In contemporary India, women occupy paradoxical status. On one hand, there are Goddesses featuring in the “Hindu” pantheon and revered by men. On the other hand, some wives are burnt because they didn’t bring enough “dowry”; women are victimized by powerful local political figures and their family; some women are abducted by rich youths with impunity; and there are credible stories of female infanticide in rural India. Surely, these cases are not the norm. Nevertheless, it is horrifying to see that they happen. Compared to the status of women in Japan, Indian women enjoy equal status socially, economically, and politically; the mal-treatment of women using misinterpreted religious laws in many Islamic countries is absent in India; etc.

Since independence, the pace of change in the role and status of women in India has been greatly accelerated. By virtue of various acts and statutes — the Child Marriage Act – the role and status of women has risen quite high. However the basic attitude of society and especially of men towards the new role & status of women has not kept pace with this change leaving a wide gap & time lag. This gap is particularly noteworthy when it comes for recognition by other family members of the husband. Moreover, there is still a large gap between the legal rights & the social attitudes & beliefs. This gap is continuing to retard the actual emancipation of women, particularly in smaller cities & villages.

Although legally & theoretically women are now recognized as the social-equal of man, the institutions of caste, the patriarchal family, religious mores & the prevailing value system are still surcharged with the spirit of male dominance. The social attitude towards working married women who mostly belong to the middle class educated families has changed considerably. It is no longer derogatory for the wife or the daughter-in-law to holds a job. With passage of time, even elderly women of the family not only adjust to their daughter-in-law taking up gainful employment but also appreciate it.

But while the attitude towards employment of women has changed, the attitude of the husband or of the in-laws towards her role & relationships in the family or towards her status, rights & privileges remains comparatively unchanged. This puts the working-woman in a predicament. In spite of the added role she undertakes as a workingwoman & the additional income she brings to the family, she is expected to carry out the role of a traditional housewife & do many household chores. Men usually consider household jobs below their dignity. All this leads to marital maladjustments & in family squabbles.

There is also a gap between the status that woman desire & expect, feeling strongly that they deserve it & the status that the family & society actually give to them. Thus, in the social structure of the tradition-oriented family, the typical patterns of husband-wife relationship, namely male dominance & female dependence, continues unabated. The husband enjoys the superior position over his wife & the major decision making role continues to be the prerogative of the husband. The wife has to tacitly accept the subservient position in the family & her role in domestic sphere continues to be assumed. Society’s attitude in general is changing slowly towards woman’s due role & status, although the pattern of male superiority in all fields is still a dominating factor. The woman is still considered to be inferior & the weaker sex, although theoretically she has the right to divorce if her husband tortures her.

There is still so much of social ostracism attached to a divorced woman that she seldom dares to have recourse to divorce on her own initiative, even when she is capable of being economically & financially independent. The position of women after independence has greatly improved. The authorities were correct in appreciating the need for active cooperation of women to pave the way for national progress. Our Constitution accordingly lies down that our woman shall have equal opportunities. They shall be entitled to equal wages with men for equal work. They have also been given the right to run businesses, to take up progressive occupations & professions & enjoy the right to vote in the political field.

While the position may still not have improved in village communities, in urban areas woman folk are today enjoying high position in every walk of life. They are taking to all careers that were previously the preserve of men like the Police & Administrative Service. However, in the countryside, the position is still far from satisfactory. Literacy rate among the rural women is still very low. In some cases the girls are sold buy the parents like commodities against their will. In some communities the system of child marriage still exists & widow re-marriage is looked down upon.

In villages the evil of dowry system still continues in the Indian society. Dowry Prohibition Acts have been passed in many states. Central government servants cannot accept any dowry under the rules or give the same in their daughter’s marriage. But these acts are still an ideal, which remains good only on paper. However, divorce has been made easy so that women do not suffer unwanted miseries.

<