Indian women still hostage

Ashish Kaul
Empowerment of women is the most abused and misrepresented word in the world. What seems to me that through last 700 years of Indian History the term “women empowerment” was consciously created, over a period of time, by powerful social invaders who first brutally abused women as a tool for enslaving our socio-cultural landscape and then created a myth that women were weaker thus legitimizing a thought that women were incapable and unworthy of a decision making leadership role in personal and professional lives. This was the time when myths like impurity of women were also crafted because of mensuration cycles. During the British regime, the concept of a weak Indian women was further strengthened as women were continuously pushed behind the veiled corridors of home that turned from being a civilizational cradle to a glorified prison for Indian women. From the turn of 9th Century AD, women have sprinted from being the vanguards of the most progressive civilization called Bharat to a dreadful pity role of “Pau Ki Jooti” in British India. What should have stopped post 1947 in the promised free India, tragically continued unabated transforming into a monstrosity of abuse in the form of eve teasing, horrific rapes, gender bias and dowry deaths. That was not all, the new free India also adopted and strengthened an environment that was resentful towards providing equal educational and commercial opportunities for women.
In a country that burst at the horizon of the new world as a beacon of hope, growth and freedom, did nothing significant to mend the travesties of past 700 years of persecution of women. While women struggled all through in the new India, crimes against women continued unabated and so did grotesque acts of foeticide along with lack of equal opportunities outside the realm of veiled corridors called home. The story of India’s liberalization continued its hiccups in absence of its fair share in the ultimate seat of democracy – the parliament of India. A nation on the cusp of being the new superpower always saw women merely as cosmetic tools of Public Relations on one hand and deadwood on the other. The very nation that swears by and kneels before the power of Shakti has always been unwilling to share the power and opportunity with what comprises nearly half of the population of this great country. We continue to have the lowest women representation in the Parliament. That is the very source of the greatest and grotesque discrimination against nearly 63 crore women in India. Various recent economic surveys and reports are far from inspiring for Indian women. 60 per cent of women in India in the productive age bracket of 15-59 years are still engaged in full-time housework. In 2019, as per World Bank, India’s female labour force participation rate is an abysmal 23.4 per cent. We are far below even countries that we like to believe are poor in comparison to India. Bhutan is at 58%, Nepal is at 81 %, China is at 60%. Even countries like Bangladesh, Myanmar and Srilanka are higher than India at 36%, 47% and 34% respectively. The only consolation and the saving grace is Pakistan which is just 1% lower than ours. All this does not augur well for a nation chasing its $5-trillion-economy goal. All-encompassing growth and gender parity are paramount for any economy to realize its full potential. With India striving to become a US Dollar 5 trillion economy by 2025, it cannot afford to leave half of its productive workforce behind and therefore, it is time that 33% of the promised seats in Indian Parliament should be reserved to represent 63 crore wheels of Indian economy – the women of India.
This cannot happen in absence of a major policy shift and sometimes a major policy shift needs multiple catalysts. Education is the source of all that is good and progressive. Small little initiatives in education sector could galvanise this shift. Government already has made education in Government institution almost free for girls but what government is unable to do is to mobilise families to usher girls on the path of ultimate enlightenment. Can we not make it mandatory for all Government servants, PSU and people with an income of over 3 lac a year to ensure college education to girls? Can we not make it mandatory for village Sarpanch’s and MLA’s to ensure 100% literacy and college education to girls within their designated geographies?. In order for the system to work, this initiative must become a part of their public performance appraisal. Strengthening of legal framework is also a necessity to create a progressive ecosystem for women. Digital India is the new mantra that is transforming lives. Can the Government not create a comprehensive national digital legal support system to safeguard women?. Women’s education needs a makeover given various economic reports suggest that there are insignificant jobs for moderately educated women in India. Whereas, lesser educated women in India may still have a better chance and that yet is another dangerous trend leading to menial jobs child labour included. Lack of hardwired focus has led to insignificant participation of women in white-collar, lower, mid-level and retail sales.
Economic push is already the need of the hour especially with the sudden brakes on a fast moving Indian economy due to COVID19. While the Government has been proactively soliciting global investments into India – why can the Government not make it compulsory for even private sector, especially, the manufacturing to reserve a reasonable employment for women?.
Urban India has begun to see a growth in women representation in economic activities. Indian media & entertainment, hospitality, Aviation and IT Industry is a shining example of continued growth of women participation. Schools, colleges and professional education also is witnessing a growth in terms of women participation. Professional medical education is an example of this continued growth. Recently, Govt. introduced reservation for admission to ‘only girl child’ in medical education including others, providing a sigh of relief. However, this is more of an apology than opportunity to half of India. The question remains – is a reservation like this a fair opportunity for the regressive boundaries crafted for women to keep them away from their glory for 700 years?. We all know the answer to that. Even the latest education policy announced has no articulated mention of women, once again, reflecting the disappointing bias of our male dominion. While, the policy makers dabble in their own reservations to deny our fair share, let the women of this great country not forget that this is the same country what once was called Streedesh – the country of women. We ourselves also must be the change that we wish to see. Let us not forget that it was an Indian women who created world’s first co-operative bank, the first commando force, the first counter intelligence system, world’s first paid army, the first para athlete, the waterways system, the parliamentary form of Government too was first created by the woman of India, more specifically the women of Kashmir and I happen to be a scion of the same spirited legacy. Let the world know that the finest military commanders in the world were women and the dreaded warlords in world like Mahmoud Gazni the destroyer of iconic Somnath temple was also first defeated twice by a women ruler. Indian male Kings enjoyed their kingdoms full of abundance and prosperity during the peak of India’s reign as the proverbial “Soney Ki Chidiya” solely because Didda, a woman, the brave Queen of Kashmir was guarding the Northern frontiers of undivided India for 44 long years – which incidentally was the longest serving Queen in the medieval world.
It is a travesty that the male dominion argues in favour of repressive regime of over 900 years in the name of protection – to them I say we are sorry for them because women of India were persecuted for the inability of proclaimed male dominions inability to safeguard women and the country. Women paid a price for incept governance over last 1000 years barring last few years. While the new Modi Government appears to be adopting progressive policies towards welfare of women, I hope that it does remember that there are 63 crore women of this country that are hopeful for an opportunity to propel Indian economy into achieving the US Dollar 5 Trillion dream. Until that happens, I say to all the women in the world, don’t wait, come forward and restore the Stree back into our desh for India to be the greatest country in the world.
( The author is a business leader, and a media veteran)


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