The plight of women in India

It is not possible to visit India right now and ignore the tumultous discussion surrounding women and their welfare.  This follows the brutal rape and murder of the 23-year old student on December 16 which has led to a vivid discussion of the pervasive suppressive and mysoginistic attitude towards women.  My first day in India, I was startled to read 15 reports on assaults and attacks on women, their court cases, civic protests, public discussions and a widespread litany of complaints in one day's newspaper.  No question, everyone's consciousness has been raised.  Whether this will change long-standing customs and culture is yet to be seen.  Outwardly, many changes are obvious:
  • In today's news, I read that the state of Pumjab wrapped up 11 rape trials in 20 days, a record feat where some cases had been pending for ten years.
  • Even youngsters are involved indicating that this 'anxiety has percolated to children too' - this from Professor Anil Gupta, executive vice chair of the National Innovation Foundation.  These young people have been devising gadgets and solutions that are 'weapons for the public good'.  They include a robotic sandal that raises an alarm and delivers a mild shock to the attacker if hit twice on the ground, an anti-molestation device that can be worn like a wrist watch and gadgets that let off a siren.
  • Local community groups are encouraging and providing bags of chilli pepper to be used against attackers.
In conducting an informal survey of regular folk who come from villages, have little education and only the most basic necessities, they described the plight of everyday life and the lives of their daughters.  With India's population significantly young and disproportionately male, you would think that girls would be able to exercise leverage.  No such thing.  Dowries are still the norm in villages and small towns.  One person said, a motorcycle was a 'must'!  Add to that cash, jewellery and furniture.  If the prospective groom had a job, it could be a significant outlay of cash; if the job was at a bank or insurance company or other known corporate entity, the figure doubled.  All this against the backdrop of seeing girls and women in the workforce in droves, wearing the most modern of clothes, taking public transportation, earning their own living and having access to global information and education, with technology everywhere.  None of this reaches the remote villages in positive ways.  The worst inequalities are perpetrated on those who have nothing.  The higher one is on the economic rung, the less this is true of course.  As technology, television and access to worldwide information reaches everyone, the aspirations increase and it is harder to accept the stark inequalities and injustice that women still face.  If this poor girl's legacy succeeds in creating change in this area, she will not have died in vain.  
Back to blog