March 8th is celebrated worldwide as ‘International Women’s day’ since the beginning of 1900s. But in India, the awareness seems to be a more recent one, less than two decades I would presume. On this Women’s Day, when the nation is outraged with the increasing rapes, insensitive comments of politicians and men in general, lack of safety of women, I want to focus on the Indian Woman who existed a few centuries ago. The Indian Woman who had more going for her than against her. In the ancient Vedic texts, women had the same rights as men and they were considered as equal. There were also many famous women sages, seers, queens, physicians, educationists. But with the advent of times, the women’s lot has changed. In the developed countries, the women have equal freedom as the men. But, it is not the same in India. The Indian law is definitely the same for both the sexes and they are treated equally. But there are cultural restrictions.
As per Hindu religion, the female goddess is the most powerful being in the universe as she alone can create and bring prosperity. She is known as ‘AdiShakti’. Goddesses are holding many important portfolios like Goddess Laxmi for money, Goddess Saraswati for Education and Arts, Goddess Durga for power. We revere these goddesses. Even the girl child is considered to be an incarnation of Goddess. When all our religions and religious texts are pointing to respecting the female, why is it that our men are not able to do so? Can it be that the same is not practiced at home and therefore, not practiced elsewhere? Like sex education in schools, we should also have courses for ‘Gender equality’ in schools. Parents can also take the initiative and sensitize their sons about the same.
Let us also look at some further freedoms that women had earlier, but not available now.
1) Swayamvar – I would love to see this ancient tradition revived. It should probably avert many honor killings, elopements, suicides and a whole lot of heart ache for youngsters. Parents please let the girls choose their husbands. They surely have enough sense to identify their life partner. And even if they make a wrong choice, let them have the freedom to go through a divorce.
2) Veils – Ancient women did not use veils which is very common among the women of Rajasthan, UP. Even Muslim women for that matter. I remember in my younger days, there were definitely less purdah clad women than there are now. And in schools, none of the girls used to wear them. It used to eliminate discrimination among the students and the teachers. It is sad to see young girls as young as 5 years in a purdah, restricting their movements.
3) Sword fighting & self-defense – Ancient women were taught sword fighting along with their male siblings and were good at it. They could even use them for self-defense like Rani Laxmibai or Unni Archa in the south. But, barring a miniscule of girls learning self-defense, it is almost non-existent.
4) Women in politics – In India, women have been involved in politics right from the time of the Mahabharat or Razia Sultan in the 13th century to our first female Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and our first female President Pratibha Patil. More involvement is needed from the women in politics and then only more favorable legislations for women will be passed.
5) Honour – Why is that the family honour is resting only with the female of the family and not with the men also? The boys in the family are allowed total freedom with no restrictions whereas, the girls are restricted. Lets apply the same restrictions or freedoms to both boys and girls. It will make the boys understand that the girls have their rights too.
Let us revive the golden ages where women were revered and enjoyed more freedom and had equal rights as men. Let us hope and pray that the fear of rape, eve-teasing and molestation will not keep the females restricted to the insides of the house.
What else can we add here which used to be common practice previously, but not so common now?