What Ails Indian Women?
The recently concludet U.N. conference in Beijing debated over several days and at seeming length, the problems confronting womanhood across the globe. Not unexpectedly, the lndian delegation was led by no less a person than the one who proved the old Indian couplet:
"kuputhro jayetha, kwachithapi kumaatha na bhavathy” (“a bad son is born, never a bad mother”).
There was the usual in-depth discussion of women's rights, the tortures they undergo, sexism et all ( much of which is less relevant in an Indian context. It would not be far wrong to say that as far as the Indian women are concerned, the ccnference was a non-event, except that no less a person than the Great Scindia, led our wornen into it !
And, I now ask the fundamental question: What ails the Indian woman? Is it being over-worked by the tyrannous mother-in-law, abused in many ways by the adventurous and opportunistic husband, outraged by the social vagabonds or, humiliated by the colleagues at work?
Are these only symptoms of a far greater but fundamental malaise? Are the U.N and the various participating governments - not excluding our ours - guilty af side tracking the real issues and operating only at peripheral and cosmetic levels? Legitimate questions these, for which answers need to be found.
Women, and those claiming to be their advocates, ask for equality with man. They seek recognition, the freedom to decide anything concerning them, equal opportunities, equal remuneration, etc. ln short, they have succeeded over the years in finalising a charter of demands, which, though universal in character is, I am sorry to say" ignorant to ground realities, at least, as far as India and similar ancient civilizations are concerned.
Equality with man is no panacea for women's problems; nor is the western right of 'living Together or, total sexual freedom. Even the cumulative effect af all these has failed to retrieve for the woman the element of pride and self-respect that was hers in ancient civilizations. In India, it was said that where women are worshipped, all the Gods manifest in their full glory; and where they are not worshipped, there results a sense of unfulfilment and frustration. So then, women need to be worshipped by society, not in temples or, in ritualistic fashion but as creators of life, primarily, and as sustainers of mankind and its civilisation, secondarily.
One may dismiss the concept of 'worship of women' as stupid, because it calls for a sea-change in the thinking of men. How can man who has treated woman only as an object of pleasure and labour over the millennia, metamorphose and accept the revolutionary concept of worshipping her? On the face of it, it appears to be ludicrous but, if a sincere attempt is made it might yet be possible. The environment has to be created to enable this revolutionary miracle to manifest itself. And, what is the environment?
First of all, the government should legislate that all immovable properties can only be held in the names of women. In other words, men can never own immovable property. To enable this to be accelerated, a time-frame should be worked out and sops given. For example, property transfers to women should be totally exempt from stamp-duty, properfy taxes, capital gains tax, etc. Women's incomes should be totally tax-exempt, including income-tax.
Second, women should he given full religious rights, including the right to light a funeral pyre and to do the follow-up ceremonies. The variaus religious leaders, beginning with the Sankaracharyas and their peers should sanction and bless this change. There seems to be no justification any longer, to keep women away from such religious obligations.
The above-mentioned two major reforms would bring about the much needed social changes in Hindu society and the other minorities would necessarily, follow suit. All other benefits, such as women's education, equal opportunities, respect for women etc. will also come like the day following the night. All that is needed is the courage of conviction, the spirit to experiment and the willingness to be honest and beneficent to our mothers and sisters, who have borne the cross long enough"
Date : 5th October 1995