Kalpana Chawla and Sunita Williams reaching the space; Kiran Mazumdar Shaw becoming the richest Indian woman through her biotech enterprise, ‘Biocon’; Indira Nooyi, CEO of Pepsi Ltd. making her nation proud; Indira Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi reaching heights in their political careers; Mother Teresa, a name everyone reveres; P.T.Usha or Sania Mirza taking Indian sports to a new dimension; Kiran Bedi or Kanchan Chaudhary, women to whom the whole nation salutes ! This is a brief and broad picture of today’s modern and successful, but few fortunate women.
The phenomenon of women empowerment has attracted massive attention in recent years. So much has been said and so much has been heard to uplift women economically, politically and culturally. But, is the woman of today socially empowered? If not in it’s literal sense then at least in the eyes of men?
We, the women of today are entering into diversified fields with great determination and enthusiasm. We try our best not to leave any stone unturned. Whether it be taking care of our families, managing the workplace, or both, we are striking just the right balance everywhere. But what hurts here is to see that a large section of society is still not open enough to welcome this change in favour of women. Its attitude towards women has still not changed; in fact, things have indeed gone from bad to worse after Independence. Despite the law, such reprehensible practices as female feticide, female infanticide and child marriage are still prevalent in many parts of the country. Dowry is a plague that stalks every family having marriageable daughters and like AIDS it has no cure. Incidents of sexual harassment, eve teasing, sexual abuse of female children and rapes are on the rise. Women form a sizeable percentage of the workforce in the unorganized sector, but most of the labour laws do not cover them. Those who have been to the pilgrim centres of Mathura, Vrindavan and Varanasi would have noticed a large number of widows living in hopeless destitution.
Emotional or physical abuse in relationships is not uncommon. And it’s not only the illiterate or the ignorant that are the reasons behind such violence; what surprises is that quite often such abusers are well-read, intelligent and educated men. Convicted IPS officer R.K. Sharma, in the journalist Shivani Bhatnagar murder case, is one example. Another such shocking incident was of Bangalore-based software engineer Amit Budhiraja, asphyxiating his wife with a pillow on suspicion of an extra-marital affair; he later committed suicide on knowing his wife was innocent.
Kidnappings, blackmailings, acid attacks have become a routine in our society. The general rise of aggression in the society has resulted in increased cases of emotional disorders. These often go undetected. Why are men increasingly becoming abusive? The reasons could be suspicion, jealousy, ignorance, dissatisfaction or anything. Increased stress and fast-paced lifestyle have reduced the tolerance level. Increase in infidelity has given rise to insecurity, therefore one finds it difficult to handle rejection and hits back. Decreasing influence of the community and family in one’s life, at times of distress, is also responsible for the plight. There is no emotional outlet and thus, this gets translated into violence or aggressive behaviour.
It also has to do a lot with the upbringing of men in our society. They have been taught not to cry or express their negative feelings in any positive manner leading to such outbursts. It is the urge for proving male supremacy that ends up over-riding all other sensibilities. Thanks to the patriarchal society we live in, man feels a woman is his property. It is true even today, despite having more working women on the scene. Economic empowerment does not necessarily lead to social empowerment.
It’s saddening to see that even after proving herself in every sphere, a woman is not given the respect she deserves in our society. She seems more like a play-thing to the opposite gender, devoid of emotions and feelings. It’s for all to see in which direction is our society moving, and it’s only in our hands where we want to take it. A man’s thinking that women are weak will not actually make them so. We have always been fighters and will fight out this plight as well. Women have got to make the world safe for men since men have made it so damned unsafe for women.