The concept of ‘new woman’ is an ideal that originated within feminism nearly a century ago. It was an ideal that profoundly expressed its need for women to live an independent life, who had a control on their own lives and who was to challenge a male dominated society. This started off with women going to universities and subsequently who went on to become lawyers, doctors and professions of their choice.
Realising “new women” in India is a distant dream even in the 21st century. The root cause which impediments the upward mobility of women lies in the differential treatment of women from the pre-independence era. Be it education, social awareness, exposure, work, decent living; women were deprived of all these.
In the recent times, if we ask the question “has the situation improved?” the answer is a yes and a no. It is a yes because we have few women who form a part of the working force in different spheres of life. On the other hand, it is a no because, women are still seen as a burden, still face safety issues and many more.
According to schemes like the Nirbhaya fund, headed by Ministry of women and child development, utilization of the funds allocated by different states to make sure safety is not compromised is worrisome. Although government made all attempts to combat heinous crimes against women, underutilization of funds by the states is a problem. Maharashtra and West Bengal have utilised less than 1% of the funds allocated according to a data released in the Hindu newspaper.
Currently, there is no reservation in the Indian parliament for women due to which, percentage of women parliamentarians is less than the global average of 24.6%. The percentage share stands at 14.39%. In the state legislatures, only 9 states had an average share of more than 10% women in state legislative assemblies between 2008 and 2018. These data is indicative of the nature of trend we have set ourselves in the global scenario.
Talking about the problem of female foeticide (selective killing of foetus even before giving birth), the sample registration system records show that female foeticide has significantly increased between the years 2013 and 2018. Sex ratio at birth in the year 2013 stood at 909 female for every 1000 male whereas in the year 2018, the ratio was 896 female for every male. In an era where we talk about development and modernization, the actual data speaks of a different reality altogether.
When we talk about the trend of education and work, again there is a disparity. The number of girls enrolled in graduate studies and the number of women who work, is astonishingly low. Most girls are still required to complete a degree to just to be later involved with familial obligations. Very few find themselves come out of the shell and lead an independent life. This too comes with a heavy price through bureaucratic hindrance, discrimination from the family and society.
India is blessed with resources. Human resources are a big asset to us. The untapped potential of women is a setback to our economy and society. Although we can be proud of our young women scientists responsible for the successes like that of Mangalyaan mission, the ground reality is that it remains a distant dream for many such young girls who want to create history with their achievement.
Realising ‘new woman’, does seem to remain as a myth as of now. But it may cease to remain in due course of time. The fate of the ideal becoming a reality lies with the government being able to implement its laws and also with society being able to accept the change.
- Yohalakshmi Nethi Gopalakrishnan
Fulfilment of ”new Women” in India Is a Myth - Dr.Rashmi Bhat.