The picture of women in India is a very ambivalent one.
People familiar with India are familiar with female leaders in the political, economic and social field. There are female leaders in India holding exceptionally high ranking posts both in politics and business, who are bold, daring and determined and have contributed in different ways to progress in Indian life. There are women who have learnt to assert themselves, who are emancipated, made careers or become professionals. But such developments have not benefited more than 25% of Indian women.
Neither at the national level nor at the state level are women’s rights accepted as self understood. In most sections of Indian society women are mostly relegated to the domestic field and hence their role is only seen as social in nature. The patriarchal mind set is so dominant that no space is allowed or given for women to establish their own identity. Society often sees a girl as somebody who in any case is going to be married, stay at home and hence does not need schooling, work or a job.
It is this patriarchal mind-set together with the deep-rooted thinking that women are inferior that is a huge big blockade in accepting that women are capable of playing an active role in society beyond the domestic sphere. It is this mind-set that prevents giving women a voice in their own lives. It is this mind-set which makes men think that they and only they can decide or are capable of making life decisions for their women folk. It is this mind-set which puts the burden of upholding the family reputation on the women. It is this mind-set that makes men prefer having boys rather than girls. It is this mind-set why a rape culture can thrive and that too a gang rape culture. It is this mind-set that accepts child marriages in spite of many laws. It is this mind-set that is the underlying stumbling block in eradicating the dowry system. It is this mind-set why sex selective abortions prevail in India. It is this mind-set that limits women’s rights to education, to work and to a profession, to ownership of property, to a choice of when they get married and to whom, of what they do if their marriages are unhappy, to their pathetic position as a widow. It is this mind-set that is preventing women from playing their rightful role in Indian society, in Indian politics and in the Indian economy.
It is ultimately this mind-set that will limit the progress that India is capable of making in the future and in becoming a real global player.