India is a land of contrasts, but slowly and surely, things are moving in the right direction towards women empowerment, says DR PARUL GUPTA

As a country, India is well-known for its cultural legacy, customs, traditional values, languages, and religions. It has an old ancient tradition dating back to 5,000 years. Nevertheless, in this very same country, some women have fallen prey to chauvinistic traditions. Over the years, they have been treated cruelly and some women, especially in rural areas and in smaller towns find themselves restricted to executing household chores.

They have been unaware of their rights and were often denied even the basic right to education. But things are changing. Women are now empowered in every aspect of life and the movement to strengthen women to take important decisions for their personal development is today called women’s empowerment.

Today, women are growing aware of their own rights and have broken many a barrier be it of mind, thought, societal and family restrictions. Women, indeed, must make equal strides with men in every sphere. They are the ones who, with men will take the nation forward and ensure that the country and its people flourish. There’s proof of this already happening.

But women themselves wonder how this unequal status came about? Was it because women were always considered weak? Women constitute more than half of the nation. It is the woman who gives birth to offspring, who are the future of the nation, and thus contributes in giving shape to society.

Dr Parul Gupta

The focus should now be on literacy. Only when people are educated can they make real choices for their own future growth. It is then that they become accomplished enough to make their own resolutions.

Wherever women have been educated, there is no holding them back. They have stepped out of the confines of household chores and have conquered peaks, launched into space, won Nobel Prizes and pioneered several inventions.

She has almost touched every sphere of life which till now was only meant for men. And this is true not just of western nations, but of eastern nations too.

Here is a well-known instance of women empowerment: Laxmi Agarwal, an acid attack survivor, is today a leading campaigner for rights of acid attack victims. She fought for a new law that sought harsher punishment for the perpetrators of acid attacks as well as campaigned for the ban on over-the-counter sale of acid. If her attackers had chosen to disfigure her and curb her spirit, the opposite happened. Laxmi faced up to them and reached new heights instead.

Discrimination against women is present all over the world. But the question arises: Is the idea of women’s empowerment whole-heartedly accepted by society? If yes, why do crimes against women such as the one in Hathras still happen?

Why is it that crime against women has been increasing day by day? According to the National Crime Records Bureau, crimes against women are increasing every year. Is it illiteracy both among men and women that is responsible for such crimes?

Who is to blame for these crimes? Society or governments? Ultimately, governments are responsible for sanctioning increased and improved economic, legal and political aid to women.

The position and status of women has increased incredibly in the 20th century. A very long struggle is going on from centuries to bring about social reforms, especially in property rights, voting and civil rights. But ironically, in corners of our country, purdah, female infanticide, child marriages and dowry system still prevail. Widow remarriage is still frowned upon.

Laxmi Agarwal

Many fruitful schemes and policies have been launched by the government for the welfare of women and children like Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao scheme, Ujjwala, One stop centre scheme, Women helpline scheme and plenty more. Let’s hope that mindsets begin to change in the right direction.

In the end, it is only with the strong determination, commitment and involvement of people and organisations with rational outlook that things can change. It is only then that people will realise the truth behind statements such as: “Once a woman is on the move, the whole family moves; then the village moves, and at last, the nation also moves.”

Dr Parul Gupta holds a Masters in Physiotherapy (orthopaedics) and has eight years’ clinical experience. She believes in self-motivation and is always keen to expand her learning through books, religion and spirituality.

More Stories by Dr Parul Gupta