There is no doubt that since the dawn of history woman has been denied her due. She has always been treated as inferior to man. In India her status has been particularly low. In the Post-Vedic era, she was denied the right of participation in religious ceremonies, with the advent of the Muslims, she was denied freedom of movement and curse of the ‘Purdah’ further increased her slavery and degradation. As a natural consequence, she was deprived of the right to education. She became, more or less, a domestic servant whose duty it was to do household work and rear the children of her husband.
Child marriage, polygamy, ‘Sati’, ‘dowry-system’, etc. are the various social evils which have degraded woman during the course of the centuries. The laws were unjust to her as in the fact that she had no right of inheritance and no right of remarriage. It was only with the freedom struggle that things began to change. Gandhiji stressed that woman should be the equal partner of man in the struggle for independence. He attached great importance to woman’s emancipation and worked all her life to secure this end.
With the rise of democracy, the movement for the emancipation of woman has gained ground all the over. In some western countries woman have more rights than in India. But still every where even in the most advanced countries of the world, they suffer from a number of disabilities and are regarded a social inferiors of man. It is a man-made society and man continues to dominate and exploit woman. There should be a better and fuller understanding of the problems peculiar to woman, to make a solution of those problems possible.
As these problems centre round the basic problem of inequality, steps should be taken to promote equality of treatment and the full integration of woman in the total development efforts of the country. Woman should get equal pay for the same work, and she be treated as an equal partner in the task of strengthening world peace. Suitable steps should be taken to secure these ends. These are near unanimity on the urgency and significance of woman’s emancipation.
The main stress should be on equal work, and elimination of discrimination in employment. One of the basic policy objectives should be universal education of woman. The lack of which tends to perpetuate the unequal status quo. To this era, the popular UNESCO slogan should come in handy: “Educate a man and you educate an individual: educate a woman and you educate a family.”
The Late President, Mr. Fakhruddin Ali Ahmad, emphasized the need of improving the condition of woman in the weakest section-the rural, slum and tribal population-which comprises about 80 percent of the total. “The women of India played a silent, self-effacing role to sustain Indian civilization down the ages. For their greater participation in national life, it is necessary that they should occupy positions at the decision-making and planning level.”
In recent years a number of serials have been televised, and the “woman’s cause” has been given much publicity. Laws have been made more stringent to prevent crimes against women. Now government is introducing a bill in parliament for 33% reservation for women in legislature, which has a support of all political parties. This is a welcome step. Thus a general awakening to the hardship and problems of women has been created.
However, all this is not enough. Dowry system still continues, and cases of bride-burning are frequent. ‘Sati’ is still glorified as is shown by the events in Deorala in Rajasthan.