India has a long and ancient tradition of allowing women status equal to that of men. Indeed, women have enjoyed, if anything a more exalted position in society as optimized by her role as a mother. But centuries of foreign domination distorted these social values and women came to be more and more ostracized. Attempts by women to regain their rightful position in society were met by crimes and atrocities committed against them as men enjoyed their role of commanding superior position.“
Crimes against women is crime against the nation”, was not understood properly when the Father of our Nation, Mahatma Gandhi made this statement years ago, but the alarming increases in the incidence of bride burning, kidnapping, rape, custodial rape, child marriage and even Sati prove beyond doubt that where women are not given proper respect and place in society, it could never become a strong nation. The Constitution and the laws of the country agree that women are equal in all aspect and all walks of life. There is, however, a difference in “Kathni “and “Karni”. We plan more but implement less.
During the past decades the country has made some progress in promoting the interest of women but still, there is a wide gap in the opportunities and facilities available to the women which need to be bridged up. The bridge has widened due to rapid industrialization and modernization. The individualization approach has affected the premier institution of socialization i.e. Joint Family. This has severely hit the status of women and added to her social problems as the lifestyles have changed. The women in the society are being meted out with the status of a subordinate person in the family, in the community and in the country.
For bringing the women on the equal platform with men, Govt. of India adopted various welfare programmes to arouse social awakening provide respite to women in distress and provide them with enough opportunities for social and economic rehabilitation.
The residential, as well as non-residential programmes for the welfare of women, have been introduced for the last decades the women are still facing hardships and living a low life. There is a need to assess where we went wrong? Some of the causes are:
- Society is male-dominated. The man is not accepting woman equal in everyday life. The superiority complex in the male is so still deep routed and damaging that it is eating the basic concept and strength of equality in our society.
- It is not only the male who is to be blamed for the mental agony of the problems of the woman. There is a feeling that a woman is the biggest enemy of a woman. The moment a woman switches to the role of the mother-in-law from mother, the ego conflicts and adjustment problems start. It is the woman who makes the life of her very own sex unbearable and creates such situations that the woman sacrifices her life.3
- Although decades have passed, we have not been able to provide enough educational and vocational training opportunities to women to bring them on equal footing with the man. Whenever needs of family demand, a woman has to sacrifice her education, training or career to devote time to family or look after the domestic matters. The stresses on the woman are affecting their normal day-to-day life which leads to conflicts, ego problems and adjustment.
- It is the woman who has to leave home when circumstances are compelling and appalling and seek shelter either in the institution or in the parental home. Counselling and reconciliation efforts during the short period of stay in the institution are not enough. The moment the woman goes back to her family she is filled with the emotional insecurity of what will be her life as:
- The man has accepted the woman back under family pressures and social pressure.
- The man starts reacting towards the woman’s independence and having brought insult by coming forward.
- After a few weeks or months of peaceful life, the problem will start surfacing again.
The follow-up task becomes difficult as enough staff is not available for undertaking so much of caseload.
In our society, young girls and women often suffer due to their ignorance, reposing trust and easy affection with contacts and friends. They are subject the abuse and breach of trust. Our society is not open enough to accept their folly once committed and attaches a stigma to the women. This has been one of the hurdles in the rehabilitation of the women in distress. A woman who has gone astray or has fallen from accepted norms of society is always looked upon with suspicion and mistrust. We have not been able to generate awareness conducive to the overall development of the women. In fact, over-dose of publicity and propaganda have created an anti-feeling in the society (which is male-dominated).
- Misuse of the provisions of law has further affected the welfare of the woman in distress. The facility of legal aid has become ineffective in some of the cases due to delay in delivery of justice system. Matters like separation allowance, divorce, and abetment also get delayed. Thus, women do not get satisfaction and relief from the suffering of the strains of mental agony. Women have to take shelter in a short stay home or respite homes and in some cases be separated from her children. This is all a trauma which she has to undergo. As the institutional set up is not warm enough, the women are not fully loved, cared and emotionally secure. The distress of the women continues.
- There is a need of providing the women with enough opportunities for economic self-sufficiency as the cost of living has gone up. The social counselling, emotional understanding, vocational training along with proper boarding lodging, medical care facilities should be linked with suitable employment. There is a need to change in the attitudes of men and women towards their responsibilities of inducing the women in the mainstream of society.
There is also dire need to bring back the system of healthy family life, with moral values so that the pride and dignity of women are maintained. Taking away of the family system is enhancing the problems of the women as it will take years to bring social change in the society with the help of Mass Media and Awareness Programmes.