Development and empowerment of women: A historical perspective
Dr. S Krishnan
The Status of Women in India is explained by Manu who is believed to the Law Giver, according to Hindu Mythology, “Na Stree Swatatramarhati” i.e. women does not deserve independence. Further, it is provided that “a woman is made from a crooked rib and if you try to bend it straight, it will break. Hence, treat the women kindly.” Now that we have entered into the 21st century, women have excelled, progressed and established their status in the society equal to that of men. And gradually, the male dominated patriarchal society is changing to a society where men and women are treated at par with each other.
It is often said that the status and position of women in society are the best way to understand a civilization, its progress and its shortcomings. In case of India, women have come a long way from women sages and scholars in the Rig Vedic period to women in the armed forces, IT sector, politics, industry and other significant areas while balancing their role as a daughter, wife and mother. This journey towards modernization has not been easy.
Now, the principle of gender equality is enshrined in the Indian Constitution in its Preamble, Fundamental Rights, Fundamental Duties and Directive Principles. The Constitution not only grants equality to women, but also empowers the state to adopt measures of positive discrimination in favour of women. Empowerment is a process where people have to assert their control over the factors that affects their day-to-day lives. By definition of Empowerment of women, we mean developing them as more aware individuals, who are politically active, economically productive and independent and are able to make intelligent discussion in matters that affect them.
Women have had to fight the traditional Indian male-dominated society to emerge as stronger and independent entities. While all these are positive developments, cases of rape, harassment at workplace and dowry deaths are rampant. Illiteracy and ignorance about their rights are still prevalent among a majority of the women.
It is in this background this paper lays stress on the evolution, status, development of women and their empowerment in India from a historical point of view.