Thursday, May 27, 2010

Girl infanticide
Girl infanticide is the killing of girls at birth. It is known to happen in many parts of the world, including India. India’s traditions and beliefs are a known factor on why girl infanticide occurs. The continuous domination of males over women repeats a cycle of murder, abuse and more murder. Without the abuse and discrimination against women, mothers would not feel as if they were doing a favor to their daughters by murdering them. Mother-in-laws would not feel that a son was necessary to continue their legacy. No family would be pressured to kill infants or go for an abortion before the baby was born. Laws have been passed to end this horror, but until women stand up for themselves, these year old traditions will never be broken.
There are many reasons why girl infanticide occurs. In India, the leading factor is the culture, beliefs and customs that India’s people have been following for generations. The domination of the male has been justified through culture. “May you be the mother of a hundred sons” is a blessing given to an Indian woman the day she is married. When a woman becomes pregnant, different mantras are performed to transform the coming baby into a male (“Genocide of India’s Daughter”). Why does girl infanticide happen?
Dowry is the illegal, but practiced, payment a girl’s family gives to the groom’s family in a marriage. This is a way of selling their daughter to another family. The Indian society, till this day, demands for arranged marriages. This only puts pressure to a girl’s parents to find a suitable groom for their daughter. When a family sets out to find a groom for their daughter, the make sure the groom fits their requirements: he must be from a family of higher status. However, the groom’s family also has requirements. If the groom were to accept the bride of a less status they want some sort of gain: bribery. At the day of marriage, the groom’s family demands goods from the bride’s parents. These goods include jewelry, clothes, furniture, white goods, cars, maybe even a new home (“Genocide of India’s Daughter”). To already poor parents, this idea can be something they cannot afford. They do not have extra money to spend on a wedding, even if it’s their own daughter. The parents are then put in a dilemma: if they have a daughter and wish for her to get married, they must spend the money. If they do not get her married, she will just be an addition to the expenses a family has to take account of.
“Raising a daughter is like watering someone else’s fields” (George). If the parents had the responsibility of arranging a marriage for the boy, they would be the ones receiving the goods. Therefore, most Indians have developed an attitude that raising girls is just an advantage to the family that the girl is going to get married into. In India, it is said that girls become a stranger once they are married. The parents of the girl spend their life nurturing, feeding, and spending money on the girl just to sell her off to someone else. When she is married, her parents then disown her and she can only come back to her house as a guest. She can never help her parents’ financial situation because her in-laws will not be willing to pay even a cent for the other side of the family. Her parents put all their hard work into this child so that she can use everything she learned into her new family, while her parents held all her expenses, including her dowry . This is why the son is known as the “bread winner” for the Indian family. The male is given the responsibility to carry on the fathers business and keep the family’s pride . When a parent dies, only the son is allowed to light the funeral pyre or it is said the parents will never go to heaven. If a daughter lights the funeral pyre, it is said that the person will go to hell, instead

sexual exploitation of women and girls

sexual exploitation of women and girls

At the end of the twentieth century, local and international forces have merged to escalate the sexual exploitation of women and girls. Policies, practices and crises are combining to increase both the supply of women and girls vulnerable to exploitation and the demand by men for women and girls to be used for their profit and sexual gratification. Sexual exploitation takes many forms, such as sexual harassment, incest, rape, child marriages, temporary marriages, female genital mutilation, pornography, bride trafficking, battering, sexual torture and prostitution. All of these practices violate women’s dignity and autonomy.

Globally, one form of sexual exploitation, prostitution, is becoming more normalized and industrialized, with some powerful agents and institutions advocating for its widespread legitimization and legalization. As prostitution has increased, the demand for women and girls has resulted in widespread recruitment and trafficking to fill the brothels, bars and street corners.

In July 1997, a group of survivors, activists and service providers came together from Asia, Africa, Europe, South America, the Caribbean, North America and the Middle East to report on the situation for women and girls in their region and discuss efforts to combat sexual exploitation and provide services to victims. Participants in "Working With Women and Girls in Prostitution: Programs and Policies" focused on how sexual exploitation affects the physical health and mental well being of women and girls, and what obstacles prevent women and girls from escaping prostitution. Making the Harm Visible has its roots in that international meeting in New York City organized by the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women.

collection of writings from women who are working to make the harm of sexual violence and exploitation visible. They speak out about their experiences, provide services to survivors, and create policies that force governments and communities to protect the rights of girls and women, not profit from their exploitation.

Women from every world region report that the sexual exploitation of women and girls is increasing. All over the world, brothels and prostitution rings exist underground on a small scale, and on an increasingly larger scale, entire sections of cities are informally zoned into brothels, bars and clubs that house, and often enslave, women for the purposes of prostitution. The magnitude and violence of these practices of sexual exploitation constitutes an international human rights crisis of contemporary slavery. In "Prostitution: A Form of Modern Slavery,"

In some parts of the world, such as the Philippines, prostitution is illegal, but well entrenched from providing "recreational services" to military personnel. In "Blazing Trails, Confronting Challenges: The Sexual Exploitation of Women and Girls in the Philippines," Aida F. Santos describes the harmful conditions for women and girls in prostitution in the Philippines, with problems related to health, violence, the legal system, and services. In other regions, such as northern Norway, organized prostitution is a more recent problem, stemming from the economic crisis in Russia. In "Russian Women in Norway," Asta Beate HÃ¥land describes how an entire community is being transformed by the trafficking of women for prostitution from Russia to campgrounds and villages across the border in Norway.

Political changes combined with economic crises have devastated entire world regions, increasing the supply of vulnerable women willing to risk their lives to earn money for themselves and their families. Aurora Javate de Dios, President of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, discusses the impact of the Southeast Asian economic crisis on women’s lives in "Confronting Trafficking, Prostitution and Sexual Exploitation: The Struggle for Survival and Dignity." Economic globalization controlled by a handful of multi-national corporations located in a few industrialized countries continues to shift wealth from poorer to richer countries. In her paper "Globalization, Human Rights and Sexual Exploitation," Aida F. Santos shows us the connection between global economics and the commodification and sexual exploitation of women and girls, especially in the Philippines. Structural adjustment programs implemented by international financial institutions impose loan repayment plans on poor countries, which sacrifice social and educational programs in order to service their debt to rich nations and banks. Fatoumata Sire Diakite points to structural adjustment programs as one of the factors contributing to poverty and sexual exploitation in her paper "Prostitution in Mali." Zoraida Ramirez Rodriguez writes in "Report on Latin America" that the foreign debt and policies of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are primary factors in creating poverty for women and children. These forces leave women with few options, increasing the supply of women vulnerable to recruitment into bride trafficking and the prostitution industry.

Social problems such as sexual and physical abuse within families force girls and women to leave in search of safety and a better life, but often they find more exploitation and violence. Physical and sexual abuse of girls and women in their families and by intimate partners destroys girls’ and women’s sense of self and resiliency, making them easy targets for pimps and traffickers who prey on those who have few options left to them. These factors are evident in many of the papers from all world regions in this volume, such as Jill Leighton and Katherine DePasquale’s, "A Commitment to Living" and Martha Daguno’s, "Support Groups for Survivors of the Prostitution Industry in Manila."

Government policies and practices also fuel the demand for prostitution, as they legalize prostitution or refuse to enforce laws against pimps, traffickers and male buyers. In Making the Harm Visible, we see how countries with governmental structures and ideological foundations as different as the Netherlands and Iran, both promote and legalize sexual violence and exploitation of girls and women. In "Legalizing Pimping, Dutch Style," Marie-Victoire Louis exposes the liberal laws and policies that legalize prostitution and tolerate brothels in the Netherlands. On the other extreme, religious fundamentalists in Iran have legalized the sexual exploitation of girls and women in child and temporary marriages and the sexual torture of women in prison. Sarvnaz Chitsaz and Soona Samsami document this harm and violation of human rights in "Iranian Women and Girls: Victims of Exploitation and Violence."

Global media and communication tools, such as the Internet, make access to pornography, catalogs of mail order brides, advertisements for prostitution tours, and information on where and how to buy women and girls in prostitution widely available. This open advertisement normalizes and increases the demand by men for women and girls to use in these different forms of exploitation. Donna M. Hughes describes her findings on how the Internet is being used to promote the sexual exploitation of women and children in "The Internet and the Global Prostitution Industry." In this milieu, women and girls become commodities—bought and sold locally and trafficked from one part of the world to another.

How do we make the harm of sexual exploitation visible? In a world where sexual exploitation is increasingly normalized and industrialized what is needed to make people see the harm and act to stop it? The women in Making the Harm Visible recommend four ways to make the harm of sexual exploitation visible: listen to the experiences of survivors, expose the ideological constructions that hide the harm, expose the agents that profit from the sexual exploitation of women and children, and document harm and conduct research that reveals the harm and offers findings that can be used for policy initiatives.

First, listen to the experiences of survivors. The contributors to this volume speak eloquently, passionately and urgently for the voices of survivors to be heard and used as the basis for a global movement against sexual exploitation. The power of survivors’ testimony and their visible participation in political struggle is emphasized. The survivor testimonies of Jill Leighton, Alexia, Christine Grussendorf and Jenny speak clearly about the violence perpetrated against women and children in prostitution. In her poem, "They Are Showing Your Face," Victoria Marinelli shows us the harm of media sensationalization, which further exploits the victims of sexual abuse and exploitation. The sexual abuse, exploitation and torture of women political prisoners is recounted by Ladan Pardeshenas in "Women’s Activism for Freedom in Iran" and by Aida F. Santos in the Philippines in "Memories." Malka Marcovich, in "The Violence of Silence: Survivor Testimony in Political Struggle," calls upon her experience in interviewing the survivors of Nazi Germany’s "final solution" to argue the importance of survivor testimony in a movement against violence. Angel Cassidy strongly and succinctly states the need to speak out about the violence and exploitation in "Never Be Quiet." And in "Not Sex Work," Victoria Marinelli gives us her manifesto against redefining sexual exploitation as "sex work."

Second, expose the ideological constructions that hide and excuse the violence, exploitation and harm. We are bombarded with misinformation and ideological constructions of prostitution and other forms of sexual exploitation that make the harm invisible, benefit the sex industry and provide cover for the men who buy and exploit women and girls. We need to expose the explicit and implicit rationales used to justify the sexual exploitation of women and girls. Contributors to Making the Harm Visible challenge the excuses men use for exploiting women and children, and call for everyone to do the same. The oldest excuse is the biological determinist one that men have to have sex. If they don’t have a wife or available partner, then buying a woman or using a child is the only alternative. Men often escape accountability for the harm they inflict by this simple, but false, assumption. The same underlying thinking applies to men in the military, who supposedly need to buy women as part of "rest and relaxation." In the papers from the Philippines and Cambodia, the presence of military personnel is sited as resulting in increased sexual exploitation of indigenous women. In "Corregidor Tales," Aida F. Santos describes the underground remnants of cells where "comfort women" were kept in sexual slavery for Japanese military personnel during World War II.

Historically, patriarchal religious ideologies have justified the sexual abuse and exploitation of women and girls in many forms, including child marriages, temporary marriages, and women’s lack of sexual autonomy. In the paper on Iran, several forms of sexual exploitation of women and girls have been legally instated under fundamentalist rule. In "Trafficking and Prostitution in Bangladesh: Contradictions in Law and Practice," Sigma Huda describes the no-win situation that girls and women face after being trafficked or prostituted. In countries to which Bangladeshi girls are trafficked, such as Pakistan, the victims face long prison sentences for illegal entry into the country, or under harsh Islamic law, can be stoned to death for fornication.

Liberal ideologies about sexuality also overlook the harm of exploitation by uncritically viewing all sexual activity, including prostitution, as forms of sexual expression that should be permitted and protected as individual choices and rights. This sexual liberal philosophy merges with the neoliberal economic policies and practices to rename prostitution as "sex work." This reconfiguration of sexual exploitation is condemned by numerous contributors to Making the Harm Visible.

The contributors to this volume also ask us to critically examine explanations of prostitution that search for the cause of "self-destructive behaviors" in girls or women’s personal deficits and defects. Although women in prostitution often suffer from drug and alcohol addiction, several of the authors urge us to see this as a symptom of the harm of prostitution, not as the root cause. Although, several authors discuss poverty and economic crisis as factors in compelling women and girls into prostitution, they remind us that this is what is fueling the supply, but equally important is men’s demand for women and girls they can buy.

Third, expose the agents that advocate for and profit from the normalization and legalization of sexual exploitation, whether they be individual men who buy women in prostitution, or governments and United Nations bodies that advocate for legalization of prostitution or the recognition of the prostitution industry as a legitimate economic sector. The Dutch government has legalized prostitution, legalized brothels and is putting into place a system of taxation to profit from the prostitution industry. The Netherlands is the leading advocate for the legalization of prostitution and redefinition of trafficking of women to include only those women who can prove they were coerced or deceived into prostitution. In "Human Rights: A European Challenge?" Malka Marcovich describes efforts to set new standards that will deprive women of their human rights in Europe as the European Union is being constructed. Mary Sullivan, in "Marketing Women in Australia" describes how Australia is incorporating legalized prostitution into its economic and tourism plan. In "Legalizing Prostitution: Legitimating Abuse," Donna M. Hughes argues against the legalization of prostitution in Eastern and Central Europe as a way to combat the trafficking of women from that region.

Fourth, document the harm and conduct research on sexual exploitation. The harm of sexual exploitation often remains invisible until someone focuses their attention on it and documents their findings. Often issues need to be theoretically reframed and different questions posed. Several women, Jill Leighton, Jenny, and Norma Hotaling, point out that even when there are visible signs of trauma in women’s and girls’ lives, no one asks the simple question: "What has happened to you in your life?" The contributors use their findings to describe and analyze the forces that compel women and girls into conditions of exploitation and, often, slavery. In "Strip Clubs According to Strippers," Kelly Holsopple systematically asks women about the verbal, physical and sexual violence that they were subjected to while working as strippers. Norma Hotaling reports on research she and others have done on violence against women in prostitution in "Women in Prostitution in the United States." In "The Health Effects of Prostitution," Janice G. Raymond surveys previous research and reports on the multiple physical and mental health problems suffered by women in prostitution, many of which lead to shortened lives or death. The contributors to Making the Harm Visible urge us to ask different research questions about the demand from men to sexually exploit women and girls and the rationales that are used to justify this violence. The Research Project on Men and Prostitution in Japan provides us with a strong quantitative base and framework on which to examine men’s use of women in prostitution. In "Why Men Buy Women in Prostitution," the findings from a survey of 2000 men on their use and attitudes towards prostitution are reported.

One of the most glaring problems in combating sexual exploitation is the lack of assistance for its victims. The need for services is poignantly evident in Minerva Kalenandi’s testimony, "You Need Some Place to Escape To," in which she describes being turned away from a domestic violence shelter even though she had sustained serious injuries from a pimp. Compared to services for other victims of violence, there a few services for prostituted women, resulting in women receiving little or inappropriate treatment. Since prostituted women are viewed with prejudice, they are often treated disrespectfully in treatment programs. Also, since few mainstream service providers recognize the harm in prostitution, the trauma the women have suffered is not addressed.

Innovative programs for women escaping sexual exploitation that address the harm caused to victims, though few in number, have been created in many world regions. Numerous contributors to this volume report on the services they are providing to victims of sexual exploitation. They describe innovative work and share ideas on programs and projects to assist women and girls. The founders of these programs bring a feminist analysis to the multiple problems faced by women and girls in situations of sexual exploitation. The women and girls are treated with respect and care to restore their dignity.

In "She Let Me Talk and She Listened," Jill Leighton describes how the simple act of listening can save a life. The workers and volunteers in these agencies reach out to women and girls on the street and in jails. In "Phoenix Rising," Kathleen Mitchell relates how the plan for Dignity House was conceived while she herself was in jail after being arrested for prostitution. Many of the service providers in this volume were themselves prostituted women who know first hand the lack of services for women trying to escape prostitution. In Phnom Phen, Cambodia, girls who have escaped brutality and slavery in brothels can find services at the Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center. A representative from this newly found center writes about "The Sale of Women and Girls to Brothels in Cambodia."

The contributors describe model programs that provide services to women and girl victims of sexual exploitation and create a space for survivors to come to together to heal and find their voices to speak out and organize. In "Support Group for Survivors of the Prostitution Industry in Manila," Martha Daguno describes the first survivor’s group to be set-up in the Philippines. Other agencies and organizations, such as BUKAL (meaning spring), and Women’s Education, Development, Productivity and Research Organization (WEDPRO) are pioneers in developing services for sexually exploited women in the Philippines. Their efforts are chronicled by Aida F. Santos in "Blazing Trails, Confronting Challenges."

The involvement and leadership by survivors is emphasized in many programs. Working on an empowerment model these organizations work through peer educators. In "Casa de Passagem in Brazil," Ana Vasconcelos describes the empowerment and peer education model she uses with homeless street girls in Brazil. Norma Hotaling, in "First Offender Prostitution Program in San Francisco," describes their survivor run peer support program.

Women and girls trying to escape prostitution face fearsome odds. In "Breaking Free," Vednita Carter describes many of the obstacles the women face and their Afrocentric approach to providing services in Minnesota, USA. Pimps and perpetrators prey on the most vulnerable women and girls. Girls with disabilities are often targeted for exploitation because of their vulnerability. Claudia Vigil describes the work of the Homahi Foundation and its programs for mothers with special needs in "Prostitution and Mothers with Special Needs in Argentina." Services for victims of sexual exploitation receive little attention or support in most communities. Marlene Sandoval started the Psycho-Social Rehabilitation Center in Chile in one room in a house with no running water. She reports on the work of the center in this volume.

Some services to women escaping prostitution are combined with community education and programs that confront men’s harm to women. SAGE (Standing Against Global Exploitation) in San Francisco is the 1998 winner of the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government’s Award for Innovations in Government for their cooperative work with the District Attorney’s office to create a program commonly referred to as "the John’s School." Norma Hotaling describes their original and successful work to reeducate men about the harm they cause in "The First Offender Prostitution Program in San Francisco."

Another important aspect to ending the sexual exploitation of women and girls is prevention. Zoraida Ramirez Rodriguez describes her education and prevention programs for schools and community organizations in "Preventative Action Against Prostitution in Venezuela."

Although the women in this volume come from all regions of the world, they share common goals and attitudes. They are survivors and visionaries who are not afraid to confront overwhelming problems and remain steadfast in their work. Most of them know that their goal of ending the sexual exploitation of women and girls is nothing less than revolutionary. In "Surviving Sexual Slavery: Women in Search of Freedom," Chris Grussendorf writes graphically, with a searing analysis, about what is done to women in situations of torturous sexual abuse and exploitation in prostitution rings. She also forcefully proclaims the sustenance and aspiration of the women in resistance to sexual exploitation, "We stay alive because we are women in search of our lives; we are women in search of freedom. I stayed alive because my belief in something better than what they offered was greater than their hatred and destruction. I stayed alive because I wanted to be free, more than anything, I wanted to be free. I wanted to live in a world of respect."

Organization and activism by women is essential to create change and end violence against women and sexual exploitation. In "Women United Can Make a Difference: The Situation in Spain and the European Union," Asuncion Miura describes how women working together changed public attitudes about violence against women and created services to assist victims of battering. Sarvnaz Chitsaz and Soona Samsami relate the importance of women’s leadership in political and social activism to end of women’s oppression and usher in true equality for women and girls in the world. Women must undertake the work of organization and advocacy for women because it is not in the interests of men to do this work, although there are a few men willing to stand against the oppression of women. These writers understand that when the deepest forms of exploitation, violence and oppression are named, challenged and ended and all the victims healed, there will be a true social, economic and political revolution for women.



INDIAN SOCIETY is still male dominated. Undoubtedly, in ancient time we found some examples of woman dominated clans. But since medieval times we have been observing only male dominated clans.
Today we are in 21st centaury, but we still want boy in our home. Nowadays a girl child is being killed before birth. In this brutal crime, everyone is a co accused. We cannot give anybody a clean cheat. Interestingly, according to a study by the Harvard School of Public Health in the US; the sex proportion unevenness is highest amongst the well-off and the well-informed people. This is irony of fact that, in India; male-female percentage increases with the echelon of learning. According to the latest survey; the per cent of a boy is higher than a girl and it is about 25 per cent.

Fascinatingly; such type of occurrence is higher in houses wherever the leader of the family unit has finished his schooling. This is the repercussion of a survey which had conducted by Subramanian. (Shri Subramanian is associated with Harvard School of Public Health in the US).
As per this study, the male-female ratio also increases with income. People of higher income groups prefer 14 percent more a boy than a girl whereas in the poorer sections the preference may be just four percent more.

Urban areas also reported higher sex imbalance compared to rural areas.

In this connection, the researchers have also used a nationally representative, population-based sample of household survey data provided by the Indian National Sample Survey Organization (INSSO) for five recent years: 2004/05, 1999/2000, 1993/94, 1987/88 and 1983. The INSSO survey covered the whole of the India except for a few unreachable and intricate areas.
This survey also reveals that the introduction of the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act 1994 (PNDT) to stop the use of wrong know-how in this turf has botched to perfect the disproportion in the sex ratio.

The sex ratio undoubtedly signifies that the PNDT Act failed to stop sex disparity, because possibility of a boy increased to 10 percent in the period subsequent the accomplishment of the Act, while ratio of a boy was seven percent in the pre-PNDT stage.

There are distinguished variations among states. Punjab which is the richest state of India has the probability of a boy augmented to 37 percent compared to a girl. Karnataka has the lowest percentage in this regard. Here a boy is one percent higher than a girl.

As a whole, the shared result shows that unrelenting and strong son penchant; along with growing affordability and ease of access to technologies for sex determination is big threat for girls infant as well as for indian society

Arranged Marriages and Dowry

Arranged Marriages and Dowry

We are all familiar with the story : boy meet a girl , boy falls in love with girl, boy and girl gets married. For the majority of the western world, this is our ideal of a great beginning to a perfect marriage. It is important to realize that while India is very modernized in some aspects (i.e.. they lead the world in student's math and science scores and produce the largest amount of engineers in the world) they still keep to the tradition of arranged marriages. Marriages formed out of love AKA "love marriages" do happen in India but it is not the norm. It is an accepted fact that a person's family will play a role in picking the marriage partner.
While to many people raised in the west, this might sound odd. It is important to remember that in Indian society an arranged marriage is seen as an act of love. Since marriage is one of the most important decisions a person will ever make and because divorce is not accepted among most Indians, it is imperative that the marriage choice is carefully thought out and planned. How can a young person make such an important decision on his/her own? Instead, the family (usually the parents) look for certain traits in a marriage partner. Some desirable traits looked for in both male and female are: matching levels of education, matching cultures, close parental cities, matching religions, and matching vegetarians/non-vegetarians just to name a few.
Potential bride-grooms come under close scrutiny for several areas of the matching process. Do they have enough means to support the bride? Do they appear to be men who will make good husbands and fathers? Often, the bride will live with her in-laws after marriage in what is called a joint family. Because of this, the groom's family is also brought under close scrutiny. Do the women of the household seem well cared for? Do they have a big enough house for another person and grandchildren? Does the family have a good reputation?
Potential brides also come under scrutiny by the boy's parents. Since it is a commonly held belief that brides are the embodiment of that family's honor and pride, the girl must be from good family and have good manners. She should be respectable and have no taint on her name. Does she have the makings of a good wife and mother? Does she want to work after marriage or stay at home? There are so many factors to weigh, that I can not list them all.
Often, this turns into an interview process where photos are provided of the boy/girl in question along with bio-data about his/her life and family. If that meets with approval, arrangements will be made for the parents to meet the boy/girl and their family. Traditionally, however, the bride and groom would not even see each other until the day of their wedding. Today, while most marriages are still arranged, times are changing. There is usually a small courtship period where the bride and groom can meet and talk under the careful watch of a guardian. Also, if either one of the two do not want the marriage, it is likely to be cancelled. Very few family's today "force" marriages upon their children.
Of course, with any society, you have those people who just will not adapt and change. There are places in India where time has not moved forward. For those people, they carry on their lives as their parents have and their grandparents before them. Shockingly, there are still some forced marriages and child brides.
Which brings me to the issue of the dowry system....yes, folks it still exists. Now before you make that grimace of distaste, let me tell you a little about it. The dowry system has been in place since before the written record and it has been used by parents in every country imaginable, including America in older times. The point of the dowry system was to provide for the bride should something unfortunate occur with her husband such as death or divorce. As you can probably imagine, daughters can be extremely expensive offspring. Parents had/have to make a mad scramble to get enough wealth and material goods together to see their daughter well taken care of by the time she is of marriageable age. In Northern India, today this age can vary from 18-25 though exceptions do apply depending on socio-economic factors.
As you can see, the dowry system was something originally honorable in intention and provided for the independent wealth of the bride in a time when she was unlikely to work outside of the home. Like many customs and traditions, time can alter their original meaning and purpose. While the dowry system is still in place, it has become more of a "bride-price" system. The parents of a baby girl must come up with a respectable dowry (the term respectable is arbitrary, respectable dowry can be anything from $50 worth of material goods to $50,000 or more worth of material goods depending on the family's standing in society). If a good dowry is not made, the girl is unlikely to have a "good" match. This again, is mostly arbitrary. A good match for a very poor family might be marriage of their daughter into a slightly better financed family or a good match for a middle income family might be finding a husband that is a doctor or engineer. As you have probably guessed, there are very few brides who actually retain their dowry after marriage. In the most honorable of families the bride is allowed to keep certain items for her own use such as the bed and cooking pots she is suppose to bring with her and some of the jewelry. She is also allowed control over how the rest of the dowry is kept, spent etc. This situation is a very modern one and in place in very educated households.
The most common form of use of the dowry is not meant to be dishonorable and is far more practical for many families. More often than not, the bride's dowry gets absorbed into the household for the greater good of the entire family. Perhaps a bride's dowry may help provide food for the entire family over a lifetime, or allow the purchase of a refrigerator. For many families, they do not see anything wrong in this sort of dowry absorption simply because it aids the bride as well. Furthermore, if the groom's family is better due to the dowry, the bride will enjoy a better life than perhaps her own mother did.
Of course, there is always that dark side. While these situations are becoming rarer, they still occur often enough to warrant some discussion on them. There are those families who will use the bride's dowry as their own. Often in these situations, bride's dowry will be recycled for the groom's sisters' dowry. Sometimes, the groom's family uses the bride's dowry entirely for their own means and the bride does not benefit from it all. There have been horrible, true stories of the groom's family agreeing to one dowry and after the bride is married (and I might add, no longer a virgin) demanding more from the bride's parents. Threats of divorce are often used to entice the bride's parents to give more dowry. In a country where shame is brought down on the divorcee, parents of the bride will do whatever they can to save their daughters this shame. Occasionally, the threat of physical violence is used. There really is no way these type situations can end happily. Even if the bride's parents are able to scrape together more dowry, they will not be able to continue doing so and in the end the bride is either sent home in shame or sometimes killed in an "accident".
Often people do not realize the dowry system has repercussions in many different areas other than the obvious horrible one stated above. Given the fact that a girl's parents must provide a substantial dowry plus try to give her a college education or some form of formal education today, it is not surprising that the number of girl abortions are extremely high in India. Interestingly, India theoretically is a culture which places high value on females. The females of a family are the life-blood, the pride and honor of that family. It is a very contradictory situation to see such importance placed on females and then to see the abortion rates of female babies sky high. Most college-educated Indians I have spoken to, both male and female, stand in firm objection to the dowry system and see that the twisted form it has taken is responsible for the degradation of women. In these families, girl children are just as prized as boy children and parents are teaching their daughters of their own worth as a human being.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Status of Women in Indian Society

Status of Women in Indian Society
The worth of a civilization can be judged by the place given to women in the society. One of several factors that justify the greatness of India's ancient culture is the honorable place granted to women. The Muslim influence on India caused considerable deterioration in the status of women. They were deprived of their rights of equality with men. Raja Ram Mohan Roy started a movement against this inequality and subjugation. The contact of Indian culture with that of the British also brought improvement in the status of women. The third factor in the revival of women's position was the influence of Mahatma Gandhi who induced women to participate in the Freedom Movement. As a result of this retrieval of freedom, women in Indian have distinguished themselves as teachers, nurses, air-hostesses, booking clerks, receptionists, and doctors. They are also participating in politics and administration. But in spite of this amelioration in the status of women, the evils of illiteracy, dowry, ignorance, and economic slavery would have to be fully removed in order to give them their rightful place in Indian society.

The worth of a civilization can be judged from the position that it gives to women. Of the several factors that justify the greatness of India's ancient culture, one of the greatest is the honoured place ascribed to women. Manu, the great law-giver, said long ago, 'where women are honoured there reside the gods'. According to ancient Hindu scriptures no religious rite can be performed with perfection by a man without the participation of his wife. Wife's participation is essential to any religious rite. Married men along with their wives are allowed to perform sacred rites on the occasion of various important festivals. Wives are thus befittingly called 'Ardhangani' (betterhalf). They are given not only important but equal position with men.
But in the later period the position of women went on deteriorating due to Muslim influence. During the Muslim period of history they were deprived of their rights of equality with men. They were compelled to keep themselves within the four walls of their houses with a long veil on their faces. This was definitely due to Islamic influence. Even today in some Islamic countries women are not allowed to go out freely. The conservative regimes of Iran and Pakistan, for example, have withdrawn the liberties given to women folk by the previous liberal governments. Even in India the Muslim women are far more backward than their Hindu, Christian and Sikh counterparts. The sight of Muslim women walking with long 'Burkas' (veils) on their person is not very rare. The women are, as a matter of fact, regarded as captive and saleable commodities in Muslim families. One man is allowed to have so many wives with the easiest provision of divorce. The husband can divorce a wife just by saying 'I divorce you' under the provision of Muslim laws. This is what the emperors did hundred years back and the men are doing it even now in almost all Islamic countries. Even in this last phase of the twentieth century rich and prosperous men of Islamic countries keep scores of wives in their harems. It was natural outcome of the Muslim subjugation of India that woman was relegated to a plaything of man, an ornament to decorate the drawing room. Serving, knitting, painting and music were her pastimes and cooking and cleaning her business.
In the wake of Raja Ram Mohan Roy's movement against women's subjugation to men and British influence on Indian culture and civilization the position of women had once again undergone a change. However, it was only under the enlightened leadership of Mahatma Gandhi that they re-asserted their equality with men. In response to the call of Gandhi they discarded their veil and came out of the four walls of their houses to fight the battle of freedom shoulder to shoulder with their brothers. The result is that the Indian Constitution today has given to women the equal status with men. There is no discrimination between men and women. All professions are open to both of them with merit as the only criterion of selection.
As a result of their newly gained freedom Indian woman have distinguished themselves in various spheres of life as politicians, orators, lawyers, doctors, administrators and diplomats. They are not only entrusted with work of responsibility but also they perform their duties very honestly and sincerely. There is hardly any sphere of life in which Indian women have not taken part and shown their worth. Women exercise their right to vote, contest for Parliament and Assembly, seek appointment in public office and compete in other spheres of life with men. This shows that women in India enjoy today more liberty and equality than before. They have acquired more liberty to participate in the affairs of the country. They have been given equality with men in shaping their future and sharing responsibilities for themselves, their family and their country.
It is a fact that women are intelligent, hard-working and efficient in work. They put heart and soul together in whatever they undertake. As typists and clerks they are now competing successfully with men. There are many women working in the Central Secretariat. They are striving very hard to reach highest efficiency and perfection in the administrative work. Their integrity of character is probably better than men. Generally it was found that women are less susceptible to corruption in form of bribery and favouritism. They are not only sweet tongued but also honest, efficient and punctual in their jobs as receptionists, air-hostesses and booking clerks at railway reservation counters. As a matter of fact they are gradually monopolising the jobs of receptionists and air-hostesses.
Another job in which Indian women are doing so well is that of teachers. In country like India where millions are groping in the darkness of illiteracy and ignorance efficient teaching to the children is most urgently needed. By virtue of their love and affection for the children the women have proved the best teachers in the primary and kindergarten schools. They can better understand the psychology of a child than the male teachers. Small children in the kindergarten schools get motherly affection from the lady teachers. It is probably significant that the Montessori system of education is being conducted mostly by the women in this country.
Women have been serving India admirably as doctors and nurses. Lady doctors have been found to perform efficient surgery by virtue of their soft and accurate fingers. They have monopolised as nurses in the hospitals and nursing homes. Very few men have been able to compete with them in this sphere because the women have natural tendency to serve and clean. It is thus natural tendency found in women which motivated Florence Nightingale to make nursing popular among the women of the upper classes in England and in Europe. She showed the way to women kind how nobly they can serve humanity in the hours of sufferings and agonies.
Women's contributions in politics and social services have also been quite significant. We cannot fail to mention the name of Indira Gandhi who shone so brilliantly and radiantly in the firmament of India's politics. She ruled this country for more than a decade and took India victorious out of Pakistan-war which resulted in the historic creation of a new country, Bangladesh. In the field of social service Indian women have also done some excellent jobs. They have not only served the cause of the suffering humanity but have also brought highest laurels for the country. The name of Mother Teressa cannot but be mentioned. She brought the Nobel Prize for India by her selfless services to the poor, destitute and suffering people of our country in particular and the needy and handicapped people of the world in general. Today, we need the services of the educated women who can tour throughout the country and help in removing human sufferings. The Government is alarmed at the rapid growth of population in the rural areas in particular. Women volunteers can more easily take up the task of canvassing the advantages of family planning among the rural womenfolk. They can, more easily than men, carry on propaganda against hazards of unhygienic conditions under which the villagers live. In urban areas they can efficiently take up the task of visiting and teaching the orphans and the helpless widows in the orphanages and the widow welfare centres. They can train them in sewing, knitting, embroidery and nursing in which women by nature excel. They can also train them in the art of music and dancing.
But all this should not lead us to conclude that the women should look down upon domestic life. The main sphere of action for them who have not taken up jobs outside should be essentially a happy home which is their real kingdom and where their sweet manners and mature advices as wife, mother, sister and daughter make tremendous effects on the male members of the family. The progress of a nation depends upon the care and skill with which mothers rear up their children. The first and foremost duty of Indian women should, therefore, be to bring forth noble generations of patriots, warriors, scholars and statesmen. Since child's education starts even in the womb and the impressions are formed in the mind of a child while in mothers arms women have to play a role of vital importance. They have to feel and realise at every step of their life that they are builders of the fate of our nation since children grow mainly in mothers arms. They should also discourage their husbands and sons from indulging in bribery and other corrupt practices. This they can do only when they learn the art of simple living by discarding their natural desires for ornaments and a living of pomp and show. In many cases families have been running in deficit due to the extravagance of the housewives in maintaining a high standard of living. The result is that the earning male members of the family are forced to fill up the gap in the budget by corrupt practices. Corruption has been so far the greatest impediment in way to India's progress. Minus corruption India would have been one of the most developed nations of the world.
There is no denying the fact that women in India have made a considerable progress in the last fifty years but yet they have to struggle against many handicaps and social evils in the male dominated society. The Hindu Code Bill has given the daughter and the son equal share of the property. The Marriage Act no longer regards woman as the property of man. Marriage is now considered to be a personal affair and if a partner feels dissatisfied she or he has the right of divorce. But passing of law is one thing and its absorption in the collective thinking of society is quite a different matter. In order to prove themselves equal to the dignity and status given to them in the Indian Constitution they have to shake off the shackles of slavery and superstitions. They should help the government and the society in eradicating the evils of dowry, illiteracy and ignorance among the eves. The dowry problem has assumed a dangerous form in this country. The parents of the girls have to pay thousands and lacs to the bridegrooms and their greedy fathers and mothers. If promised articles are not given by the parents of brides, the cruel and greedy members of the bridegrooms' family take recourse to afflicting tortures on the married women. Some women are murdered in such cases. The dowry deaths are really heinous and barbarous crimes committed by the cruel and inhumane persons. The young girls should be bold enough in not marrying the boys who demand dowry through their parents. The boys should also refuse to marry if their parents demand dowry. But unfortunately the number of such bold and conscientious boys is very few. Even the doctors, engineers, teachers and the administrative officers do not hesitate in allowing themselves to be sold to the wealthy fathers of shy and timid girls. Such persons have really brought disgrace to their cadres in particular and society in general. The government should enact stringent laws to afflict rigorous punishment on dowry seekers, women's murderers and rapers.


Women in the present day societywives and mothers and working women- are ready to accept an inferior position in the family, society and polity.
They are striving for the removal of all laws, regulations, conventions and customs that deprive them in any way of their inherent right to the advantages, responsibilities and opportunities thatsociety offers to any one section of the population.
Only they know the bitterness of children taken to lawless ways, of daughter becoming unmarried mothers whilst still at school, of boys and girls growing up without education, training or jobs at a living wage.
Women's should be given all the rights that they deserve.
The level of civilization that any society has reached can be measured by the degree of freedom, respect and role given to the women. In fact, the status of women is a test of civilization. In ancient times, the Indian civilization is known to be advance and prosperous among the nations of the world, as the women were given a respectable status and position in the society. They were in the forefront and actively participant in the social and economic life of the county. Then followed the deterioration. Because of the falling kingdoms towards the end of the 10th century and increasing invasion from across the Himalayas, thewomen were relegated to the four walls of the house. Their status was reduced to a lower level and were treated inferior to men. Due to this, the social and economic situation of the nation also deteriorated.
Women in Today’s Society

Women in the present day society –wives, mothers and working women- are not ready, to accept an inferior position in the family, society and polity. They are striving for the removal of all laws, regulations, conventions and customs that discriminate against them and deprive them in any way of their inherent right to the advantages, responsibilities and opportunities that society offers to any section of the population. However, they have realized that they don’t form a society separate from men. There is only one society, and it is made of bothwomen and man. As women they want to share the problems and anxieties of men, and join hands with them to remove social evils and obstacles to progress.
Most of them, however ,have not been able to achieve the respectable position in the society. The reason is poverty and its evils. As wives and mothers they have to make both ends meet in whatever small amount of money they get or earn. They have to bear the cries of the children when they are hungry and sick. Also care for the homes that are too small, broken and dirty. They carry the burdens of looking after thechildren and land when their husbands are away in the fields, factories, and in remote towns earning their daily bread for the family.
Giving a respectable place to such women is important to keep family life going in jhuggis, or in overcrowded one-room apartments. Only they know the bitterness of children taken to lawless ways, of daughter becoming unmarried mothers whilst still at school, of boys and girls growing up without education, training or jobs at a living wage.
A civilized society should not allow it. However it exists because the society we live in is divided into poor and rich, upper and lower caste. It exist because there are privileges for the few, discrimination and harsh treatment for many.
The women marched forward in the struggle for liberation and a civilized place in the society. Being women also rests upon them the burden of removing from the society all the social differences developed in past times between men and women, which have the effect of keeping the fair sex in a position of inferiority and subordination.
Need of the day
There was a time when every women reaching marriageable age was assured of husband, home and security. The condition have changed now. The convention society to which they belong has been destroyed as a result of the loss of land, migration of men from home, the growth of towns and industries , and the rise of a great body of wage-earns on the farms and in the urban areas, who depend wholly or mainly on wages for livelihood. Thousands ofwomen are employed today in factories, homes, offices, and shops. on farms in professions as nurses, teachers and the like. Large number of thewomen are in fact the sole breadwinners and heads of their families.
A large number of women continue to be bound by traditional practices and conventions, and fail to realize that these have become obsolete and are an obstacle to progress. It should be the determination of the Government to carry out a nation-wide program of education that will bring home the realization that freedom cannot be won for any one section or for the people as a whole as long aswomen are kept in bondage.
What us Required ?
Although each social group of the society emphasisies its own importance, there are certain components of the society that can be ensured that women are assured their true role and status. Three such components are Good Government, citizens, and the private sector.
Governance: Most people think that the governance is the sole responsibility of the state and its institutions. But today, it is widely accepted that asociety requires a healthy, flourishing democracy and good governance. It is the process that is more inclusive, participatory, transparent, accountable and responsive than in the past. Hence the state is expected to create an enabling environment to facilitate broad based popular participation and yield space to all thewomen in the county.
Role of Citizens: It is generally agreed that in a civilized society the citizens should participate in development activities and processes, produce enough food for their families , protect and conserve natural resources. Government and NGO’s should play a vital role in building a culture of democracy in which both men andwomen should learn the practice of democratic citizenship as equal partners. NGO’s need to identify obstacles to people’s participation in development and define appropriate strategies for the removal thereof. They should build people’s capacity to formulate any analyze development programs and approaches. This is one way of enhancing popular participation.
Role of Private Sector : In a good society the private and other sectors are inextricable woven in the state. The state establish the legal, fiscal and regulatory framework that defines civilsociety's operating space. The private sector should therefore, collaborate with the state in developing programmes for the uplift of women.
To sum up, for the faster development of the Nation, we must eliminate the evils that exists in our society, by giving women the same respectable place as we have given to men.
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