In Focus

More about perception than practice

By Manu Shrivastava

Around the world, the feminist movement or the women’s movement started at different times, raised diverse issues and appealed to women at different levels. Every country treats its women in a unique manner, good or bad, derived from the baggage of cultural norms, traditions and practices.

There are myriad issues that the movement aims to address varying from nations to communities - sexual violence, domestic violence, reproductive rights, maternity leave, women's suffrage, workplace safety, female genital mutilation, equal pay or opposition to glass ceiling.

Image for representational purpose only
What constitutes as a fundamental right is restricted to a state as that is determined by the law of the land. Law has a binding force, yet, it is often perception and practices that drive the behaviour of a society towards its women and permit or prohibit rights guaranteed to them.

India is a land of cultural and ethnic diversity. The history of one of the oldest civilisations that inhabited land goes back thousands of years. Indian history was punctuated by constant assimilation of migrating, sometimes invading, tribes and groups from far and wide resulting in a society that is vibrant and unique.

The status of women in the melting pot of cultures, India, has been subject to regular and intermittent change resulting in the present state of women in the country.

The India in ancient times was home to women sages that were greatly revered. India is a land where goddesses are worshipped by men and women alike and where the country is ‘mother’ land. Women were active in royal courts, often forming part of administrative and advisory councils and played an active role in politics as well.

A fast-evolving civilisation absorbing surrounding and invading traits, India soon succumbed to gender discrimination resulting in confinement of women to households, female foeticide and infanticide, derogatory practices, illiteracy and several other ill-practices that were part of all religious faiths.

Eventually, several bad practices that discriminated against women stayed and became customs within those communities; the practice of Sati, child marriage, purdah system, instant triple talaq, etc., to name a few.