The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, October 29, 2000

Plight of women in India

Neelu Kang’s "Women’s activism: Alost cause?" (October 9) was an incisive piece. Women enjoy equality but this equality is more in legal terms than in reality. Socially, they are a harassed and ignored lot. According to the 1991 census, women’s literacy was reported at 39.62 per cent, as against men’s at 63.86. Society forces sex determination tests on women. This results in foeticide of a girl child and health risks for women. All decisions regarding pregnancy are made by men, not women.

The writer has rightly dwelt on the rising crimes against women. In India, there a crime against women is committed every six minutes. A breakdown of the figures: a woman is raped every 47 minutes, another is kidnapped or abducted every 44 minutes, while a third is tortured by her husbands or in-laws. There are at an average, 17 per cent dowry deaths. Only 10 per cent cases of the total eve-teasing, molestation, rape and kidnapping cases are reported. Many rape cases are not reported for fear of stigma and social ostracism.

And of these tip-of-the-iceberg reported cases, in barely 4 per cent of the cases the accused are punished. It’s common police practice to brand the victim as "a woman of easy virtue". Not only that, courts take years to dispense justice. As is proverbially said, justice delayed is justice denied.




No doubt, women’s activism is championing the cause of women by reacting against all that has impeded the full development of the feminine personality in political life and society. This process of transformation, undertaken by the feminist movement in the 19th century was dubbed as "unwomanly".

Women’s emancipation has travelled many notches since then. There really should be no need for an alibi on the part of achievers among women to shrug out of being labelled either "activist or "feminist" for there is little shame or sense of regret or any stigma attached to either. Such a notion merely indicates lack of soul-searching on the part of passive individuals who do not wish to exert themselves even by thinking.

Little do they realise the incalculable harm they do to themselves and to others around them when, by spitting venom against the ‘destructive’ activists, they ruin their own chances for happiness. What they do not know is that most women activists are as happily married as anybody else, the only difference being that they are fighting for a better deal for all women and they do not take flak lying down.

The seeds of feminism are inborn in every women and all she needs to do is to integrate the feminist perspective in all spheres of life. Unfortunately, however, women all along have fallen for the bait of sacrifice and its glorification. There is little need to be gracious to the point of ‘killing’ and confining oneself. It is here that activism steps in to rejuvenate society. It aims to liberate not merely women but men as well who are in fact, as much victims of their own consciousness and of conditioning and society as women are.

Women activism, in its true form, does not ask for any unjustified triumph of the female over the male inasmuch as it emphasises rethinking and restructuring of all aspects of society. I think it alone has the potential to provide humankind with a sense of direction which the other ‘isms’ have failed to do.



One is rather pained to learn that despite the dissenting voice of women activists, atrocities on women are on the increase with each passing day. In this context I would like to refer to UNDP’s recently launched report on human development in which it is highlighted how South Asian girls and women are systematically, physically, sexually and verbally abused in their homes and workplaces, in public and in custody, and how South Asian legal systems have failed to protect them. UNDP 2000 report on Human Development in South Asia rightly therefore argues for the repeal or amendment of all laws that discriminate against women. The writer says that faulty legalisation pertaining to women, apathy for the victims and many other factors contribute in gradually paralysing the crusade of the activists.


Building happy homes

Apropos of Taru Bahl’s column "Down in May, lack of top in June" (October 15), it is said that three reasons stand out to account for many of today’s unhappy homes. These are lack of compatibility, refusal of partners to recognise personality differences and inability of the couples to communicate with each other.

It is essential for the husband and wife to learn to tolerate emotional qualities peculiar to each. It is even more important that they are able to talk about and sort their differences and communicate effectively. Other ways of achieving harmony are to plan doing things together, develop similar interests, be quick to praise, be quick to admit if you are wrong, discus problems and interests, express appreciation of gifts and avoid quarelling before children. In fact the well-being of society and enrichment of lives depend to a large degree on homes built upon the basic principles of love, respect for each other and willingness of the couple to forgive and forget.


Treat them equally

In "Domesticated sons are not sissies" (October 8), the writer Taru Bahl has rightly commented, "Children, be they boys or girls have to be self-sufficient".

Men working as chefs are not regarded as sissies, then why should the sons who work at home be branded as such? Why these double standards? Despite our education and pretentions to modernity, we are still clinging to old traditions and giving different slots of work to sons and daughters.

Bonding with kids is more important in nuclear families, as it closes the generation gap and instils values. As Sidonic M. Grunberg says, "In a well-adjusted family, parents don’t live for their children. They live with them, happily interdependent..."

Indeed no other task is so challenging as of raising children, which we approach by least imaginable preparation.


Tackling corruption

Apropos of the write-up "Taking corruption by its horns" (October 15), corruption prevails on the premise of an understanding between the giver and the receiver of bribes. The person who gives a bribe is generally impelled by circumstances created by the persons who occupy a seat of power. Most senior officials use their subordinates for this purpose and, in return, get their own share. It is futile to hold the lower staff guilty of corruption as it cannot flourish without the patronages of their bosses.

In fact, stringent and inflexible laws open new doors of corruption. Since the legal implications for booking the corrupt persons are highly complicated, one prefers to go along with the demands of such persons.



Our present political and administrative systems have become so heavily dependent upon computers (black money) that it just cannot afford to co-exist with a honest and efficient politicians and public servants. The result is before us. Barring a few persons, all have become obsessed with achieving material prosperity at any cost.

No country in the world, including the USA, gives its legislators even one-tenth of the kind of emoluments and perks which a poor country like ours does.

The task of combating the menace of corruption in our country is not so easy. A society that is thriving on corruption, nepotism and hypocrisy like ours, will face the acute problems of finding honest officers. It is a good omen that a person of impeccable character like N. Vittal, is heading the Vigilance Commission of India.


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