Social Injustice’s of Women in India
Violations Against Women in India Women all over the world are affected by social injustice. In many countries rules and laws have been put in place to ensure the equal treatment of women. Although these laws and rules have not kept things perfect they have helped to maintain a balance between men and women. This work towards equality does not function the same in all countries. There are still places where women are beaten, raped, and murdered without so much as a second thought. Some of these places even have rules in place to prevent these practices, but they are frequently overlooked.
India is one of these places. A place that is both progressive on paper and in some urban areas but are also far behind in practice and in rural communities. What progress has already been made to protect women in India and what still needs to be done to ensure the equal treatment of women in all areas of India? According to the International Violence Against Women Act on Amnesty International’s site, “Violence against women and girls represents a global health, economic development, and human rights problem.
At least one out of every three women worldwide has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime, with rates of domestic violence reaching 70% in some countries. ” This abuse of women and their rights is something more developed countries are taking very seriously. Over 7,000 women in India will be murdered by their family or their husband’s family because of arguments about dowries. “Violence against women is rooted in a global culture of discrimination which denies women equal rights with men and which legitimizes the appropriation of women’s bodies for individual gratification or political ends.
Every year, violence in the home and the community devastates the lives of millions of women. ” (Amnesty). The study of why and how women are treated they way they have been is a fairly recent study. Purkayastha explains when this study arose, “The contemporary study of gender in India arose within a specific sociohistorical context: the establishment of a nation-state in 1947 after two centuries of British colonialism” (Purkayastha , 504).
A long time ago in India men and women were prescribed equal status but as time progressed, through medieval times of great inequalities between men and women to the present days of equal rights. In an opening verse of the Apastamba Sutra from around 4 BCE, quoted and translated on Amnesty International, it is stated that, “the primary duty of women is enjoined to be service to one’s husband. ” Originally in ancient India women were looked at as equals. They were free to choose their own husbands at a mature age and maintained equal status in most areas of life.
Shortly after this period of equality the number of equalities that existed between men and women began to diminish. Invasions as well as Christianity were contributors to the decline of equal rights for women. As the medieval period came around in India conditions for women continued to get worse. Sati, when a woman throws herself on her husband’s funeral pyre, child marriages, and the ban of women remarrying became the norm for Indian women. Polygamy in the Hindu tradition became more mainstream, as well as the sexual exploitation of temple women.
While all of these hardships for women existed there also existed a small counterforce of women who surpassed men in areas like religion, education and politics. Sikhism also provided women with an opportunity for more rights and greater equality. One of the main messages of the Sikhs being equality between men and women especially during worship, for example when singing, being active members of the community, marriage equality, Baptismal equality, and even the opportunity to lead armies. According to Amnesty International “Violence against women is rampant in all corners of the world.
Such violence is a human rights violation that manifests itself in a number of ways, including: violence against women in custody, acid burning and dowry deaths, “honor” killings, domestic violence, female genital mutilation, human rights violations based on actual or perceived sexual identity, gender based asylum, and the problem of impunity” (Amnesty). These violations against women exist all over the world especially in less progressive areas, such as third world countries, one of these countries being India.
Violations against women in prison go largely unnoticed because these are things that happen behind closed doors and are mostly invisible to the public. Things like rape, groping during body searches, shackling during childbirth, and sexual assault are all common practices that have existed within in prisons in India. Sexual favors and lack of physical and psychological care are also major issues in many female correctional facilities. Another previously common social injustice against women in India is acid burning and dowry deaths.
Jejeebhoy explains how keeping women in the dark is a way of expelling control, “Evidence of the limited control that Indian women exercise over their own lives is increasingly documented. Recent studies underscore their limited control over material and other resources, their restricted access to knowledge and information, their constrained authority to make independent decisions, their enforced lack of physical mobility, and their inability to forge equitable power relationships within families (Basu 1992; Visaria 1996; Jejeebhoy 2000).
The role of men as gatekeepers enforcing this status quo is implicitly recognized, and, particularly since the International Conference on Population and Development held in Cairo in 1994, the need to involve men in working for greater gender equity has been widely expressed” (Jejeebhoy, 299). An interview with a traveler to India, who experienced some direct encounters of female injustice and its current practice, was conducted. Devin Anderson a senior at the University of Iowa experienced accounts of female inequality and degradation through members of his Knolls group when studying in India.
Interviewer: When you were in India where did you travel? DEVIN: I backpacked mostly in the Himalayan Mountains and in nearby rural villages. INTERVIEWER: While you traveled in these villages did you witness or experience any inequalities between the women and men? DEVIN: In many of the villages I visited the men and the women both held specific roles, ones that were part of their society, part of their way of living. Most of the duties that these roles implied were based on gender. I had also witnessed some inequality between the two genders.
Like one day we went to a restaurant type place in one of the larger rural villages we were visiting, and while we were there some of the women in my group went to go order some food. The men who were there to take orders blatantly ignored their requests and waited for one of the men in our group to order for them. Women were apparently not allowed to speak or order for themselves and the men there actually seemed a little offended that these women had even tried. INTERVIEWER: What were some of the duties the women had versus the men?
DEVIN: Typical things that many people think of when it comes to older American practices. Things like the men would tend to the animals and slaughter them for the meals. Women were expected to look after the children, cook, and tend to the house. INTERVIEWER: Do you think major inequalities like these exist all over India? DEVIN: No, many women in India have jobs and lives all their own, especially in urban areas. Unfortunately in many rural areas many inequalities still exist. There are four main practices that can still be found in practice in rural areas even with the ban that exists on them.
These four practices are sati, jauhar, purdah, and devadasis. Sati is a rather old practice where a widow throws herself on her husband’s funeral pyre. This practice was abolished in 1829 but there have still been reported cases in India. Jauhar is the practice of burning the living wives and even daughters of warriors who had been defeated. This was supposed to be a voluntary act meant to prevent the capture and rape by the enemy. This practice has not officially been banned in India. Purdah is a practice that is still common all over India.
It is the act of requiring women to keep their bodies covered in order to disguise their form. The practice of purdah is not religious like most believe and the extent to which a woman must be covered is decided by whichever group has imposed the idea. The last drastic social injustice against women in India is devadasis. This is the marrying of a woman to a certain deity or temple. Later during the medieval period it became common for men to engage in the sexual exploitation of these women. Much of the violence and rights violations that women in India experience, come from the home.
Jejeebhoy explains, “In most of India, in both north and south and among both Hindus and Muslims, the family is mainly patriarchal, patrilocal, and patrilineal. The country has long been known for in egalitarian gender relations (Altekar 1962; Karve 1965). Women are defined as inferior; husbands are assumed to “own” women, and to have the right to dominate them. In egalitarian gender relations deny women a decision-making role in family matters, inhibit them from moving about freely, prevent their access to material resources, and expose them to violence in the household” Jejeebhoy, 300). The limitations that are imposed on women are what help to keep them down. By keeping women down they are kept from knowing anything different, anything that will help them to become equal, protected people. Since India has become independent women are allowed to be a part of almost all public aspects of life. Areas like art, politics, science/technology, and education are just a few examples of Indian culture that women were not always allowed to be a part of.
The fight of women for rights has lead to the government of India to view women as equal. Ray explains, “Analysis of the various identities through which women are mobilized can- not be complete without the recognition of the increased visibility of women in right wing movements in many parts of the world” (Ray, 51). The Constitution of India actually provides assurance of equal opportunity, pay, and no discrimination. The Indian government now also promotes humane work conditions and time off for maternity leave.
Feminism did hit India, in a smaller way than in the United States and more than a decade later. Ray explains that the written word is what helped spread feminism and activism, “Literature on women’s activism has shown that women are mobilized not only as women but also as mothers, workers, peasants, and citizens. Initially, scholars focused on interests, specifically whether such a thing as “women’s interests” could be identified. More recently the focus has been on identities, specifically how identities mobilize women” (Ray, 48-49).
A case of rape of a young girl in a police station kicked off several protests in the late 70s. This led to the formation of many NGOs that supported women’s rights and help feminism ideas spread to more rural communities. The formation of these NGOs also gave recognition to the overall lack in education and economic development for Indian women. The initial lack of technology and capitalism kept Indian women marginalized for a long time. It was not until India began to “Westernize” that women began to mobilize.
Ray states, “The representatives of the first position argue that a rise in the levels of urbanization, industrialization, and education leads to an increase in women’s mobilization (Chafetz & Dworkin 1986, Margolis 1993; for a critique see Basu 1995, Papanek 1993). It has become increasingly evident that this focus on the spread of capital- ism, or on general processes of urbanization, industrialization, and education obscures rather than illuminates the processes that shape women’s movements” (Ray, 52). Globalization has also played a major role in India’s development and progress with women’s rights.
After the spread of technology and women in third world countries were able to see and hear about the progress women had been making in other countries they themselves were able to rise up an organize. According to Ganguly-Scrase, “Globalization has and continues to have differential impacts on men and women (Basu 1995; Bergeron 2001; Freeman 2001; Oza 2001; Walby 2000). Since the mid- 1980s, India has pursued a policy of economic liberalization, which was a dramatic reversal of earlier policies of protecting domestic industrial capital.
It has been argued that the privatization of public sector enterprises, reduction in public sector investment, and lower government expenditure on poverty eradication pro- grams have not served the interests of women” (Ganguly-Scrase, 545). Although India is behind in its literacy rate for women and there are fewer women enrolled in school compared to men, it does not mean the opportunity is not there. Ray states, “There currently exist two conceptualizations of conditions under which women mobilize.
These conditions are either structural and universal or historically and locationally specific, with local variations obstructing or facilitating the specific forms of women’s movements” (Ray, 52). Many families, especially in more rural communities, keep older traditions. Traditions where the women’s roles are to take care of their families and husbands and literacy and education are not primary concerns. There has been progress made towards achieving more equality among the number of girls and boys who attend and finish school.
Organizations have been put into place to educate the people in rural communities in India. For many years the women of India have been mistreated and abused. These blatant violations of women’s rights have been swept under the carpet even after the Constitution was amended and India declared its independence from Great Britain. These feats and more have pushed the development of human rights for women in India, but there is still progress to be made. The way women have been and continue to be treated is a concern that women and men all over the world must face and work to correct.
Until we recognize that not all places are as well off as we are, the injustices cannot be set right. Works Cited Amnesty International. “Women’s Human Rights. ” Amnesty International USA. Amnesty International, 2001. Web. 11 April 2010. Ganguly-Scrase, Ruchira. “Paradoxes of Globalization, Liberalization, and Gender Equality: The Worldviews of the Lower Middle Class in West Bengal, India. ” Gender and Society 17. 4 (2003): 544-566. Web. 2 Apr 2010. Jejeebhoy, Shireen J. “Convergence and Divergence in Spouses’ Persoectives on Women’s Autonomy in Rural India. Studies in Family Planning 33. 4 (2002): 299-308. Web. 9 Apr 2010. Moursund, Anne. “Individual and Community Effects of Women’s Education and Autonomy on Contraceptive Use in India. ” Population Studies 57. 3 (2003): 285-301. Web. 2 Apr 2010. Purkayastha, Bandana. “The Study of Gender in India: A Partial Review. ” Gender and Society 17. 4 (2003): 503-524. Web. 9 Apr 2010. Ray, R. , and A. C. Korteweg. “Women’s Movements in the Third World: Identity, Mobilization, and Autonomy. ” Annual Review of Sociology 25. (1999): 47-71. Web. 9 Apr 2010.