughters, sisters, and wives. Let us, the younger generation be the change. Let us put the enlightenment that education brings to good use, and make India a happier and safer place for the fairer sex.
Text © 2012 http://e-pinion.blogspot.in