women in india

Joseph Borstein November 29, 2000 Gandhi’s India Paper #3 The Conflict of Women in 20th Century India Throughout recorded history, women the world over have been held to different standards than men. They have been consistently oppressed in nearly all aspects of life, from political to personal, public to private. In the 20th century, great strides have been taken to end this oppression and level the playing field. In India however, a number of deeply rooted traditions have made this effort particularly difficult, and as a result, women’s triumphs over oppression in India are all the more intriguing. To understand the position women found themselves in at the dawn of the 20th century, one must have a general understanding of the numerous historical women’s conflicts unique to the Subcontinent. It took the overwhelming success of Gandhi’s nonviolent revolution to unite women politically and create the an atmosphere whereby women, empowered by the times, could take a stand for their equality. The 1970’s saw the beginning of a highly organized modern women’s movement in India. Violence against women was one of the main focuses of the movement. Harassment, wife-beating, rape, and “dowry deaths” were all too common, and police enforcement was ineffective as were most attempts at prosecution. Commonly called “atrocities against women”, these acts occurred frequently. Why then, if these events were happening so often, was there so much apathy towards them on the part of the courts and the police? To answer this question one must look back upon a history marked by religiously and culturally accepted forms of oppression such as female infanticide, polygamy, purdah and sati. Purdah, still practiced today in many Moslem societies, is the practice of covering a women in cloth to protect them from the gaze of non-family males, in order to maintain their purity. This practice became common in India in the days of the sul…

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