Women in ancient India were held in high respect. With the course of time, the status of woman got lowered. Muscle and money power started dominating the societies. And as men fought the wars and ran the ventures of industrial production, they started considering themselves superior to woman.

After the development of science and technology, the practice of female foeticide on a large scale also started. This eventually led to a slump in the female sex ratio. According to the census of 2001, the sex ratio in India is 927 females to 1,000 males. Dowry has become widespread and the birth of a girl child became inauspicious. In several parts of India, women are seen as an economic liability, even with the contribution of women in numerous ways to our economy and society. Early marriages, rape, molestation, sexual harassment, forced prostitution, eve teasing, etc are a common issue today. The crime rate against women is mounting at a startling rate.

This essay depicts how women are being exploited and how their needs are being repressed in our primarily orthodox society. It also shows how it can avoided, so that women can live freely, walk freely and talk freely.

Women & Education:

Education is one of the powerful tools in the liberation and the empowerment of women. It is the single utmost factor which can amazingly improve the position of women in any society.

The 2001 Census report shows that the literacy rate among Indian women is only 54 percent. It is almost demoralizing to observe that the literacy rate of Indian women is even much poorer to the national average of 65.38. The expansion of education for women in rural areas is very sluggish. This clearly means that still large number of women of our country is illiterate, backward, weak and exploited. In addition education is also not available to all equally which can be seen by the Gender inequality in education. The literacy rate for the women is just 54% against 76% of men according to the 2001 Census.

The phenomenon involving Women education is multi dimensional. Not one factor or cause can be held accountable for the low literacy rate of Indian women. It is related with the combination of many factors including social, economic, demographic, administrative, cultural, educational, political, etc.

Some of the important factors that can be credited for the current situation are:

  • Female age at marriage: There is high connection of the female literacy rate with that of the female age during her marriage. The female age at marriage of 18 (lately 21 years) as approved by various legislations are not at all followed in India. It is very much neglected by the parents with low literacy background. This intolerable practice dejects the female children to continue their education, as they go into family life at an early age.
  • Lower Enrolment in Schools: The low enrolment of girls in schools is one of the fundamental factors that stand as the tentative block for empowerment of Indian women. According to the latest statistics, two out of every ten girls in the 6 to 11 age group are yet to be enrolled in schools.
  • High dropout rate of girls from schools: The occurrences of dropouts among girls mainly in slums, rural, and tribal areas are quite high. According to the latest statistics, occurrence of dropout among the girls is almost twice as that of the boys in India.
  • Poor School Environment for girls: Broadly, the school environment for girls in India is really not encouraging. There are still hundreds of schools with poor essential amenities such as drinking water, improper building and inadequate number of teachers particularly the female teachers who are preferred by many parents for the safety of their girl children.
  • Poverty, Bonded Labour and Child Labour Practices: This is a very discouraging factor that stands as barrier for girl’s education in rural areas and also for the underprivileged families consisting of the washer men, the agricultural labour, the tribes and the scheduled caste people. According to UN, India, with more than 50 million child labourers, is the most child labour populous nation in the globe. In most cases girl children are favored for high productivity and low cost.
  • Poor Political Will and Passion: Government officers, policy makers, and politicians of our country have neither political will nor passion for the empowerment of women.
  • Dowry as barrier: In many families, particularly the poor think that if their daughters are educated more, then they have to gather more property to offer as dowry at the time of marriage, so they favor to stop their children with average education.

Trafficking and Commercial sexual exploitation:

India is a source, destination and transit country for women being trafficked for the use of forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation. Women are being held in debt bondage and are very vulnerable to forced labor working in rice mills, brick kilns, and agriculture and in embroidery factories. Girls and women are trafficked inside the country for the purpose of forced marriage and commercial sexual exploitation. They are also being used as armed combatants by some terrorist groups.

India is also a destination for women and girls from Nepal and Bangladesh trafficked for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation, while the Indian women are being trafficked to the Middle East for the same purpose.

Government and NGO reports approximates that there are some hundreds of thousands to millions of women and girls being prostituted in India, most of whom are victims of trafficking. The bulk of the women being prostituted and trafficked within India are from lower (scheduled) castes and are brought into the sex trade as young as 13 years.

Exploitation of women through media:

The exploitation of women in the media has become so familiar, particularly in advertising, which most people fail to even notice it or get annoyed anymore. Women’s body is continually used to sell cars, cigarettes, liquors, male perfume and other male recognized products, as well as newspapers, magazines and television programs. In today’s society, people come across television ads such as Slice featuring Katrina Kaif, in which women are being offered in provocative manner. The camera will habitually zoom in on body parts. Society is still very much dominated by men who manage what people see. As a consequence, women are increasingly shown as sex symbols, so the media company can turn to profit. The Internet also has grown to be one of the biggest exploiters of women.

Trading on the female body - Exploitation of women for egg:

Poor women from around the globe are being seriously recruited to donate their eggs to fertility clinics and also for the cloning research. Miserably, egg donation has less to do with self-sacrifice and more to do with the exploitation of women, mainly young women and poor women who usually face large debts. Egg donation puts women’s health and her safety at risk. Trade in human egg cells is ultimately an assault on the pride of women.

Avoiding the exploitation of women:

Today modern women are so smart and self-sufficient that they can be easily called superwomen, as she copes with many fronts single handedly. Women are now intensely motivated and are showing their worth not only in the home, but also in their personal careers, and education in the society. In order to improve their status, women themselves should come forward and unite. They should draw encouragement from women like Indira Gandhi, the first woman Prime Minister of India, Kiran Bedi, India's first woman IPS officer; Pratibha patil, the first woman President of India and many others.

Adding onto that, as the social evils like dowry, child marriage, caste system and other practices deprive rights of education for children belonging to poor and underprivileged families, they should be abolished through well designed packages of mass awareness programs and social welfare measures with full support of political parties, NGOs, government agencies and public.

Indian Government should also address the fundamental issue of gender inequality and the structure that allows those most marginalized in society, mainly lower caste women and girls to be exploited for commercial sex. GoI should put programs in place to provide practical alternatives to prostitution and provide micro financing, so that they have other options to provide for themselves and their families.

A nation's progress and prosperity can be evaluated by the way it treats its women. Men must recognize and admit the fact that women are equal partners in life.


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