“Woman is the builder and moulder of a nation’s destiny. Though delicate and soft as a lily, she has a heart, far stronger and bolder than of man,…. She is the supreme inspiration for man’s onward march, an embodiment of love, pity and compassion, she is no doubt, her commanding personality; nevertheless, is given by solemn — Rablndnmath Tagore
“Our women have a very great part to play in the progress of our country, as the mental and physical contact of women with life is much more lasting and comprehensive than that of men. Not for nothing was it said that ‘the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world’. In the apron strings of woman is hidden the revolutionary energy which can establish paradise on this earth.”
Women have generally been looked down upon with disdainful contempt. All sorts of strictures have been inflicted upon them, reducing their status to a mere play thing or a slave of man’s whims, a mere chattel to be dumb driven. They have been confined to the hearth and home. The orthodox male-oriented society in India has still not been able to adjust itself to the fresh wave of women’s liberation. But today the times have changed, the Indian woman has cast off her age-old shakles of serfdom and male domination. She has come to her own and started scaling the ladders of social advance with proud dignity.
In Vedic India, woman enjoyed an enviable status She was considered to be a goddess, something like the Greek Athena, the supreme source of man’s inspiration She was called ‘Ardhangini’. We hear of women sages and scholars in the vedic age. But the status of women suffered a setback in the Brahmanic age. In the Muslim rule, women completely lost their glory; they were relegated into the background, cut-off from the mainstream of life. They were devitalized and made dependent of men folk. Evil and inhuman ill-practices fostered in the society to deharmonise them; chief among them being the ‘Puradah’ system, ‘Sati’ system, child marriage, denial of education and permanent ban on widow re-marriages. The Britishers knew well the supreme value of mother in nation-buildings So they cleverly engaged -selfish ‘Pandits’ and ‘Mullahas’ for preaching feminine inferiority. Women were reduced to mere household drudges, in a way, they lived a semi-dead life.
With the dawn of freedom our national leaders, Gandhiji, Nehruji and Dr. Rajendra Prasad in particular, began to think seriously about the urgent need of feminine emancipation. They realized the fact that so long as women of India were not uplifted and emancipated and granted equal status with mew in all walks of life—political, economic, domestic, educational—India could neither progress nor make any advance. So they provided, for full equality to women in the Constitution, The Parliament enacted the Hindu Code Bill and the Hindu Succession Act, conferring on women the light to personal property and an absolute right to divorce.
Now, the Indian women have re-captured their dignity, individuality and respect. They have a franchise, they are free to join any service or follow any profession. Free India has, besides her woman Prime Minister (the late Smt. Indira Gandhi), woman ambassadors, women Cabinet Ministers, women legislators, women Governors, women scientists-engineers-doctors, women –generals, women public officers and magistrates. Smt. Vijaylakshml Pandit created a singular record by becoming President of the United Nations General Assembly.
With Use encouragement of co-education, women have cast off the age-old inferiority complex and today they are marching side by side with men-folk in every walk of life. Women are actually proving to fee academically better, and socially more active. We come across the results of competitive Examinations in All India Services, Civil and Police and Indian Universities and we are happily surprised to note that women capture most of the merit seats. They are aware of the fast changing social milieu and they are making sustained efforts to scale the ladders of social progress by dint of zeal and dynamism. They are contributing significantly towards the building of modern India.
Notwithstanding the remarkable change in the position of women, in free India, there is still a great divergence between the constitutional position and the stark reality of deprivation and degradation. Whatever whiff of emancipation has blown in Indian society, has been inhaled and enjoyed by the women belonging to the rich and upper-middle class society in cities. Women belonging to the lower income group and those belonging to the rural areas are still totally untouched by the winds of change. They have still been living in selfish conditions a steeped in poverty, ignorance, superstition and slavery. Despite the passing of stringent laws and Art against Dowry, the monster of dowry is still flagning the lives of thousands of hopeless women every year. Mere legislation cannot emancipate the lot of our women. This needs a radical change in our mental make-up and our social structure. For this, we shall have to foster a social emancipating spirit in our everyday life. The conservative male-chauvinistic attitude shall have to give way to liberalism.
All said and done, it can be said with a sense of pride and confidence that the future of women in India is quite bright and that our posterity will be safe in their hands. Napolean was right when he declared that by educating the women, we educate and uplift the whole nation.