This title per se is a sad reflection on the state of humanity at large and belies any claims that we may make to having evolved, refined or even civilized in the real sense. While it would be natural to categorize groups of people facing typical problems as migrants, retired people, students or even bus commuters and so on, it is weird and unnatural that a set of people should face issues only on account of their birth. Women have been oppressed, neglected and exploited since the days of the cave man. Sadly the evolving of man into a more refined, cultured or knowledgeable being did not put an end to this but merely changed the manner in which it was carried out. Women being oppressed in the early days may be a reflection of an age when physical strength and brute force were the only factors that determined superiority and women because of their being created as the weaker sex were vulnerable to such exhibition of power by the males. Having given up leaves and twigs for clothes and trees and caves for homes and cooked food instead of raw meat it is high time men gave up the typical cave man trait of suppressing and dominating women.
It is a sad commentary that women continue to be suppressed and ill treated in a country like India where they were given an exalted status surpassing the male during the Vedic times. Hindu customs and scriptures made it mandatory for the women of the household to be present in any prayer or ritual for it to be complete; women were deified as ‘Shakthi’ or the power or ability to achieve anything. Even in more recent times we can be proud that India as a democracy gave voting rights to women much before the United States or Britain.
The problems that women face in society can be to a large extent traced back to our homes. In the rural areas and among illiterate families girls are given secondary status in comparison to boys in nourishment, education and life style, while this robs them of a good start, it creates an indelible early impression in the psyche of the boys that they are second class citizens and do not deserve equal treatment which is a more serious issue.
Most families bring up girls in a manner that they need to depend on the males at home to get their day to day work done which makes them dependent and robs their self-confidence.
Strangely women exploitation cuts across economic and educational barriers, if they receive less wages, than their male counterparts as farm labourers or in export garment units they also receive a raw deal in so called corporate cultures where they are discriminated when it comes to rewarding through promotions. A Male’s ego makes it difficult for him to accept a woman as his boss even if she has the right educational background and credentials.
While a sympathetic approach to the problems of women may be desirable in the present context, it should not take a condescending form or misplaced sympathy. Even if the intentions are good such an approach would make women feel that they are weak and handicapped and need to be bailed out by the stronger sex. Any consideration or special quotas in terms of jobs or seats in educational institutions may seem to better their lot initially but these may become crutches that they would like to use even when they can stand on their feet without such help. We can achieve long terms benefits only if women are taught to be self reliant, strong and confident right from childhood and given the same education and other opportunities that boys enjoy. It is equally important that they are exposed to the same competition and make their mark after competing on an even turf than being held by the hand to the victory post.