All-pervasive Exploitation of Women

Presently Maharashtra buzzes with slogans of save the Girl child–Beti Bachauo”. Almost all towns and cities are busy organizing rallies and programme to call attention towards this significant issue of female feticide through cutting edge medical technology in many clinical centers in the state. This move on the part of government and social activists is highly appreciable, in view of coveted status of Maharashtra as a progressive State; where great social workers like Mahatma Jyotirao Phule, Savitri Bai Phule, Narayan Meghaji Lokhande, Dr Babasaheb Amedkar, and Prabodhankar Thakare dedicated their lives for the upliftment of women.

With this legacy, even today woman does not receive her due respect in the so-called Hindu society that is ridden with much too reactionary ideology. Inhuman atrocities are committed   against women every other day. Some orthodox individuals persist in sticking to outdated scriptural canons which derogate women.  Why women are mistreated in such a way, is a very tough question to answer. Some scholars assert that the humiliation of women is the handiwork of Aryan social order. When they came down to India they did not bring women with them. They have taken by force women of aboriginal tribes in here. So along with Shudras, women; in their view are impure or untouchable. This is because they push down women to the status of the unwashed. This is because they consider woman just a means of procreation and recreation and command that her jurisdiction be confined to home and hearth only. Shuradas has gone a step further to say that dhol, gavar, shudra aur nari sab tanadan ke adhikari (Drum, unlettered, untouchable, woman are all worth beating). Truly, the way they have exploited woman is most condemnable reality.

Sati institution :

Sati system is the blackest chapter in the history of India. In the name of religious dictates thousands of women were immolated in India for several centuries. The Hindu social traditions holds that woman has not right to live after her husband’s death. By burning on her husband’s pyre and she can free herself as well as her family. To top it all, this bullshit has been colored by a brush of holy books of Hindu. They say that by following into death, the widow discharges one of the most basic responsibilities as a married woman. So she can’t escape from going sati. This heinous system was observed in some states of India cent per cent. Bengal is such a state where all widows were burned without any qualms. The following table shows some glaring examples in the state.

Widow burning registered by the British Administration in the Bengal Presidency-1518-1528 

Woman burning or human killing is a universally found custom in different forms. However, the underlying concept in this phenomenon is one and the same, which is to accompany the diseased to live with him in order to serve him in the next world. With the development of science and technology in the last century, this cruel practice was questioned at different levels in society and academic circles. Some scholars diagnosed it through various means of research and pointed out blind belief involved in it. When the public in Europe and other countries realized the truth behind this crude practice, it deadly opposed and got it abolished by law. Nevertheless, in India, this inhuman custom has been upheld till recently.

In pre-independent India, Lord William Bentinck (1828), who was Governor-General of British India, had received a report 800 cases of Sati in a single year from Bengal.  He was shocked to read the description of the inhuman acts .As a reformer by nature; he came forth to prohibit the evil by law. Therefore, He immediately promulgated his Regulation XVII on 4 December 1829 to the effect that the practice of sati is a punishable crime.  Later Raj Ram Mohan Roy tried to eradicate Sati System through an active movement. In post-independent India there came many laws, Acts and Regulations to defend and protect women’s life and rights. Despite all this, oppression of women is not stopped. Even today the Spectre of Sati custom rears up its head at regular intervals. Roop Kanwar is a loquacious example of this age-old sati Institution. This abominable incident took place in Deorala Village in Shikar district of Rajasthan State in 1987.

Roop Kawnar was quite young when her husband died. Actually, she did not want to accompany him but her in-laws forced her to lie on the funeral pyre of her diseased man. Once she tried to save herself through hiding in a barn in the vicinity of the village but she was smoked out and made ready for going sati. She was drugged by a local doctor in order to distract her mind from the fear of death. Also priests convinced her that it was her rare luck to perform the act. She would be worshiped as Sati Devi in the days to come. Thus they burned Roop Kawnar alive. Highly qualified persons like judges, teachers and prestigious people witnessed the horrible spectacle widow burning with no trace of guilt on their faces. Rather they admired Roop Kawnar and milled the flaming pyre with her dead husband and herself on it in drug stupor. They shouted a slogan,Sati ho to kaisi ho, Roop Kawnar jaisi ho’ (If there happened to be a sati, she must be perfect like Roop Kawnar).

No doubt, Sati tradition is a bane of Hindu religion, though some scholars argue that there is no clear prescription of it. However, the degraded status imposed on woman is a plausible proof that it is part and parce

l of Hindu scriptures. The orthodox Hindus still believe that like untouchable, woman is also impure and be treated so. They are not at all prepared to accept her as a person on a par with her male counterpart. Hindu religion maintains that son is more important than daughter in a family because with his birth members of that family get entry in the heaven.

Therefore, they express a strong will for son to be delivered right from the moment a woman conceives in their home. “Astthaputra Saubhagyavati bhav’ is a mode of blessing to be given to a newlywed woman. Not only one but eight sons may be born to you. But no way! A daughter might be in between them. It is said that in the time of Rig Veda women enjoyed good or equal status in society .But then we don’t find a solitary example of the then father who prayed for daughter to be born to him 

instead of son. To make a long story short, even today they think that woman is secondary, impure and has no right to live after her husband’s death. Roop Kawnar’s Sati Case is its strong evidence. Let alone past instances, quite in October 2012, a shocking incident took place in Kolhapur which once again reiterated the age-old hatred towards women. An activist of a lesser party has made a statement the Mahalaxami Temple Trust should not allow Self Help Group women to make Laddoos of Prasad while they are on their period because they make the holy stuff impure. The statement created a great ruckus in Maharashtra and in turn, gave rise to hot debates on the issue in media. On a channel that issue was discussed among some select scholars from different walks of life along with public views for and against permission for SHGs women. And an astounding fact came forth that 52 % people supporte

d the leader’s words saying that women are, no doubt, impure when they are having period, so they should be prohibited from doing anything in the temple around the time. Can’t it be like this that by then only 52 % of citizens could have the access to the debate on the channel? Can’t there be yet some more people who may side the leader?  Let us say, they may be 20 % and if added to the above per cent, it makes 72 %... My goodness! Even today such a large number of Indians believe in rubbish things like purity and impurity.

Manusmriti :

Manu was an ancient law-giver in India and his book is Manusmriti which had been more destructive than an atom bomb. This book of Dharma code has destroyed lower castes and women for thousands of years. It left no stone unturned to cripple people belonged to the lower rung of society. It reduc

ed them to the position of a mere beast. Therefore many ask question - who was this Manu? Why did he frame such draconian law? There go many stories about Manu and his Dharma Code.  Some say that he was a divine figure sent by heaven to instruct subjects about how to lead life according to Hindu religious regime, while others hold that he was a link to the Aryan warfare against indigenous Dravidian People. Whatever may be the fact, he was a most crooked being we ever knew in Hindu social system. According to Dr B.R. Ambedkar, Manu was a fake name of Bhrigu who put down Manusriti to oppress all non-Aryan along with women. It was a counter-revolution to check Buddhism in India. It was Narada who let the cat out of bag in his religiou treaty composed in 4th A. D.

Now Let us see how Manuscript dictates women to lead their life. The following excerpts will suffice to give us full idea of Manu’s cruelty towards woman. Manu expresses extreme disbelief about woman.  He says it is nature of woman to seduce men in the world, so wise people should avoid sitting alone with one’s mother, daughter or sister (2/213 &215). Wise men should not marry women who do not have a brother and whose parents are not socially well known. One should not marry women who have reddish hair and redundant parts of the body such as six fingers. (3/ 10 & 8) Any woman violating duty and code of conduct towards her husband is disgraced and becomes a patient of leprosy. After her death she enters womb of jackals (5 / 167). If a woman tears the membrane (hymen) of her vagina she shall instantly have her head shaved or two fingers cut off and made to ride on donkey. Women are impure and represent falsehood (8 /369 & 9 /18). Manusmriti is fraught with such misogynistic hymns but for fear of space just a few are cited here as a specimen.In this way, Manu sprayed over venom in the life of Indian women so that they might not grow in any way. Why he did this is quite clear that he believed that women are untouchable and should be treated so.

Dowry system :

Dowry is a social institution that is in vogue in India from time immemorial. It is certain amount of money or some valuables given to bridegroom by bride’s parents at the time of marriage. By the time of betrothal members from both the parties sit together and decide the amount to be given in dowry. Sadly, most of the time, the agreement is not reached between them due to the demand of unwieldy amount on the part of groom party, though the boy and the girl are ready to marry with each other. Dowry is, indisputably, an inalienable part of India social order and is maintained to date very scrupulously.  Another horrible aspect of this system is that the demon of dowry is not only confined to the engagement formalities but stalks the married woman for years even after marriage. Her in-laws or sometimes her husband himself persistently demand more money or gold from her parents. They put her to mental and physical torture so that she could bring money from her parents. In such a predicament, she commits suicide or is coldly killed by her in-laws. Mercilessly, this evil system exists in our society with even worse countenance even today. Thousands of cases of dowry death are reported every year. To curb this inhuman practice, government has made the Dowry Prohibition Act 1961. Also there is a section 498A of IPC but in vain.

Women Trafficking for Prostitution:

 No other being in India is as vulnerable as woman. She has been victim of male-dominated culture and religious ethos of Hindu for eon.  There is a ritual of Kanya Daan (Giving away daughter) at the time of marriage which clearly reveals that woman is an object to be donated. This ritual has its root in the Vedas. According to the Vedas, cow, land and virgin girl are most important things to be gifted and since Hindu civilized life is based on the fulcrum of Vedic principles, the ritual of Kanya Daan is still prevalent in Indian Society. It also drifted to tribal groups and untouchables who are not Hindu at all. Anyways, such degrading attitude towards woman has made her saleable commodity and this is the main reason for women trafficking in India.  Sex and other things come later. Every year thousand of Indian girls between age 15 and 25 are illegally transported to Middle East countries. The picture of internal trafficking is also horrible. A study conducted in 2001 estimates that annually 30,000 girls are transported from one part of country to another, mainly, in the districts of Belesore, Kalahandi and Nabarangpur in Odisha.

There are some legal provisions to prevent human abuse and trafficking. Article 23 of Indian Constitution prohibits all form of trafficking. There are also two special Indian Laws which addresses trafficking and prostitution in particular. The Suppression of Immoral Traffic in Women and Girls Act of 1956 (SITA), the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act of 1986 (PITA) and Sections 366A, 366B 373 of IPC are for the protection of women but the result is very disappointing. Every other day we get to read in news papers or watch on TV channels sex scandals or abducting of minor girls. Really, if we have to unfetter womenfolk from this dehumanizing situation, we must alter our way of looking at them. We must accept and respect them as person, not as the weaker sex.

Mahatma Jyotirao Phule:

Mahatma Jyotirao Phule (1827-1890) was a greater social reformer, who has devoted his whole life for liberation of downtrodden in Maharashtra. By analyzing Hindu scriptures he made people aware of hell, heaven, sin, good deed and the like. As a sincere truth seeker, he tried to lead poor and illiterate people on the path of truth so that they may not fall prey to the ruse of priestly class. He believed that Avatars (Incarnations) of Hindu Gods are a systematic design to deceive credulous masses, so he tried to enlighten them about the whole lot of them in his famed book-Slavery. He ruthlessly criticized some of Gods like Brahma and Ganapati whom He called Betii Chod (Daughter Fucker) and Shembud Fukya (snot blower) respectively.

Jyotirao Phule closely studied the entire corpus of Hindu mythological texts in order to put truth before naïve people from the lower stratum. He held that unless the deprived people are properly educated, they would not realize their exploitation from the high caste society. Therefore, he started a first girl’s school in Bhide’s house in Pune in 1848. Savitri Bai Phule, his wife, taught girls in this school. Then the Sanatanists whose only capital was ignorance of people deadly opposed schooling of girls. They said that if girls are given education something great wrong will happen in the country. They spread all types of difficulties in the way of women’s education. As an extreme step, they flung dung at Savitri Bai. And it is irony that the city where girls were prevented from taking education is called the seat of learning and those who were enemy of girl education as well as that of Dalits are adored as pioneers of social reformers today.

Hindu Code Bill :

After Jyotirao Phule, it is Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar who has seriously thought over the plight of Indian woman’s life. As an untouchable, he has experienced Caste Hindu’s ill-treatment towards the depressed classes and women and when an opportunity came there he threw his weight around bringing about improvement in the Hindu personal law. In the capacity of first law minister of independent India, he moved the Hindu Code Bill in parliament on 5th February 1951. Certainly, his aim behind the introduction of this bill was, cent per cent, pure and humanitarian one but all the orthodox Hindus have raised such an uproar that Babasah Ambedkar was out to destroy their religion and culture root and branch by the bill. Let alone common man, even the so-called intellect leaders like Dr Rajendra Prasad and Sardar Vallabhai Patel also violently opposed the bill. Hindu Sadhus laid a siege to Parliament. Industrialists and Zaminadars warned they would withdraw their support in the coming election. (Arundhati Roy's Introduction to Annihilation Of Caste-2014) Though the bill was exclusively for the betterment of women, they too were against Dr. Babasaheb Ambdedkar and had taken a demonstration to his home in Delhi. After all, what did the bill hold which made such a big noise?

In fact, there was nothing objectionable in it, whatever was, was all for the good of women. The bill insisted that woman must be looked upon an equal being and be offered all amenities enjoyed by her male counterpart. It stated that women must have right to property and right to divorce and likewise common civil code throughout country. There has been polygamy for a long time which abused woman badly. Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar wanted to repeal the evil by law and make monogamy mandatory. He wished to legally give woman right to estrange from her man if he mistreats or exploits her. Earlier there were quite different provisions in for the same offence which through this bill were going to be made identical. For example, two incidents of atrocities against woman took place in two different places, say, Bengal and Punjab.  Sadly, there was stark variation in punishment in those two places despite the situations and evidences leading to the criminal acts were same to a T. In short, Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar wanted to bring in positive reformation in Hindu social system by the bill and create just society for posterities. But those who believed in gender discrimination hampered it brutally and Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar had to resign from the ministry helplessly.

Woman as Human Resource:

Woman has always been considered as a subordinate to man. She is never accepted as an independent individual. Whatever she doses as a woman, has no significance until it receives an approval from man and thus she is made completely parasite in society. Right from her birth to death she has to obey others. However intellectual or skilful she may be, she can’t decide on courses of life on her own. She has to follow orders of her father, husband and sons at different stages of life. She has no independent existence. Even today she abides by the dictate of Manu very scrupulously. Being a woman she is not allowed to speak out her mind or act on her hearts’ desires in any matter, though it is associates with her very survival. As a daughter, she has to be in the custody of her father (Not in her mother’s because she is woman), as a wife, in her husband and as an old mother, in adult sons. By this teachings and training, Indian woman has, in turn, become so feeble and fragile in heart and mind that she never comes forth to take up any new activities or ventures in some extraordinary field. It is a pity that she accepts all this as destiny.

Woman has never been taken into consideration as human resource and that’s been a huge loss to our nation. Today the total population of India is near about 1.22 billion with the distribution of 628.8 million male and 591.4 million female. It is clear that there are 60 crores women in our country at the moment and this number is not a small one but astronomic. Can’t these women be harnessed as human resource for the sake of development of our country? Can’t we utilize their potential to raise GDP of our nation? Why didn’t it happen over the years? Why women are not are brought forward to participate in the making of modern India? Why are women not empowered yet in spite of varied vociferous schemes meant for women? All these questions are very hard to answer.


More by :  Prof. Madhav Sarkunde

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Views: 3352      Comments: 2

Comment Thank you sir, for your clear review on my article. Yes I omitted some points on media and women living in abroad. I had to specially point out plight of Indian women, therefore,the focus was India only .No doubt, media plays gargantuan role in ironing out certain mindset. but in India, the whole of media belongs to the people who are socially hidebound. I expect your comments in future too. thank you.

truth seeker
23-Mar-2014 23:22 PM

Comment Today, a vast number of Indian women live abroad, and enjoy the benefits and opportunities of western democracy. Many Indian (Hindu) traditions, like arranged marriage, and the various festivals, are still retained, but there are few restrictions on women's rights such as you describe. Here women are empowered by the law, and their British (or other western) identity enables them to yet keep in touch with communities in India, while calling Britain (or other western democracy) home. It is hoped this worldwide influence and interchange will eventually break down prejudice in India. You do not mention the influence of the media having any effect, which seems strange, as the ubiquitous presence of TV provides a window to the world even in the villages. I won't go on, but merely wish to put your view of India in a wider global context - to give grounds for hope.

23-Mar-2014 21:51 PM

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