A woman is a female human, more specifically, an adult one, as defined in the dictionaries. "The half-world"- this is the current sobriquet for women and the highly discussed one in various guilds of social importance ranging from local to international platforms. More or less, this is almost one of the highly expected topics in essay writing competitions or in some counterpart exams. Freelancers always feel comfortable in putting their contributions on this, because they are an expert now and have discovered some sprucing innovative words to write about Women and their issues. It was always very easy to say or to write few words or few resplendent lines on women so as very difficult to prove them real. An extempore question arises "why women are such a highly discussed one", a philosophical inference to this curiosity points that smoke is the result of fire, so as women are guised as smoke and fire belongs to their plight. To elaborate this philosophical sentence a précis about the status of the women, since the inception of society up to date, is inevitable.
Status of women has undergone multidimensional changes with the passage of time, strikingly in an alternate fashion. They enjoyed a revered status in pre-vedic period, as a pariah during post-vedic/medieval period and again emerged strongly in the twentieth century which is still on its journey to be completed.
Pre-vedic period was the golden era for the women because at that time they were devoid of any sort of restrictions or benighted customs, they were scholars, diligent, politician, etc, without being discriminated on the gender basis, however, some non-social impediments started arousing by the end of pre-vedic period and at the inception of post-vedic period. The first-most accused has been claimed to be the doctrine of "Manusmriti" which advocated the deprived and jeopardized living for the women followed by the Islamic invasion of Babur and the Mughal Empire who further added the suppression of women's rights in the society. The benighted customs like sati, child marriage, ban on widow remarriage, Devdassis, purdah,etc., were quite prevalent in the medieval period.
The deterioration of women's status persisted and remained isolated for a long time when social reformers started campaigning for their social upliftment during the British Rule. Raja Rammohan Roy, Ishwar Chandra Vidya Sagar, Jyotirao Phule, were the names of such social reformers who made strong contributions in breaking the shackles of static and prevalent customs responsible for the deterioration of women's status in the society and further incepted the doctrine for their empowerment and reformation to set their status not less than any other human species.
Women in India now participate in all activities such as politics, sports, education, media, art and culture, service sectors, science and technology, etc. Indira Gandhi who served as prime minister of India for an aggregate period of 15 years is the world's longest serving women prime minister and the influence of women in politics is at its apex in the present context strongly supported by the incumbent president of India Pratibha Devi Singh Patil, incumbent Speaker of Lok-Sabha Mira Kumar, incumbent railway minister Mamta Banerji and leader of opposition Sonia Gandhi. Besides these names of women holding major authorities in the politics, the other fields are also have women ascendants like Indira Nooyi CEO of Pepsico, Chanda Koochar CEO of ICICI bank, Shikha Sharma of axis bank and so on.
The constitution of India guarantees to all Indian women equality (Article 14), no discrimination by the state (Article 15(1)), equality of opportunity (Article 16) and equal pay for equal work (Article 39(d)). In addition it allows special provisions to be made by the state in favor of women and children (Article 15(3)), renounces practices derogatory to the dignity of women (Article 51(A)(e)) and also allows for the provisions to be made by the state for securing just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief (Article 42)
In 1990s, grants from foreign donor agencies enabled the formation of new women oriented NGOs. Self-help groups and NGOs such as Self Employed Women's Association (SEWA) have played a major role in women's rights in India. Many women have emerged as leaders of local movements for example Medha Patkar of Narmada Bachao Andolan.
Govt. of India declared 2001 as year of women empowerment. National policy for the empowerment of women was also passed in 2001. In 2010 march 9, one day after international women's day, Rajya Sabha passed women's Reservation Bill, ensuring 33% reservation to women in parliament and state legislative bodies.
Besides all these beautiful data, the status of women is still not that to which it is meant for. There are still a lot to do for their empowerment. The cases of child marriage, deteriorating maternity rate, anemic pregnancies, eve teasing, molestation, harassment, rape, exploitation, trafficking and so many more are such an inventory of non-social impediments which are still prevailing in an alarming rate.
The worst myth so far is that man is superior and woman is inferior in terms of physical power, more muscles, taller stature and broader shoulders. His prowess is proven in the brave progress he has made down the ages, hunting for food, cultivating for better living, conquering territories for more power. In short, pages of history remember him as the ruler, achiever, and savior with great physical and intellectual strength. He is seen to be born to govern, to protect and dominate. On the other hand, women seen as a lesser version with tender make-up of physique and delicate features have been allotted a shaded place in the back-ground, a safe shelter in home looking after the appetites and needs of the mighty man, delivering his pregnancy and bringing them up, has been her primary if not the only duty.
Man and woman being complimentary physically, emotionally and morally and there is no scope for comparison. One has no existence without the other. They are interdependent. Together their life is whole and meaningful. Each has their own duties, roles and responsibilities.
Beautifully lyrical sloka from Atharvaveda clearly states that women leads the man – "The sun god follows the first illuminated and enlightened goddess Usha (dawn) in the same manner as men emulate and follow women."