You are on page 1of 32

Writers’ Forum (women Scape) Instesd of an editorial

2nd Issue- June- 2008

Editors:
Dr. Rameshchandra Mukhopadhyaya
Dedicated CONTENT

Nandita Bhattacharya STATUS OF WOMEN IN INDIA AND THEIR CHANGING ROLE

office R-19, Dakbunglow Road


to the memory of a tall man Shibnaryan Misra 2

P.O. Midnapore Town from Orissa Shib Bhai who IDLE THOUGHTS OFAWOMAN COMMUNICATED TOAREADER
Dist. Paschim Medinipur checked out from the hotel Mandira Mukherjee 11
Pin-721101
Hilton of the world giving no
Contacts: THEGLASSCEILING
09331220711,09434028287 intimation to anyone of his
e-mail: writers.forum@gmail.com sudden setting out for the land Mukta Vasudeva 13
from whose bourne no man WOMEN :AJOURNEYOF PROSTITUTION
Published by: returns.
Dr. Rameshchandra Mukhopadhyaya Dr. Zarina John Choudhury 17
on behalf of Writers’Forum A professor turned diaster HEALTHAND NUTRITIONALISSUES
R-19 ,Dakbunglow Road, Paschim Medinipur
manager of Red Cross, Shib
IN THE EMPOWERMENT OF WOMEN
Printed at Bhai was no chair philosopher
Sharp line but a man of action who Dr. Anima Sharma 20
5 Duff Street catered love and humour THE LETTER FROM SOUMYA...
Kolkata700006 where ever he went. This issue
Seema Sing 23
of Writers Forum opens with
Cover design: HINDUWOMANAND DIVORCE
Somnath Bhattacharya an article of Shib bhai.
Ranjit Roy 51
Price:Rs.20/-
Om Shanti
AN UNFORGETTABLE MEMORY
Dr. Ramesh Ch Mukhopadhyaya
Nirjharini Das 59
NIKAH
Nayana Begum 61-64

2
Status Of Women In Introduction

A female in rural India faces some of the harshest discrimination in the


India And Their world. Every phase of her life may be shaped by malnutrition, denial of
selfhood and lack of voice in the decisions that affect her life.

Changing Role The social and economic conditions that subjugate women are expressed
and reinforced by the institution of dowry. To secure a husband for their
daughter, a girl’s parents must pay up to five times their annual income in
dowry “gifts” to the husband’s family. As a result, having a girl is a great
Shibnaryan Misra burden, while having a boy is a great asset. Although dowry has been
illegal since 1961, its practice is flourishing and on the rise, cutting across
Introductory Quotes all classes and castes.

For most women, there is no way out. Subjugation and submission are a
You can tell the condition of a nation by looking at the status of its women.
pervasive pattern, enforced by violence and the threat of violence
Jawaharlal Nehru throughout their lives.

However much a mother may love her children, it is all but impossible for her to
India: An Overview
provide high-quality child care if she herself is poor and oppressed, illiterate
and uninformed, anaemic and unhealthy, has five or six other children, lives in India, with a population of 989 million, is the world’s second most
a slum or shanty, has neither clean water nor safe sanitation, and if she is populous country. Of that number, 120 million are women who live in
without the necessary support either from health services, or from her society, or poverty.
from the father of her childen.
India has 16 percent of the world’s population, but only 2.4 percent of its
VulimiriRamalingaswami,“TheAsian Enigma” land, resulting in great pressures on its natural resources.
The women who participate in and lead ecology movements in Over 70 percent of India’s population currently derive their livelihood
countries like India are not speaking merely as victims. Their from land resources, which includes 84 percent of the economically-active
voices are the voices of liberation and transformation. . . The women.
women’s and ecology movements are therefore one, and are
primarily counter-trends to a patriarchal maldevelopment. India is one of the few countries where males significantly outnumber
females, and this imbalance has increased over time. India’s maternal
Vandana Shiva mortality rates in rural areas are among the world’s highest. From a global
3 4
perspective, Indian accounts for 19 percent of all lives births and 27 Issues and Challenges
percent of all maternal deaths.
The persistence of hunger and abject poverty in India and other parts of
“There seems to be a consensus that higher female mortality between the world is due in large measure to the subjugation, marginalization and
ages one and five and high maternal mortality rates result in a deficit of disempowerment of women. Women suffer from hunger and poverty in
females in the population. Chatterjee (1990) estimates that deaths of young greater numbers and to a great degree then men. At the same time, it is
girls in India exceed those of young boys by over 300,000 each year, and women who bear the primary responsibility for actions needed to end
every sixth infant death is specifically due to gender discrimination.” Of hunger: education, nutrition, health and family income.
the 15 million baby girls born in India each year, nearly 25 percent will
not live to see their 15th birthday. Looking through the lens of hunger and poverty, there are seven major
areas of discrimination against women in India:
Although India was the first country to announce an official family planning
program in 1952, its population grew from 361 million in 1951 to 844 Malnutrition: India has exceptionally high rates of child malnutrition,
million in 1991. India’s total fertility rate of 3.8 births per woman can be because tradition in India requires that women eat last and least throughout
considered moderate by world standards, but the sheer magnitude of their lives, even when pregnant and lactating. Malnourished women give
population increase has resulted in such a feeling of urgency that birth to malnourished children, perpetuating the cycle.
containment of population growth is listed as one of the six most important “…the poor care that is afforded to girls and women by their husbands
objectives in the Eighth Five-Year Plan.” and by elders is the first major reason for levels of child malnutrition that
Since 1970, the use of modern contraceptive methods has risen from 10 are markedly higher in SouthAsia than anywhere else in the world.”
percent to 40 percent, with great variance between northern and southern “Gender disparities in nutrition are evident from infancy to adulthood. In
India. The most striking aspect of contraceptive use in India is the fact, gender has been the most statistically significant determinant of
predominance of sterilization, which accounts for more than 85 percent malnutrition among young children and malnutrition is a frequent direct or
of total modern contraception use, with female sterilization accounting for underlying cause of death among girls below age 5. Girls are breast-fed
90 percent of all sterilizations. less frequently and for shorter durations in infancy; in childhood and
The Indian constitution grants women equal rights with men, but strong adulthood, males are fed first and better. Adult women consume
patriarchal traditions persist, with women’s lives shaped by customs that approximately 1,000 fewer calories per day than men according to one
are centuries old. In most Indian families, a daughter is viewed as a liability, estimate from Punjab. Comparison of household dietary intake studies in
and she is conditioned to believe that she is inferior and subordinate to different parts of the country shows that nutritional equity between males
men. Sons are idolized and celebrated. May you be the mother of a and females is lower in northern than in southern states.”
hundred sons is a common Hindu wedding blessing. Nutritional deprivation has two major consequences for women: they
never reach their full growth potential and anaemia. Both are risk factors
in pregnancy, with anaemia ranging from 40-50 percent in urban areas to
5 6
Poor Health: Females receive less health care than males. Many women reluctance to seek medical care for pregnancy — it is viewed as a
die in childbirth of easily prevented complications. Working conditions temporary condition that will disappear. The estimates nationwide are
and environmental pollution further impairs women’s health. that only 40-50 percent of women receive any antenatal care. Evidence
from the states of Bihar, Rajasthan, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra
Surviving through a normal life cycle is a resource-poor woman’s greatest and Gujarat find registration for maternal and child health services to be
challenge. as low as 5-22 percent in rural areas and 21-51 percent in urban areas.
“The practice of breast-feeding female children for shorter periods of Even a woman who has had difficulties with previous pregnancies is usually
time reflects the strong desire for sons. If women are particularly anxious treated with home remedies only for three reasons: the decision that a
to have a male child, they may deliberately try to become pregnant again pregnant woman seek help rests with the mother-in-law and husband;
as soon as possible after a female is born. Conversely, women may financial considerations; and fear that the treatment may be more harmful
consciously seek to avoid another pregnancy after the birth of a male than the malady.
child in order to give maximum attention to the new son.”
It is estimated that pregnancy-related deaths account for one-quarter of
A primary way that parents discriminate against their girl children is through all fatalities among women aged 15 to 29, with well over two-thirds of
neglect during illness. When sick, little girls are not taken to the doctor as them considered preventable. For every maternal death in India, an
frequently as are their brothers. A study in Punjab shows that medical estimated 20 more women suffer from impaired health. One village-level
expenditures for boys are 2.3 times higher than for girls. study of rural women in Maharashtra determined on the basis of physical
examinations that some 92 percent suffered from one or more
As adults, women get less health care than men. They tend to be less
gynecological disorder.
likely to admit that they are sick and they’ll wait until their sickness has
progressed before they seek help or help is sought for them. Studies on
attendance at rural primary health centers reveal that more males than
Contraception Use
females are treated in almost all parts of the country, with differences Women’s health is harmed by lack of access to and the poor quality of
greater in northern hospitals than southern ones, pointing to regional reproductive services.
differences in the value placed on women.Women’s socialization to tolerate
suffering and their reluctance to be examined by male personnel are “About 24.6 million couples, representing roughly 18 percent of all married
additional constraints in their getting adequate health care. women, want no more children but are not using contraception.
(Operations Research Group, 1990). The causes of this unmet need remain
Maternal Mortality poorly understood, but a qualitative study in Tamil Nadu suggests that
India’s maternal mortality rates in rural areas are among the highest in the women’s lack of decision-making power in the family, opportunity costs
world. involved in seeking contraception, fear of child death, and poor quality of
contraceptive service all play an important role.” (Ravindran 1993).
A factor that contributes to India’s high maternal mortality rate is the
Some estimates suggest that some 5 million abortions are performed
7 8
annually in India, with the large majority being illegal.As a result, abortion- Additionally, with an increasing population, diseases caused by waste
related mortality is high.Although abortion has been legal since 1972 in disposal, such as hookworm, are rampant. People who work barefooted
India, “studies suggest that although official policy seeks to make are particularly susceptible, and it has been found that hookworm is directly
pregnancy-termination services widely available, in practice guidelines responsible for the high percentage of anaemia among rural women.
on abortion limit access to services, particularly in rural areas. In 1981, of
the 6,200 physicians trained to perform abortions, only 1,600 were Lack of education: Families are far less likely to educate girls than boys,
working in rural areas.” and far more likely to pull them out of school, either to help out at home
or from fear of violence. Women and girls receive far less education than
Job impact on Maternal Health men, due both to social norms and fears of violence. India has the largest
population of non-school-going working girls.
Impact of Pollution on Women
India’s constitution guarantees free primary school education for both
Women’s health is further harmed by air and water pollution and lack of boys and girls up to age 14. This goal has been repeatedly reconfirmed,
sanitation. but primary education in India is not universal. Overall, the literacy
rate for women is 39 percent versus 64 percent for men. The rate for
The impact of pollution and industrial wastes on health is considerable. In women in the four large northern states — Bihar, Uttar Pradesh,
Environment, Development and the Gender Gap, Sandhya Venkateswaran Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh — is lower than the national average: it
asserts that “the high incidence of malnutrition present amongst women was 25 percent in 1991. Attendance rates from the 1981 census suggest
and their low metabolism and other health problems affect their capacity that no more than 1/3 of all girls (and a lower proportion of rural girls)
to deal with chemical stress. The smoke from household biomass (made aged 5-14 are attending school.
up of wood, dung and crop residues) stoves within a three-hour period is
equivalent to smoking 20 packs of cigarettes. For women who spend at Although substantial progress has been achieved since India won its
least three hours per day cooking, often in a poorly ventilated area, the independence in 1947, when less than 8 percent of females were literate,
impact includes eye problems, respiratory problems, chronic bronchitis the gains have not been rapid enough to keep pace with population growth:
and lung cancer. One study quoted by WHO in 1991 found that pregnant there were 16 million more illiterate females in 1991 than in 1981.
women cooking over open biomass stoves had almost a 50 percent higher
Overwork: Women work longer hours and their work is more arduous
chance of stillbirth.
than men’s, yet their work is unrecognized. Men report that “women, like
Anaemia makes a person more susceptible to carbon monoxide toxicity, children, eat and do nothing.” Technological progress in agriculture has
which is one of the main pollutants in the biomass smoke. Given the number had a negative impact on women.
of Indian women who are anaemic — 25 to 30 percent in the reproductive
Women’s contribution to agriculture — whether it be subsistence farming
age group and almost 50 percent in the third trimester — this adds to
or commercial agriculture — when measured in terms of the number of
their vulnerability to carbon monoxide toxicity.
tasks performed and time spent, is greater than men. “The extent of

9 10
women’s contribution is aptly highlighted by a micro study conducted in Women in the Informal Sector, the director of social welfare in one state
the Indian Himalayas which found that on a one-hectare farm, a pair of said, “There are no women in any unorganized sector in our state.” When
bullocks works 1,064 hours, a man 1,212 hours and a woman 3,485 the Commission probed and asked, “Are there any women who go to
hours in a year.” the forest to collect firewood? Do any of the women in rural areas have
cattle?” the director responded with, “Of course, there are many women
“Girls learn to assist their mothers in almost all tasks, and from the age of doing that type of work.” Working women are invisible to most of the
10 years participate fully in the agricultural work done by women. Mies population.
cites the case of Laxmi, a three-year-old infant who, along with her mother,
pulled seedlings for transplanting. Boys on the other hand were seldom If all activities — including maintenance of kitchen gardens and poultry,
seen transplanting or weeding though they did help out in ploughing or grinding food grains, collecting water and firewood, etc. — are taken
watering the fields.” into account, then 88 percent of rural housewives and 66 percent of urban
housewives can be considered as economically productive.
“Not only do women perform more tasks, their work is also more arduous
than that undertaken by men. Both transplantation and weeding require Women’s employment in family farms or businesses is rarely recognized
women to spend the whole day and work in muddy soil with their hands. as economically productive, either by men or women.And, any income
Moreover, they work the entire day under the intensely hot sun while generated from this work is generally controlled by the men. Such work
men’s work, such as ploughing and watering the fields, is invariably carried is unlikely to increase women’s participation in allocating family finances.
out early in the morning before the sun gets too hot. Mies argues that In a 1992 study of family-based textile workers, male children who helped
because women’s work, unlike men’s, does not involve implements and in a home-based handloom mill were given pocket money, but the adult
is based largely on human energy, it is considered unskilled and hence women and girls were not.
less productive. On this basis, women are invariably paid lower wages,
despite the fact that they work harder and for longer hours than do men.” Unskilled: In women’s primary employment sector - agriculture -
extension services overlook women.
Women’s work is rarely recognized.
Women have unequal access to resources.
Many maintain that women’s economic dependence on men impacts their
power within the family. With increased participation in income-earning Extension services tend to reach only men, which perpetuates the existing
activities, not only will there be more income for the family, but gender division of labour in the agricultural sector, with women continuing to
inequalityshouldbereduce.ThisissueisparticularlysalientinIndiabecause perform unskilled tasks. A World Bank study in 1991 reveals that the
studies show a very low level of female participation in the labor force. assumption made by extension workers is that information within a family
This under-reporting is attributed to the frequently held view that women’s will be transmitted to the women by the men, which in actual practice
work is not economically productive. seldom happens. “The male dominated extension system tends to overlook
women’s role in agriculture and proves ineffective in providing technical
In a report of the National Commission on Self-Employed Women and information to women farmers.”

11 12
Anumberoffactorsperpetuatewomen’slimitedjobskills:iftrainingwomen 43 minutes a woman is kidnapped. And every 93 minutes a woman is
for economic activities requires them to leave their village, this is usually a burnt to death over dowry.
problem for them. Unequal access to education restricts women’s abilities
to learn skills that require even functional levels of literacy. In terms of One-quarter of the reported rapes involve girls under the age of 16 but
skill development, women are impeded by their lack of mobility, low the vast majority are never reported. Although the penalty is severe,
literacy levels and prejudiced attitudes toward women. When women convictions are rare.
negotiate with banks and government officials, they are often ostracized girls may be subjected to physical and sexual abuse as punishment or as
by other men and women in their community for being ‘too forward.’ culturally justified assaults. These acts shape their attitude to life, and their
Government and bank officials have preconceived ideas of what women expectations of themselves.
are capable of , and stereotypes of what is considered women’s work.
The insecurity outside the household is today the greatest obstacle in the
Violence against Women: In recent years, there has been an alarming path of women. Conscious that, compared to the atrocities outside the
rise in atrocities against women in India, in terms of rapes, assaults and house, atrocities within the house are endurable, women not only continued
dowry-related murders. Fear of violence suppresses the aspirations of all to accept their inferiority in the house and society, but even called it sweet.
women. Female infanticide and sex-selective abortions are additional forms
of violence that reflect the devaluing of females in Indian society. In recent years, there has been an alarming rise in atrocities against women
in India. Every 26 minutes a woman is molested. Every 34 minutes a rape
Male violence against women is a worldwide phenomenon.Although not takes place. Every 42 minutes a sexual harassment incident occurs. Every
every woman has experienced it, and many expect not to, fear of violence 43 minutes a woman is kidnapped. And every 93 minutes a woman is
is an important factor in the lives of most women. It determines what they burnt to death over dowry.
do, when they do it, where they do it, and with whom. Fear of violence is
a cause of women’s lack of participation in activities beyond the home, as One-quarter of the reported rapes involve girls under the age of 16 but
well as inside it. Within the home, women and girls may be subjected to the vast majority are never reported. Although the penalty is severe,
physical and sexual abuse as punishment or as culturally justified assaults. convictions are rare.
These acts shape their attitude to life, and their expectations of themselves.
Abortion Of Female Fetuses
The insecurity outside the household is today the greatest obstacle in the
path of women. Conscious that, compared to the atrocities outside the The most extreme expression of the preference for sons is female infanticide
house, atrocities within the house are endurable, women not only continued and sex-selective abortion.
to accept their inferiority in the house and society, but even called it sweet.
A study of amniocentesis in a Bombay hospital found that 96 percent of
In recent years, there has been an alarming rise in atrocities against women female fetuses were aborted, compared with only a small percentage of
in India. Every 26 minutes a woman is molested. Every 34 minutes a rape male fetuses.
takes place. Every 42 minutes a sexual harassment incident occurs. Every
“Government officials event suspect that the disproportionate abortion of
13 14
female fetuses may be a major underlying cause of the recent decline in Exposure to and interactions with the outside world are instrumental in
the nation’s sex ratio. In 1971 there were 930 females for every 1,000 determining the possibilities available to women in their daily lives. The
males. A decade later this figure had increased to 934, but by 1991, situation of women is affected by the degree of their autonomy or capacity
instead of continuing to rise, the ratio dropped to 927, lower than the to make decisions both inside and outside their own household.
1971 figure. This sex ratio is one of the lowest in the world.” The most
extreme expression of the preference for sons is female infanticide and “Over the past several decades, however, marriage patterns have changed
sex-selective abortion. markedly. Social, economic, and demographic developments have made
marriages between close relatives less common, and the bride price has
A study of amniocentesis in a Bombay hospital found that 96 percent of given way to a dowry system akin to that in the north. Nevertheless, as
female fetuses were aborted, compared with only a small percentage of long as the underlying ethic of marriage in the south remains the
male fetuses. reinforcement of existing kinship ties, the relatively favorable situation of
southern Indian women is unlikely to be threatened.”
“Government officials event suspect that the disproportionate abortion of
female fetuses may be a major underlying cause of the recent decline in Child Marriages
the nation’s sex ratio. In 1971 there were 930 females for every 1,000
males. A decade later this figure had increased to 934, but by 1991, Child marriages keep women subjugated.
instead of continuing to rise, the ratio dropped to 927, lower than the
1971 figure. This sex ratio is one of the lowest in the world.” A1976 amendment to the Child Marriage RestraintActraisedtheminimum
legal age for marriage from 15 to 18 for young women and from 18 to 21
Government has passed legislation to curb the misuse of amniocentesis foryoungmen.However,inmanyruralcommunities,illegalchildmarriages
for sex selection and abortion of female fetuses. Women activists have are still common. In some rural areas, nearly half the girls between 10 and
been critical of this act because of its provision that calls for punishing the 14 are married. Because there is pressure on women to prove their fertility
women who seek the procedure. These women may be under pressure by conceiving as soon as possible after marriage, adolescent marriage is
to bear a male child. synonymous with adolescent childbearing: roughly 10-15 percent of all
births take place to women in their teens.
Powerlessness: While women are guaranteed equality under the
constitution, legal protection has little effect in the face of prevailing Dowries:
patriarchal traditions. Women lack power to decide whom they will marry,
and are often married off as children. Legal loopholes are used to deny Women are kept subordinate, and are even murdered, by the practice of
women inheritance rights. Legal protection of women’s rights have little dowry.
effect in the face of prevailing patriarchal traditions.
In India, 6,000 dowry murders are committed each year. This reality
Marriage: exists even though the Dowry Prohibition Act has been in existence for
33 years, and there are virtually no arrests under the Act. Since those
Women are subordinate in most marriages. giving as well as those accepting dowry are punishable under the existing
15 16
law, no one is willing to complain. It is only after a “dowry death” that the People living with chronic hunger exist in conditions of severe poverty.
complaints become public. It is estimated that the average dowry today What they lack is the chance to change their situation, to develop their
is equivalent to five times the family’s annual income and that the high cost own self-sufficiency. The most potent confirmation of this fact can be
of weddings and dowries is a major cause of indebtedness among India’s seen in the lives of women. They, along with their children, are the main
poor. victims of hunger, and they are also most lacking in opportunities to end
their own and their families’hunger.
Divorce:
Traditionally, women bear primary responsibility for the well-being of their
Divorce is not a viable option. families. Yet they are systematically denied access to the resources they
Divorce is rare — it is a considered a shameful admission of a woman’s need to fulfill their responsibility, which includes education, health care
failure as a wife and daughter-in-law. In 1990, divorced women made up services, job training, and access and freedom to use family planning
a miniscule 0.08 percent of the total female population. services.

Maintenance rights of women in the case of divorce are weak.Although In order to gain a shared understanding of the condition of the status of
both Hindu and Muslim law recognize the rights of women and children women in India and its impact on the persistence of hunger, this document
to maintenance, in practice, maintenance is rarely set at a sufficient amount surveys papers done by leading scholars in Indian development issues. It
and is frequently violated. is organized in a framework of seven issues that characterize the plight of
resource-poor women, with a focus on rural women, in India: malnutrition,
Both Hindu and Muslim personal laws fail to recognize matrimonial poor health, lack of education, overwork, lack of skills, mistreatment and
property. Upon divorce, women have no rights to their home or to other powerlessness.
property accumulated during marriage; in effect, their contributions to the
maintenance of the family and accumulation of family assets go The link between these issues and the persistence of hunger in India was
unrecognized and unrewarded. underscored in a 1996 study: The Asian Enigma, by Vulimiri
Ramalingaswami:

The Inextricable Link In short, the poor care that is afforded to girls and women by their husbands
and by elders is the first major reason for levels of child malnutrition that
The greatest tragedy facing humanity today is the persistence of chronic are markedly higher in SouthAsia than anywhere else in the world.
hunger — an intolerable phenomenon that takes the lives of 24,000 of us
every day. For fully one-fifth of humanity, life is a daily struggle to survive Conclusion: Human life gets reflected in external qualities such as health,
in conditions of relentless poverty. Day after day, the lives of one billion mobility, education and awareness, status of family, participation in
individuals are cut short or terribly diminished by chronic, persistent hunger. decision-making and also at the level of martial security . It also includes
Day after day, one billion people are denied the opportunities they need internal qualities such as self awareness and self confidence.
to lead healthy and productive lives. Women’s empowerment thus implies strengthening women in order to
17 18
enable them to take control or at least influence decision making processes, inequality and growing violence. Looking at the primary stakeholder’s
to have access and control over resources, avail of opportunities and analysis undertaken by OASES, poor women are Identified as a separate
services ,demand their entitlements and exercise their right to a life free of category with their own interest areas, which have been identified as
fear ,violence and gender discrimination. While the notion of securing altitudinal change among men within households, villages and
empowerments a role for and outside agency to come and empower beyond physical security, However many of their interest are synonymous
women, it’s with the interest of the poor in general, i.e., the categories of destitute
poor, structural poor and mobile poor households. In addition, however,
Used here in the sense of providing or creating enabling conditions they also need access of entitlements of GOI, income during lean season-
whereby women may come into their own. There is much to be learnt in Diversified sources of income and better services. The poorest woman
turn from their hidden strengths and wisdom whereby they survive in an are also a category among un organized labour, and as such need negotiation
unequal society. for wages, minimum wages and therefore strong bargaining power. As
How are poor women to be empowered? There are many tried and elected representatives, woman form and important political emptily, to
tested strategies evolved at the grassroots: information and knowledge, be nurtured and strengthen .
awareness and understanding of gender relations and inequality,
strengtheningtheircreditandeconomicbase,organizationandmobilization,
building capacity at various levels and taking care of their practical gender
needs which will provide an enabling environment. Empowerment thus
needs to address all levels of gender inequality: social economic and
political.

Poverty no longer is a major of economic deprivation alone but equally of


lack of control over recourses, of access to opportunities and other
parameter according to the human development report. Addressing
poverty would mean taking into account all such parameter. Un has
estimated 70% Of the world’s are women. Women have a different
experience of poverty then men. Over and above hunger and deprivation,
this is compounded by mal-nutrition ill-health and illiteracy. Especially in
households below the poverty line, distribution of all collective assets and
income, of access to service, food, education, health, transport, and
decision making etc, ae totally skewed against women/right

That emphasizes women’s empowerment in the context of poverty


alleviation, taking note of failure to ensure women’s entitlements gender

19 20
responsibilities galore.

Idle thoughts
The fairer sex has submitted to being the great absorber like a king size
sponge, to being customized and conditioned by the mediocrity at large.
Sometimes in her life her mother teaches her to be as patient as the earth!
She has to submit to being regarded as Goddess Durga and Lakshmi, as
symbol of chastity and purity. What about being ordinary human mortals?

of a Woman Well... you will demur…to err is human; a woman is installed on a pedestal,
is given so much honour and respect!

Can you ordinary human beings create bonds with a deity? No you
worship, expect, coax and cajole her to grant your wishes. But your

Communicated ideas are nowhere near creating bonds with your goddess, like say, a
man bonds with another male friend? If you are a man, you relax with a
newspaper and your morning cuppa on a Sunday, talk shop with your
friendly neighbour about the big fire in Barabazar, while expectations boil
at your stomach.Yours truly is preparing something tasty repast in there.

to a Reader It is so hot and humid today! The fan in full speed cannot cool you.

You guessed right! I am sympathetic with our married sisters. 80% of


them spend the best part of their life in the kitchen. Fortunate, they consider
themselves. Well, they are, indeed, better off being in the shadows of a
Mandira Mukherjee male partner. Let us see, what happens when this shadow shifts; a divorce,
an accident, a misfortune. The woman in question now stands alone, under
the direct glare of curious eyes.
‘Why can’t a woman be more like a man,’ grieved Professor Higgins. Dear lady, even then, along with the additional burden of fending for
Unconsciously, this man has triggered a trend of thoughts outside the herself, has to forsake her wishes to live her own life. The kind, well
boundaries of our conditioned beliefs and thought processes. You savvy meaning fellowmen will loom upon her horizon. There will be others who
reader may frown upon these few considerations manifested on this sheet will view her with contempt, while she struggles on to find a foothold and
of paper. Nevertheless, I am going to make, what you call noises despite an identity of her own. She is an Indian, therefore financially in a
your reservations. I am not talking about a woman’s rights and disadvantageous position. While anAmerican single lady, even at a later
responsibilities. You will agree, a woman is given few rights but period of her life, enjoys her new found freedom, travels alone, goes for
a new course, our sister has to face indifference, contempt and often digs
at her new seemingly dubious existence.Asingle man, on the other hand,
21 22
has a better chance to live alone if he wants so. and moves like a robot, abandoning all thoughts of her personal fulfillment.
Can anybody suggest an alternate mode, by which she can still be brought
I asked two of my cousins, both in a way, separated from their husbands, back to the mainstream of life? When so many quests are going on to tap
what kind of attitudes they face as they socially interact. Both feel lonely unconventional energy of Mother Nature; wind energy, solar energy and
because they have difficulty in creating a support group. Their friends garbage energy, why not tap the modified energy of this resource, a woman
often discourage their presence in their own households. Being single it cliffhanger.
seems a curse really.Awoman is not tolerated in our society to enjoy the
freedom. Why can’t a woman enjoy both freedom and a social standing? A free-lancer Mandira Chatterjeeis engaged in the field of education since long.
Just where does it bite, may I ask? Her articles have been sold abroad. She is from West Bengal.

You know, I have seen Debopriya (name changed) a very good friend of
mine to struggle and slog for long hours to get her marriage working.As
the only earning member of her family she has to provide for her paralysed
husband, mother-in-law and her daughter’s education. It still would have
been a very happy household, had she not to face the abuse and ill
treatment from her husband. Ultimately, there is no comic relief to this
sad story, as my friend was robbed of all her possessions including her
shelter.

Sushreya (name changed) has lost her husband to a fatal disease. To her
own in-laws she has stopped living as well. They would be surprised if
she requires anything for survival, for her daughter and herself. For a
happy go lucky girl, who enjoyed all the frills that life has to offer, time
suddenly comes to a grinding stop. Suddenly she finds that she has to
push the rust of attitudes past her and walk ahead if she wants to survive.
Once she commented to me, “You know, I get angry when I see a woman
remaining sad and non- caring because life has taken away a happy period
from her. Why doesn’t she feel that she has to get up and go and take
things as they come?At least she should show some spirit to fight on!”

Is marriage the last word for any social bonding? Then it appears that a
woman for whom marriage did not work will be relegated to being alone
for the rest of her days on earth. Life seems such a cheap commodity that
overnight a positive minded and socially responsible woman becomes

23 24
Mrs. Gupta moved swiftly from the table to answer the phone as it shrilled

The Glass urgently. She knew it would be a sobbing Reena.Again the same heartburn
for Mrs. Gupta as she played the ever shuttling bearer of stubborn stands
on behalf of her husband and daughter.
As she numbly replaced the phone, she looked vaguely at the kitchen,
distracted by the voices. She remembered how Shama used to follow

Ceiling Reena around like a duckling. Neeta was always busy in her own world,
but Reena cared. How Reena would hastily leave the kitchen in slight
embarrassment at being asked to step aside so Sita could sweep the area
under her feet! That was her daughter, always ready to pick a fight with
Sita. "And why did you make her leave school again?" Demanding
Mukta Vasudeva angrily."She has been failing for the last three years didi!" Sita would say
smilingly without retaliation, sitting upright from the floor, adjusting her
The wind blew her hair… like the strands had a life and a mind of their pallu on her head. "I have been paying thirty-five rupeess every year,
own, sometimes playfully covering her eyes, sometimes falling on her face apart from school uniforms, books, lunch money and other expenses,
completely, he smiled lovingly at her. He opened his lips to say something… and she keeps failing class three!", Shama would giggle shyly at being
"Shama!!!" the loud rebuke jolted her out of her reverie. The song that discussed. "Really but she could have tried again one more time there
had sent her in it had long since finished and there was some advertisement was no harm is trying I am sure she can do it", Reena would keep arguing,
on about how to make mother's day special this year. The running water irked. "I don't really want to study didi", Shama would finally say with
from the tap had, as is its nature to, justified its existence by embarrassed laughter. Mrs. Gupta would chime in good naturedly that it
metamorphosing into a small water-fall. Pushed by its momentum, through was a question of the child's choice, she was always more interested in
persistent, frantic meandering, it had searched the path of least resistance clothes and earrings now than in doing math.At least now she was earning
to freedom… over ravines of dirty dishes; aesthetically angular handles good money and helping her mother. Logic. Reena hated that pragmatic
of pots that led it to its ultimate free-fall down to the kitchen floor. "Shama!! logic. On and on she would argue, "She will earn much more than you
Are you blind??!!" The hostility with which her name was spat made her without breaking her back if she can just finish school". "We can find
resent her name the most at times… it had become the ultimate 'gali' and work in some shop part-time, we are there to help her!". "I can send her
created misery in her. "I will clean it up na, don't lose your head over it!!" to College, imagine her life will be so different!!" "Try to imagine what a
She shouted back with an inherited venom, back at it's source. Her mother better life you could have, look beyond all this marriage stuff." Her
looked at her devoid of malice now, but full of irritation. "Bibiji gets so enthusiasm would turn into irritation and slowly anger, until she gave up.
mad when she sees you waste so much water and so much cleaning Reena would keep teaching the dull Shama, who would smile and keep
detergent, I get such a hard time, are you here to help me or make my life staring at the book, always shy at the attention.
worse?" Shama's mother was already down on her knees speedily Sita briskly carried the dustbin out unobtrusively. Her body fast with habit.
mopping up the placid puddles of the spent water-fall. The weathered body that had produced some moments before, harsh

25 26
across fifteen miles in a crowded train morning and night, were the myths. especially the unwarranted type, which almost always cost something.
The myths of Gods, the Gods that became angry if you entered temples She smiled in answer. It was despite his help she thought, that she had
while menstruating, the myths of love; love from a drunk, ailing zombie recently got promoted; now the sailing was rough, but it always was in
guised as a husband whose main expression of love was the occasional jungles like these. But she had learnt her lessons well, here you needed
thrust of unrequited sexual passions and occasional beatings of requited not just blind hard work, but blind gumption.You needed to trust yourself.
alcoholic passions. Myths that despite their ugly appearance brought She entered the meeting with a good presentation, at total ease with the
warmth in her heart at the grace of Ramji on Deepawali . Warmth from game.
the crying thing born of her; its unconditional surrender to her for its
existence. Warmth that her married daughter's eyes shone with every Walking home from the bus stand in the Mumbai rains, she clutched onto
time she met her after months, even a year at times. the umbrella more for support than protection, crossing traffic jams that
sang songs of chaos. She tried talking to her father in the evening, but his
This weathered body managed five customers. Fed five hungry beings, intense sadness mingled with intense anger brought her to her knees. They
built a small two roomed house made of bricks and cement- a move up would not even tolerate the thought of not aborting.Apart from the usual
from the thatched hut; owned by way of possessions a fan, cooler, T.V, face-saving functionality it was not a logical decision they argued.
fridge, beds and kitchen ware; afforded clothes and small gifts to her Arguments took all forms, abstracted many collective reasoning,
children. approached from many different directions- from by lanes of spiritual
pleas to the main roads of pragmatic wisdom, shifting in form, jumping
Sita and Shama awkwardly took their leave from a mournfully silent Mrs. from the whys why would she ever want to be a single mother, to the
Gupta, headed out to their next job. Shama's heart raced suddenly as complicated mind-numbing hows, all arguments, all pleas, all threats
they crossed the vegetable sellers, two young boys looked at her curiously, seemed to be stemming from a common source of a faceless, abstract
she could hardly breathe. Sita, meanwhile, walked faster glaring at the entity called society. Sometime their efforts came as emotional blackmails
two leering boys. Her mind was busy calculating how many more months taking shape of a loving, kissing serpent which despite it's tender hugs
it would take to save enough for Shama's dowry. showed glimpses of sharp, bloodthirsty teeth within… sometimes it came
as naked undisguised disgust invoking deep guilt and shame…sometimes
Reena went back to her cubicle, having washed her eyes and worn her as simple angry outbursts- the simplest to deal with really because she felt
usual expression of impassive professionalism. Intermingled noises of genuine pain at causing so much discomfort to her parents. His
ringing phones with voices raised in intent discussion brought a soothing uncontrollable sobbing sent her into blackness that she had never known.
calm to her restless mind. Felt safer. "Hey!" Nikhil with his- I'm-your- Always daddy's little girl, now she was out in the cold.
boss-but-we-can-be-friends tone. "Lost again are you! What a dreamer!".
"I was just em thinking about the reports, how to place them in today's She didn't really blame Rohan for feeling that he was not ready for such a
presentation" She recovered with practiced ease. "Oh, don't worry yaar" big step, she understood his problem. It was just sad that like everyone
he said "that's ok don't take too much pressure, I will be there to help else, he didn't understand her. That, since it began she had existed in
out." Since early on she had learnt that help was not what she worked for, duality. She was seeing things in weird slow-motioned double-take of

27 28
reality. Her own existing perspective of objects would suddenly give way have known better than to keep all those magazines lying around".As the
to a new take! Like when she walked into work some morning, she others laughed, his condescending smile told her she would have to bring
would greet the same peon who she had been greeting every morning, out the ammunition.
once, with a sudden jolt she stopped and saw for the first time that he had
the biggest smile in the premises! She had never noticed that before. This "Really I think that the fashion industry would do well to be better
was happening almost everywhere she looked… at flowers or garbage grounded… for instance we fail to convey the hard work and sweat be-
dumps. Like as if she was seeing a garbage dump for the first time! The hind the glamour… we plan to work on that in our magazine.. bring fresh
dump in front of her flats, which was a constant, suddenly stopped matching perspectives to the audience." She said.
with any pre-recognized images of 'waste' that came to her mind auto-
matically, while crossing it in the morning. She marveled at this unrecog- "Well I rather find that the commoditization of beauty is ugly, all glitter
nizable form, at the smells… and slowly she formulated that the way it lay barely any gold". Simon plainly stated.
in rejected misery, it was a collection of nothings, things that were no
things, waste… until she arrived at that image of 'waste', recognizing it "Well you do know that we value gold because it glitters… I wouldn't
anew. It was driving her wild with frustration, and ecstatic with the joy of underrate glitter by itself as a quality so much. Anyways, I don't think
making new discoveries in the old. They called it hormonal changes, what there is anything wrong in the commoditization of beauty." Neeta chal-
a boring label to what she was actually experiencing! This strange dual- lenged. "In fact, I don't think there is much difference between say an
ity… Like she had a new soul, now seeing things for the first time… new Oxford Don and super-model Kate Moss, professionally speaking."
soul, seeing things from within her old world. How could she define this "Oh??" The dancing eyebrows rising and falling could become a rave
experience? new form of choreography, with what precision they all arched together
and fell on their faces, it would have made a great youtube video with
She had to talk to her sister, Neeta. funky background music!! Neeta sipped her gin-spiked ice tea and let
the cubes jingle around in her glass as the volleys of admonishes started
So here she was; Simon had her in the spot. Since he first met her and comingin.
heard she was slated to be next editor of an internationally acclaimed
fashion magazine, he had shown great interest in her. Neeta had been in "If you think about it", she continued," here is man who in his youth or
the business long enough to know that such interest was not trivial. Fi- earlier realized that he is better than others in certain skills, on closer
nally, three parties later, a good number to have established a 'friendly' examination society informed him, through positive feedback that he is
rapport, he came out with the daggers. He marveled at her rise from the what we could call intelligent. Maybe somewhere in his twenties, he
Mumbai office, to London, and thought that she, coming from a tradi- worked really really hard and developed this as a habit which helped him
tional ethnic background-Indian- and mother of two girls, should have an progress his career in academic circles… published papers and conse-
interesting perspective on the effects of the fashion industry and advertis- quently became a mini-celebrity in his localized, specialized circles…All
ing on young female minds." Well," she commented on that "maybe that's this got him, fame in a sense, money and ofcourse power…." "Slightly
why my three year old cat has been acting bitchy lately!"Laughter "I should different from wearing Gucci and walking around, don't you think?" evi-

29 30
dently Simon was enjoying it. "He used his brains you know", someone
else interjected with an air of irritation. " My friend over at the BBC was disconcerted to find that on interview-
ing a bunch of seven year olds, apart from the usual clichés; most of the
"My point exactly, he used his intelligence. Was he born with it, I would girls were unhappy with their figures, one of them actually said she thought
say so, he was born with some form of intelligence, he used his God- looked rather fat and didn't like shape at all. Age seven!"he said rather
gifted intelligence. If a man or a woman is born beautiful, then why can he angrily.
or she not use this god-gifted beauty to earn fame, money and power?
Why would you be so high-headed about the quality of intelligence over "The brain is part of the human body. Just like the face, perky breasts and
the quality of beauty? They are both natural, in either case they both used long legs… there is nothing inherent in our bodies that tells us that the
what they were given. If you find nothing wrong in the commoditization of brain is better than the face. It's our cultures, which endow more virtue to
intelligence, then what is wrong with the commoditization of beauty? How the one feature and less to another. I know seven year olds from my
is intelligence more virtuous -when sold for a living, than beauty -when society, back home, who suffer from various symptoms of anxiety before
sold for a living?" Simon, now interested swung into full action. their exams begin. There is so much pressure on performance right from
kindergarten. You intellectuals play the same game as any super-models,
"He worked hard and developed himself" only you just play it with a different type of ball and set different rules in
your game. I hardly think the game can be blamed just because we en-
"Supermodels work really really hard, going through great pains to build tangle ourselves in it."
up themselves, to deliver a product that Is aesthetically beautiful."
At home, the call from Reena took away her calm. She looked at her two
"You mean artificial, made-up and unnatural?" girls running circles round their father as he struggled at the humongous
task of getting them to bed. She spent a sleepless night filled with soggy
"Well,Attending university, earning degrees, sprucing up your education dreams. Dreams of trying to laugh whilst carrying a heavy, heavy sack of
with lectures and lectures of other people's thoughts, ideas… are all non- sand.Although the sand kept slipping out, the sack kept getting heavier
natural means of building on top of your natural intelligence. How is that and heavier, until finally her mouth distorted from the effort of trying to
different from models build up their bodies and developing themselves in laugh became sealed. She couldn't laugh or cry out, all that she knew was
a certain way that conforms to society defined standards? These are in- that her back was breaking and her mouth was sealed, not a cry of pain
ventions of our times, this society endorses sharp business tycoons for could escape.
their acumen. Once they used to barter in shells why, I don't see anyone
being offended in that… maybe shells represented something of value to "Sweetie, think about your future honey… Don't ruin it, you can't do this
them- maybe aesthetics, now modern man invents new things to trade in. on your own." Reena quietly went back to work.
He invents skills, he sells services- I can do the interior of your house, or
let me build you the most beautiful car, he sells beauty in various forms. It's been six years since. Shama has on her second pregnancy, carrying
Beauty which is contextual has been and will be sold in various forms." the child of her forty year old husband. He owns a grocery shop and

31 32
asked for hand in person. Reena's bubbling daughter is the apple of
everyone's eyes. Her father is a kind and generous man, who was hit by
her courage and honesty about the baby, had met her through relations.
Women : A Journey of
Everyone, her husband, in-laws and parents and so she also - thought it
would do better to take care of home full-time. Neeta still enters the
arena fully charged, knows that this could be her last day at the helm,
Prostitution
fights like a cat to save it. She feels the crunch of the day in her ankles,
and knees when she comes home at night, they seem to shudder as they Dr. Zarina John Choudhury
take on her growing weight. She strokes her heavy thighs subconsciously,
as she sits on her desk and approves pictures of anorexic beauties…
A woman, according to most authorities, was always a
An MCAMukta Vasudevan worked as an engineer at Hydrabad for quite a long minor at law. As a girl she was under the tutelage of her parents, as an
time. Presently she is residing at England and masterminding a web page called adult, of her husband, and as a widow, of her sons. Even under the liberal
Sefirah. rules of Buddhism a nun, however advanced in the faith, was always
subordinate to the youngest novice among the brethren. Early law books
assess a woman’s wergild as equivalent to that of a sudra, whatever her
class Most schools of law allowed a woman some personal property.

A woman was thought to be naturally libidinous; an un-


married girl attaining puberty would proceed to find a lover, however
strictly her parents guarded her; once she had lost her virginity she would
become unmarriageable and the parents would have the choice of the
disgrace and expense of maintaining an unmarried daughter indefinitely,
or the even greater disgrace of casting her out to become a beggar or a
prostitute. From the point of view of her parents a daughter was a serious
economic liability, and this may have encouraged the custom.

Women were not encouraged to take up a life of religion


or asceticism. Their true function was marriage, and the care of their
menfolk and children. But the better class laywomen seem to have been
educated, and there are several references to works of Sanskrit poetry
and drama by women authors, of which some fragments survive. in Tamil
the early poetess Avvaiyiir has left work of great merit, and a splendid
martial ode describing the great victory of the early Cola king Karikiilan.
33 34
In fact women sometimes possessed more than was usu- pentryandarchitecture,logic,chemistryandmineralogy,gardening,training
ally allowed to them by the rules of stridhana. Stridhana in the form of fighting cocks, partridges and rams, teaching parrots and mynahs to talk,
jewellery and clothing.
writing in cipher, languages, making artificial flowers, and clay modeling.
The ladies of Sanskrit courtly literature are often described
as reading, writing, and composing songs, and they seem to have been It is hardly likely that the prostitute did in fact study all the
well versed in the arts of the time. Though from medieval times until very arts of this rather bizarre list, but it shows what was expected of her. If
recent years the arts of music and dancing were looked on as quite unfit she mastered those arts most suited to her profession a brilliant future
for respectable Indian girls, and were practised only by low-caste women awaited her. “Acourtesan of a pleasant disposition, beautiful, and other-
and prostitutes, this was not the case in ancient days, when well-to-do wise attractive, who has mastered the arts has the right to a seat of honour
girls were taught singing and dancing, as well as other ladylike arts such among men. She will be honoured by the king and praised by the learned,
as painting and garland making. and all will seek her favours and treat her with consideration.

The women of the upper classes were kept at a distance Typical of such accomplished courtesans wasAmbapali,
from the opposite sex. TheArthasastra, in many ways more liberal than the hetaira of Vaisali, famous in Buddhist legend. Much that is said of this
the religious law books, lays down quite stringent rules for the punish- lady is certainly legendary, but it gives a significant indication of the status
ment of immodest wives.Awoman who insolently takes part in games, or of the better type of courtesan in ancient India.AmbapalI was immensely
drinks, against her husband’s wishes, is to be fined three pal. as. If she wealthy, highly intelligent, and famous throughout the civilized portion of
leaves her home without his permission to visit another woman she is to India. She was one of the most treasured possessions of her city, and
be fined six pal. as; if she visits a thorities on erotics demand that, as well mixed on equal terms with princes. On his last journey to the Hills, as he
as in the art immediately essential to her profession, she should be thor- passed through Vaisali, the Buddha accepted her invitation to dine in pref-
oughly trained in “the sixty-four arts”. These were a stock list, which erence to that of the city fathers, who wished to give him a civic recep-
included not only music, dancing and singing, but also acting, the tion. Ambapali is said to have become a Buddhist nun, and one of the
composition of poetry, impromptu and otherwise, flower- most beautiful poems of the Pali canon is attributed to her.
arrangement and garland-making, the preparation of perfumes and
The prostitute was protected and supervised by the state.
cosmetics, cooking, dress-making and embroidery, sorcery,
The Arthaliistra suggests the appointment of a Superintendent of Pro-
conjuring and sleight of hand, the composition of riddles, tongue-twisters
stitutes who should be responsible for the care and supervision of the
and other puzzles, fencing with sword and staff, archery, gymnastics, car-
palace courtesans, the inspection of brothels, and the collection of two
35 36
days’ earnings from each prostitute every month, as tax to the govern- often the children of mothers of the same profession, born and reared in
ment. Teachers and trainersof prostitutes were to begiven the temple precincts, but they might be daughters of ordinary citizens,
encouragement by the state. As in all other societies, around the pros- given in childhood to the god as pious offerings. They attended on the
titute congregated men of doubtful character, either outside the law or on god’s person, danced and sang before him, and, like the servants of an
its borderline-thieves, rogues, pseudo-magicians, and confidence trick- earthly king, bestowed their favours on the courtiers whom he favoured,
sters of all kinds. prostitutes should be enlisted in the secret service. This in this case the male worshippers who paid their fee to the temple.
fact was noted by Megasthenes, who remarked that the spies did much
The earliest record of religious prostitution comes from a
of their work with the help of prostitutes. From the example of the play
cave at Ramgarh, in the Vindhya hills some 160 miles south of Banaras,
“The Little Clay Cart” it would seem that a prostitute might become m
which contains two significant Prakrit inscriptions in a script which shows
honest woman by marriage, for here the heroine, the high-souled courte-
that they were written not long after the days ofAsoka. The first of these
san Vasantasena, ultimately becomes the second wife of the brahmary
is in verse :
hero Carudatta.
“Poets, the leaders of lovers,
The position of the courtesan merged with that of the
concubine. Kings and chiefs retained numerous prostitutes in their pal- light up the hearts which are heavy with
aces, who were salaried servants, and who often had other duties to passion.
perform, such as attending on the king’s person. The status of these women She who rides on a seesaw, the object of jest and blame, how
s somewhat obscure, but apparently they were not only at the service of can
the king, but also of any courtier on whom he might choose temporarily
she have fallen so deep in love as this?
to bestow them, and thus they were not on a par with the regular inhab-
itants of his harem. Prostitutes of this type accompanied :he king wher-
And then, in prose:
ever he went, and even awaited him in the rear when he .vent into battle.
The excellent young man Devadinna the painter loved
Another type of prostitute pursued her trade in an o dour Sutanuka, the slave-girl of the god”.
of sanctity. in the Middle Ages the god in his temple was treated like an
earthly king; he had his wives, his ministers and attendants, and all the
paraphernalia of a court-including his attendant prostitutes. These were The enamoured Sutanuka is referred to by the word later

37 38
regularly used for a temple prostitute-devadasi and was evidently some-
thing of the kind herself. Temple prostitution was most common in the Health and Nutritional
South, where it survived until recent times. religious prostitution came
naturally to the Dravidian. Many inscriptions and charters of the medieval
South commemorating donations to temples refer specially to devadasls
Issues in the Empower-
; for instance a general of Vikramaditya VI Calukya, named Mahadeva,
is recorded as founding a temple in memory of his late mother, with quar- ment of Women
ters for the most beautiful temple-prostitutes in the country.
Dr. Anima Sharma
Prostitution, though in many contexts honoured and respected,
was Indian women has come a long way from its mythological status of hold-
ing the equivalent status as their male counterparts to the historical period
much disapproved of by the Smrti writers, whose works contain pas-
when it was having an important and equal place in the family because of
sages of warning against the evils of prostitution reminiscent of those in herequalcontributuionintheeconomicactivitiesofthefamilytothemodern
the Jewish Book of Proverbs. Manu and some other texts class the harlot era of globalization when she has to fight for her rights. This journey has
and gambler with the thief and blackmailer, and declare that brahmans seen several ebbs and flows and has been full of events.
must never consort with prostitutes, on pain of very heavy penances.
The present day society is witnessing a number of issues related to women
One source even maintains that the murderer of a prostitute commits no in terms of gender discrimination, unequal access to resources and op-
sin and should incur no punishment at law. portunities, violence, lack of basic services, women’s paltry representa-
tion in politics and business, and the power imbalances. These issues act
The secular view which prevailed. By the Middle Ages the as the raod blocks in the progress of the women on the one hand and of
brahmans who propounded the Sacred Law might themselves be at- the society on the other.
tached to temples with hundreds of prostitutes on their staffs.
Therefore, the most important aspect to keep up with the present trnds of
Dr. Zarina John Choudhury, Assistant Prof. History, Govt. Girls College, globalization and sustainable development is gender equality, with which
Jabalpur(M.P.) are attached two critical but complementary approaches namely
mainstreaming gender and promoting women’s empowerment. Develop-
ment strategies will not be successful unless women become the central
players.

39 40
Gender mainstreaming andWomen’s empowerment have been describved The women of all ages especially those who are living in the rural areas
in the Practice Note published by UNDP in November, 2002 as: face several health problems. In a brader perspective these problems
could be attributed to two factors viz., Health Services and Nutrition on
“Gender mainstreaming is “the process of assessing the implica- the one hand and socioeconomic and sociocultural on the other. The main
tions for women and men of any planned action, including legisla- reasons of the lack of the utization of the Health Services and Nutritional
tion, policies or programmes, […] making women’s concerns problems is poverty, Illteracy, Ignorance, lack of resources, status of
and experiences an integral dimension of the design, implementa- women, lack of decision making and unequal flow of power within the
tion, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programmes […] family and the societal level. Ultimately, these show negative effects on
so that women and men benefit equally”, according to a 1997 the demographic trends viz. Maternal Mortality, Female Foetecide,
Report of the Economic and Social Council. Anaemia, Malnourishment etc.

Women’s empowerment is central to human development. Hu-


man development, as a process of enlarging people’s choices, According to UNDP Human Development Report (1997), the propor-
cannot occur when the choices of half of humanity are restricted. tion of pregnant women (age 15-49 aged) with anemia was found to be
Targeted actions aimed at empowering women and righting gen- as high as 88% and the maternal mortality in India is the second highest in
der inequities in the social and economic sphere, as well as in the world.As regards the Reproductive health of the women it has further
terms of civil and political rights, must be taken alongside efforts been reported in the UN Report that only 42% of births in the country
to en-gender the development process”. are supervised by health professionals, most of the home deliveries are
done by the untrained midwifes or with the help of the untrained women
Present discussion would focus on the women’s empowerment espe- in the family who often use traditional methods. Not only that they lack
cially in the Health sector and the issues related to Nutrition. Empower- skills and resources but they use unsterilized blades and equipments which
ment is a multidimensional term including various dimensions viz., Educa- may endanger the life of the mother and the child. They also have little to
tion, Economy, Land & Property, Health, Politics and more. Though all lack of control on their fertility and issues realted to their Reproductive
of these dimensions are important in themselves but owing to a number of Health.
demographic, cultural and socioeconomic reasons health becomes the
primaryissue,whichneedsimmediateattentionandcarefulplanning.Health
further includes a number of aspects but chief of those are health Services
and Nutrition, which have sociocultural and economic implications too. This is just the tip of the iceberg, the real impact of the problem is much
deeper in the society, which needs thoruogh shake up of the age old
The Health Issues Per Say: psyche and mindset of the people. The gender discrmination and lower
The demographic trends show that though the average female life ex- status of women gives rise to several social problems too for instance the
pectancy is gradually improving over the yars yet it is lower than in many increase in the crime against women, denying them their basic rights, stigma
countries. and discrimnation againt women and sevaral others.

41 42
2. To effectively meet problems of infant and maternal mortality, and
To combat with the problems related to women as cited above Govern- early marriage the availability of good and accurate data at micro
ment iof India has envisaged the ‘National Policy For The Empowerment level on deaths, birth and marriages is required. Strict implementation
Of Women’in 2001, in which the provisions have been made to secure of registration of births and deaths would be ensured and registration
and safeguard the Rights of the Women to eliminate all types of discrimi- of marriages would be made compulsory.
nations and atrocities against them and make them an empowered citizen 3. In accordance with the commitment of the National Population Policy
of the country. It includes a number of aslects in its framework like Judi- (2000) to population stabilization, this Policy recognizes the critical
cial Legal Systems, Economic Empowerment, Social Empowerment, need of men and women to have access to safe, effective and afford-
Rights of Girl Child, Violence against women, their participation in Sci- able methods of family planning of their choice and the need to suit-
ence and Techniligy and their role in Difficult circumstances etc. It sug- ably address the issues of early marriages and spacing of children.
gests the operational strategies to combat with this issue at the global Interventions such as spread of education, compulsory registration of
level. marriage and special programmes like BSY should impact on delay-
ing the age of marriage so that by 2010 child marriages are elimi-
Under the section of Social Empowerment the policies related to women nated.
have been chalked out as follows: 4. Women’s traditional knowledge about health care and nutrition will
be recognized through proper documentation and its use will be en-
Health couraged. The use of Indian and alternative systems of medicine will
1. Aholistic approach to women’s health which includes both nutrition be enhanced within the framework of overall health infrastructure
and health services will be adopted and special attention will be given available for women.
to the needs of women and the girl at all stages of the life cycle. The
reduction of infant mortality and maternal mortality, which are sensi- Nutrition
tive indicators of human development, is a priority concern. This policy 1. In view of the high risk of malnutrition and disease that women face at
reiterates the national demographic goals for Infant Mortality Rate all the three critical stages viz., infancy and childhood, adolescent and
(IMR), Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) set out in the National Popu- reproductive phase, focused attention would be paid to meeting the
lation Policy 2000. Women should have access to comprehensive, nutritional needs of women at all stages of the life cycle. This is also
affordable and quality health care. Measures will be adopted that important in view of the critical link between the health of adolescent
take into account the reproductive rights of women to enable them to girls, pregnant and lactating women with the health of infant and young
exercise informed choices, their vulnerability to sexual and health prob- children. Special efforts will be made to tackle the problem of macro
lems together with endemic, infectious and communicable diseases and micro nutrient deficiencies especially amongst pregnant and lac-
such as malaria, TB, and water borne diseases as well as hyperten- tating women as it leads to various diseases and disabilities.
sion and cardio-pulmonary diseases. The social, developmental and 2. Intra-household discrimination in nutritional matters vis-à-vis girls and
health consequences of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted women will be sought to be ended through appropriate strategies.
diseases will be tackled from a gender perspective. Widespread use of nutrition education would be made to address the

43 44
issues of intra-household imbalances in nutrition and the special needs
of pregnant and lactating women. Women’s participation will also be
ensured in the planning, superintendence and delivery of the system. The letter from
Thus, we see that the issue of the empowerment of women, which in fact
is the issue of the global concern, has stimulated the thinking of our policy
makers too. But, the real picture continues to be glum and the demo-
graphic figures show that making the policies would not be of much help
Soumya ...
unless a strategy of its effective implementation is also designed. Also,
policies make little impact on the age old practices and behavioural pat- Seema Sing
tern especially in the Health Sector and Nutritional aspects. Hence, the
strategies should be implemented with the Behaviour ChangeApproach The letter from Soumya, an all time friend, was still in my hand, Happi-
taking into account the socio-cultural and socioeconomic issues delicately. ness at receiving the letter had given way to perplexity, discomfort, sad-
These are the sensitive areas where making an indent needs lots of effort ness and misery . To alley my fears, I started reading it again:
and still the outcome is seldom in the right proportion.
Dear Seema,
Hence to conclude, the issue of empowerment of women especially in Hope my letter finds you amidst best of everything that life has to offer
the areas of Health and Nutrition can not be dealt with by making the and also sincerely hope that my work-place and home-place blues do
policies until those are implemented too. This issue needs more attention not rub on to you. I need to share my troubles with you. I feel sup-
in the rural areas and vulnerable population especially including socio- pressed, suffocated and subjugated by the web of responsibility that
economically weaker and backward sections of the society. surrounds me.

Dr. Anima Sharma, the author of this article has received Doctor- The week started on a routine, yet promising note as, after eight years in
ate from Delhi University. Her post doctoral job experiences has service, I was being promoted to the post of executive manager. When
been mainly in the research, teaching, training and consultancy in this bit of news I shared with Arnab, my husband, for no reason he got
Social Sector with the focus on the Health and Development is- furious and asked me to refuse the promotion as it would involve late
sues in the vulnerable sections of the society. hours, more responsibility and his family didn’t require that kind of money.
Presently, she is working as Assistant Professor (Social Sector) in His attitude piqued me, but the situational wisdom was in keeping quiet. I
a reputed Management Institute in Delhi. lay thinking- what about me, my existence, my dreams. Nobody seemed
to care and notice that I was working like a machine . I kept tossing and
turning., mulling over

I woke up in the morning with a heavy head, throbbing with pain .Being

45 46
already late,I gulped medicine and went to wake up Siya and Raghav , so groceries and vegetables only my responsibility? Why was a man’s work
that they could be ready for school. The maid had not yet come so I more important than a woman’ s? Why could’nt he ,for once give more
started making preparations for breakfast and the lunch .We have a maid importance to siya’s health? Why can”tArnab share family responsibili-
coming to help in other household work but the cooking has to be done ties? Why is he so resistant to the very thought of sharing whether it be
exclusively by me as it has been a tradition in the family .Without a care responsibility, decision making, power on money matter’s? Siya was di-
in the world,Arnab went out for his regular morning walk with his father, agnosed with bacterial infection and the doctor cautioned me for her health
Mom has arthritis so she wanted tea in bed, my sister- in- law had worked as she had frail constitution and also about myself as I also in Doctors
late on computer so she refused to wake up to help. In the absence of opinion appeared to beAnaemic . I brought prescribed medicines; some
maid why was only I responsible to complete the kitchen work and other fruits and vegetables .Dead tired I reached home .It was 4 in the evening
household chores? Why could not the other members of the family chip .The door opened and peals of laughter welcomed me. Arnab’s cousin ,
in, according to their ability? What kind of gender - role were we setting Sanjeev and his family had come over .After putting Siya on bed , I went
for our sons and daughters, who would have to survive and be successful to meet Sanjeev and his family. On learning about Siya’s health , my
in the ultra- modern world of globalization? I thought of taking leave but father- in -law went to sit with her , while I went to the kitchen to prepare
realized that on coming Friday, I would have to take leave as I would tea and snacks. In between as I administered the medicine to Siya, my
have to accompany my mother –in –law for an appointment with a father in law advised me to pay more attention to children as they were
Orthopaedician . As I had no time to waste I pushed the pace of work, the real investment. I was miffed, I interjected- real investment only for
got ready mechanically and left for office. I brooded as I traveled in local me?Not for their father ? He gave me a placid but piercing look and left
bus-Most of the time I did not have the time to eat my breakfast? No- the room.
body worried about me? was I right in jeopardizing my health to such an
extent? Was I not treating myself with love and respect ? Out of courtesy, I sat with the guest while Siya was alone. My exterior
was calm but inside it was furious turmoil of feelings and emotions.Why
Amidst criss-Cross of questions, answer and counter question, I reached could’nt I be excused from this make- believe sit-in with the guests?
my office. As I entered the building , I secluded myself from the outside Should I do it? What would be the repercussions? I decided to excuse
world . I grounded myself to the work on my table. Even as I was en- myself, my child was more important, relatives could be taken care of by
grossed in the work, I could feel my stomach rumbling of hunger. I got up other members of family also. I had taken leave because of my daughter.
to go to the canteen and had covered a little distance when my mobile As I got up, I noticed the glint of disapproval in my mother in law’s eyes,
rang up. It was a call from Siya’s school - she had fever and stomach I left the room. Siya had gone to sleep alone in her room. I lay along side
upset. The school authorities had called up Arnab but as he was in the her thinking of the choices I had and the decisions I needed to make . I
middle of the meeting he could not go to pick Siya up, so as a way out he felt as if I was as a candle burning at both the ends.
had given my number to them.
I had dozed off.
I picked my purse and left for Siya’s school. Anxious I took an auto. A
volley of questions bombarded my brain——Were children, their rear- The bell-chime woke me, I seemed to have dozed off, it was 5:30 p.m.,
ing, their nursing only my responsibility? Was running of kitchen, buying Raghav had returned from his day - boarding school. Why was I home

47 48
early, he questioned me. On hearing about Siya’s health, he went straight Will any Rules and Regulations, Laws and Policies make any difference
to her bed and asked if his father was also back, I replied in the negative. to the lives of Working- Women if the Men do not make the mandatory
Now at thirteen years of age, Raghav pertinently pointed out why his shift in the Psyche andAttitudes to acknowledge , accept and respect the
father never took leave when they were ill? I was dumbstruck but drew decision of women to venture out for a job ? This is the Question.
solace from the fact that even he thought in a similar way regarding shar-
ing of responsibilities as I did. Urgently waiting for yourAdvice .
S. Singh has been working in the field of Education for the last decade and a half.
Arnab returned at eight in the evening and magnanimously announced to She has also been deeply involved in the field of Adolescent Education and has
eat out-side. Raghav told his father about Siya’s health, about whichArnab worked as consultant with UNFPA. She is presently working as an Administra-
already knew but had conveniently forgotten. tor in Delhi.

Again it was time to cook dinner. I called for Shilpi’s help,” she is busy
with her office -work how can she help in cooking.” My mother in law
piped in. It was totally ,totally incredible how people had two set of val-
ues and standards to suit their convenience ,Why were Daughter’s and
Daughter –in – law’s treated differently. Enough was enough, everybody
had their career to take care of besides myself’Amidst emotional turbu-
lence I was able to prepare dinner and finish other chores.

As I put children to bed, I checked Siya for temperature or any other


discomfort she might be feeling .Arnab had felt my discomforting vibes ,
he wanted to know what was wrong , I told him I was totally fed up with
the load I was expected to accomplish with no support forthcoming from
the other family members and wanted to quit the job.

That stumped him, matter-of-factly he started making me understand


about the monthly installments that we had to pay for the home in which
we lived and our car, which he drove, so how could I even think of
quitting the job , besides we had to provide for our children’s education
and save for our future . I understood but as always he got tired of the
discussion and citing that he had to get up in the morning, he went to
sleep.

My spirit refuses to be trodden- on and trampled- over.

49 50
society prevailing in Hinduism. However, after 138 years of the enact-

Hindu woman ment of the Christian divorce law and after 81 years of Muslim law and
after 8 years of independence in 1955 the Hindu marriage and divorce
law were enacted. Then the Govt. of India had to enact section 498A
under I.P.C. in the year 1983 to tackle cruelty by a husband or a

and Divorce relative of husband, and protection of women from Domestic Violence
Act. 2006 in terms of the UN Model
Code. But all the laws are full of loopholes. The laws have a different
Ranjit Roy use al together. It lies more in a formal recognition that certain things
are not acceptable. Because India is signatory to many international
conventions, including the United Nations convention on the elimination
The Indian Divorce Act 1869 came into operation on 1st August, 1989
of all forms of discrimination against women. It is height of cruelty. We
for persons professing the Christian religion.The law related to marriage
have first track courts, special courts, women courts but those are not
and divorce in Muslim community is basedon the Holly Koran. These
working. There is no time bound system. Below appended a case diary
are separated law created during the British rule for various sects of
would reveal that an woman at the age of 27 years (July-1988) got
Muslim like Memons in western India and Mophols in South India.
married, at the age of 29 years (in the year 2000) she filed divorce and
Besides the ShariwatApplication Act, 1937, which is the mainAct
she obtained divorce on cruelty ground at the age of 32 years (in
pertaining to the Moslems decree that a husband can obtains divorce
December 2003) from the district court. The husband appealed before
by the process of ‘Talaq’and a wife can have the divorce by the
High Court in January 2004 and made a counter claim that divorce
process of ‘Kulla.’To begin with, we Hindus are still largely a feudal
shall be granted on the ground of adultery by wife, which was rejected
and patriarchal society.AHindu girl has no right to divorce the husband.
by the District Court. The Hon’ble High Court did not care to take up
She can not leave the matrimonial house because the husband, in-laws
the matter for hearing, in any day during the period of four years i.e.
& the parents treat her as their property.And the husband and in-laws
from January 2004 to January 2008 and the woman became 38 years.
have the right to throw her out and if she is any way aggressive she is
She was threatened that “She would be 50 but appeal will be pending
burnt out. The parents of the girl have no say to it and they console
and she will have no right to marry till the disposal of the appeal be-
themselves by stating that she was born with bad luck. Because before
cause Hindu marriage law says it. The woman had no alternative but to
marriage a girl is a piece of property at their parental house.After
surrender before the husband and filed a compromise deed and the
marriage she is the property of both the matrimonial house and paternal
Hon’ble High Court within couple of days to get the case listed and
house.
dismissed the case. Amost shocking case of divorce under Hindu
Reformaors like Vidyasagar, Rammohan Roy, a preceptor like
Marriage & Divorce Act 1955 revealed in 2008After eight years battle
ParamahansARamkrishna, Vivekananda, men of literature like
in civil, criminal court and High Court for divorce on cruelty ground,
Rabindranath , Bankim Chandra, Sarat Chandra and politicians like
maintenance and return of Streedhan, Sita (name changed) was com-
Mahatma Gandhi, Lokmanya Tilak, Netaji, Pandit Nehru were there
pelled to compromise with her husband Ram ( name changed) and had
but none of them took the painS to abolish the feudal and patriarchal
51 52
to file a joint deed of compromise on 29.12.2007 duly signed by them alimony made up to 30.04.2006 was Rs.55,500.00/- and shown as a
before the Ld. 1st upper Chief Judge at Durg, state Chattisgarh. For deduction of Rs.2000.00/- paid on 24.12.2005 + Rs.4000/- paid on
the sake of formality the Ld judge asked Sita whether she had any 28.01.2006 + Rs.5000.00 paid on 25.02.2006 + Rs.5000.00/- paid
pressure from her husband or from any others to file a joint on 23.03.2006 + Rs.2000/- paid on 06.05.2006 = Rs.18000.00/- and
compromise deed along with her husband. On her reply in negative, the came to a total amount of Rs.37500.00/- But alimony of Rs.1500.00/-
Ld. Judge passed his order on the basis of the compromise deed. for the month of May 2006 was not included with Rs.37500.00/-
Under the influence of male-centric attitude the Ld. Judge did not In the same system of alimony payment the arrears of alimony up to
feel it necessary to peruse the compromise deed. Had it been scanned 30.04.2006 of Rs.37500.00 reduced to Rs.11500.00/- on
by the Ld. Judge through his legal mind he could have realized that 15.06.2007, but the alimony for the period of May 2006 to June 2007
(1) the lack of monetary security (2) perpetual character assassination @ Rs.1500/- per month amounting to Rs.21000.00/- fell in arrears.
& (3) failure in recovering of Streedhan compelled Sita to enter into a The disastrous order of Ld. 1st upper Chief Judge dated 14.09.2007
compromise. These were the outcome of the lacunas and loopholes in on alimony/maintenance had left no other alternative to Sita but to be
Hindu marriageAct 1955. The absence of attitude sympathetic to prey of her husband Ram. She had to enter into a compromise. The
women among these enforcing or interpreting laws & never ending legal said order of Ld. 1st Upper Chief Judge dated 14.09.2007, has
process is sinificant. Lack of monetary security compelled Sita to enter revealed that every default of payment of alimony/maintenance will be a
into a compromise Ram did not pay the alimony @ Rs.2000/- per new cause of action and Sita shall have to file a new case for recovery.
month & thus violated the order of the Ld.Additional Vth District On the interpretation of the decision of the Ld. Court it would reveal
Judge dated 6.12.2003. On 13.11.2004 Sita moved again an applica- that Ld. Court carried out the desire of Ram the husband of Sita and
tion before the VthAdditional District Judge for claiming the alimony made Sita a pAUper who had to look after her parents who are in
passed by the Ld. Court. Sita had to appear, as directed by the Court, their late sixties.
twelve times in between 13.04.2004 to 24.12.2005 before 5th Addi-
tional District Judge, VIIthAdditional District Judge, 1st Track District Fact of the case and Never ending legal process
Court, 2nd Chief Judge (Kutumb Court) and realized only Rs. 2000/- Sita the then aged about 27 years M.A. in English married Ram on 5th
on 24th December 2005, whereas the arrears of alimony reached Rs. July 1998 after negotiation made by their respective parents who were
46000/- from 6th December 2003 to 24th December 2005. The in their sixties.After the marriage Sita went to her matrimonial home
computation of which was Rs.2000/- X 14 months = Rs. 28,000.00 where within a couple of days she found Ram her husband – a menace.
and Rs. 1500.00/-X 12 months = Rs. 18000/- as the appeal Court His acts and deeds revealed his sinister mind. He forbade her going
reduced the alimony Rs.2000/- to Rs.1500/- on 28.01.2005. Sita out of the house and talking with any male person. He doubted her
made an application to the court to direct the employer of Ram, the chastity. She was not even allowed to talk to her father-in-law in his
Govt. of Chattisgarh to recover the alimony of Rs.46000/- in arrears late sixties. He used to address her as bitch, daughter of a pig. He
up to 24.12.2005 and the current alimony from Jan 2006 in instalment used to call her Haramzadi. He started assaultING her physically now
as applicable in the law from the salary of Ram. The Ld. Court kept and then. He shifted from his parents’ house to a flat rented by him for
the application as pending On that date a computation of arrears of the reason best known to him and took Sita to his flat. They started
living in the flat. Within a few days Sita realized that she had no
53 54
freedom. Because while going to duty Ram used to lock the entrance the application for stay of permanent alimony on 28.01.2005 and
door from one side though he used to leave the key with Sita by reduced the permanent alimony of Rs.2000.00 to Rs.1500.00. The
throwing it through window. Sita was not in a position to open the case never came in the cause list for hearing the appeal. In spite of all
lock without having help from outside. Not only that she was strictly efforts Sita failed in last four years to list the case in the cause list of the
advised that she should close all the windows. Sita felt unsafe . Due Hon’ble High Court for adjudication. 27 years old
to such intolErable cruelty, Sita left Ram’s flat on 20.09.1999 and Sita (at the time of marriage) became 38 years. Over the phone now
started living with her parents. Ram through his lawyer sent a notice and then unknown personS used to tell her that “she will be 50 even
to Sita and invited her to matrimonial house. But sita did not feel then appeal would not be listed for adjudication. Ram knew how to do
safe and remained with her parents. it. Keep in your mind that section 15 of the Hindu Marriage act does
not permit you to marry till the appeal is pending. She was advised to
After living separate for 1 year . She filed an application U/S 13 (I-A) enter into a compromise with Ram - her husband. She had no other
of the Hindu Act. 1955 for divorce on the ground of cruelty. She alternative but to give up fight. She understood that Ram her husband is
also filed an application under section 24 of Hindu Marriage act, 1955 using the legal system in India as his tool to force her to settle the case
for maintenance. Ram filed a written statement – there in he did not in his terms.
raise any objection to divorce but opposed the divorce on the ground
of cruel treatment by him as stated in the petition of Sita & claimed Perpetual character assassination
divorce on the ground of adultery by Sita. Ram her husband had made her life hell. On the strength of a stay order
The Ld. Judge found that the accausation made against Sita having dated 17.01.2003 from Hon’ble High Court at Bilaspur in the case U/
illicit relation with some other person were not correct. The Ld. S 482 of cr. P.C. he haS perpetuated the character assassination of
Judge granted sita a decree of divorce on cruelty ground on 6.12.2003 Sita and carried on with the slanderous abusive language against her.
and also granted her alimony @ Rs. 2000.00/- per month payable till
she doES not marry 2nd time. Sita got married at the age of 27years.
At the age of 32 years – the golden period of her life, she fought tooth Fact of the cause
and nail to get rid of Ram – her husband who is a menace. On 6th Sita had filed a case in the year 2002 against Ram before 1st class
December 2003 she thought that she got rid of him. She thought that Magistrate Durg U/S 500 I.P.C for making character assassination of
either she or her parents who were in late sixties now shall find out a her by him in a written statement, filed before the Ld. 5thAdditional
suitable person to marry and to live in peace for the rest of the life. But District & Session Judge Durg in the case of divorce filed by her and
soon she realized it was a daydream. Being aggrieved by the judgement further, circulating the written statement in the neighbourhood. Ld.
and decree dated 06.12.2003 passed in the matrimonial case by the Magistrate after examination – in-chief of the complainant Sita and
Ld. 5th Additional District Judge, Ram filed an appeal on 14.01.2004 after perusing the petition issued summons to Ram. Ram moved Ld.
along with a stay application to stay the permanent alimony of District Judge,After hearing both Sita & filed by Ram and After
Rs.2000.00/-. The appeal was admitted because of 1st appeal. The perusing the relevant documents the Ld Judge dismissed the revision
acting chief justice Fakhruddin of Hon’ble Bilaspur High Court took up application filed by Ram and allowed the Ld. Magistrate to proceed

55 56
with the case. Then Ram moved an application U/S 482 Cr. P.C before of Ld. Nitu Singh 1st class Magistrate. In 9 months the case file was
the Hon’ble High Court at Bilaspur in Chhitisgarh. Hon’ble (Retired) moved from court to court 4 times without any result. In this period of
Justice Fakhruddin stayed the case pending before the Ld. Magistrate 31 months i.e. from 30th April 2005 to 27.12.2007 neither of the 3 Ld.
on 17.01.2003. In spite of the fact that the Ld. Additional 5th District Magistrates could make Ram to appear before the Ld. Court the
Judge Durg found that the accusations made against Sita having illicit record of the Ld. Court reveals that summons were issued and bailable
relation with some other person were not correct and granted Sita a warrant of Rs. 500.00 were also issued 7 times. None of the Ld.
decree of divorce on cruelty ground on 06.12.2003. The said stay Magistrate took any initiative to enquire the fate of the bailable war-
order in the eye of law was subsisting and Ram took advantage for rants. Sita had filed 7 talabanamas and with each talabanama. She
character assassination of Sita. deposited two envelops and each envelop carried stamp
valued Rs. 25.00 as per order of the Ld. Magistrate to enable court to
Return of Streedhan send bailable warrants through Superintendent of Police, Durg and
The cause under section of 27 Hindu Marriage Act 1955 is ambiguous. Superintendent of Police Raipur to forward police station under whose
As such the object is indeterminable – question arose. Whether the jurisdiction the accused Ram stays and the accused Ram works. But
concept of Streedhan is abolished or the remedy for breach of trust the Ld. Magistrate did not try to trace out the fourteen envelops each
under the criminal law is taken away.Apex court had to come in the of worth Rs,25/- which amounting Rs.25.00/- X 14/- = Rs.350.00/-.
way and declared in the year 1985 that section 27 no where provides 31 months Sita along with her mother who was in late sixties and
that the concept of Streedhan is abolished or the remedy for breach of suffered from Perkinsons disease used to sit in a bench out side the
trust under the criminal law is taken away. The law commission had the court room from 10.30 AM to 5.00 P.M till the case is adjourned for
opportunity to amend the section 27 at Hindu Marriage Act 1955 in next date and a fresh non bailable warrant was issued and shall be
order to make the issue of Streedhan clear and to enable the judiciary complied provided the complainant Supti deposit another two envelops
to order the return of the Streedhan to the wife while passing the pasted with stamp valued Rs. 25.00 in each. Though in the year 2006
decree for divorce. But they do not prefer to do it for the reason best the domestic violence Act was enacted which provides among others “
known to them. In the instant case the Ld. 5thAdditional District the mandated return of Streedhan besides giving court power to
Judge granted the decree of divorce on cruelty ground to Sita on restrain the alienation of assets.” The loopholes in the laws have been
06.12.2003 and also granted permanent alimony to her but kept – used as a handle by the husband to deny Streedhan to Sita with the
silence on the issue of returning Streedhan.As such after the divorce help of the legal process prevail in India.
Sita claimed her Streedhan through her lawyer. In spite of repeated Ranjit Roy is a veterant journalist. He shook the country in his prime youth
request Ram denied her Streedhan through the letter of his lawyer. with the coverage of the killing of the ruler of the Bastar in MP during the
Ultimately Sita filed a case U/S 406 before Chief Judicial Magistrate on chief ministership of D.P. Mishra. He is now passing his day peacefully
30th April, 2005, C.J.M transferred the case in the court of M.S Venita having retired from active journalism. He is in his seventies now.
Devi Ld. 1st class Magistrate for trial on 17.06.2005. Again the case
was transferred on 21.12.2005 in the court of Ld. Girija Devi 1st class
Magistrate .Again the case was transferred on 27.12.2006 in the court
57 58
I was also lost in those memories of our college days. We had our dreams. We

An unforgettable thought that we should write for the common people. And in such a time Abhinava
came into Manisha’s life. She went to her Uncle’s house at a village to spend her
holidays and she met Abhinava there. They loved each other at first sight. Manisha
after spending her holidays came back to the college. She was so happy. She told
me about Abhinava in a mellow voice. She was blushing while showing me all her

memory love letters. She told me ‘Lipsa, the dream I have about my life comes true after
meeting Abhinava. He is the person whom I have been dreaming always’. She
started dreaming about her future conjugal life. After the exam was over both of us
went back home. We wrote letters to each other.I knew that Manisha was prepar-
ing herself for competitive Exam. And she joined the banking service. Avinabha
Nirjharini Das also joined IAS and was undergoing the training. Both of us were happy. And all
on a sudden his heart problem was detected. He was admitted in the Medical
II met Manisha after a long time all on a sudden. She was also surprised to see me College Hospital of Delhi. And he expired soon. “You can not imagine Lipsa, how
at the bank she was working. I never thought that we would meet each other like I spent my days after his death.” Manisha sobbed “I do not feel like living for a
this. Both of us were overwhelmed with joy meeting each other after long twelve single moment. I can not accept his untimely death” She said with tearful eyes.
years. Our maturity stopped us to burst forth with all our emotion boiling up “My relatives, friends all tried to console me. They asked me to forget Abhi and to
within. We could not react the way we used to during our college days. Neverthe- start life anew.” She kept on narrating her days of past. “Neither the tears of my
less we got tremendously excited when we saw each other at the bank. Manisha mother’s eyes nor the sadness of my father could change my mind, I used to feel so
took me at her chamber holding my hand with all her warmth. I was surprised to see lonely still I could not say yes to the proposals of my marriage”. She stopped for
that Manisha still remembered that I liked coffee and she ordered coffee for me. I a while and mopped her eyes. “Two years have passed like this I was alone work-
asked her ‘When did you come to this bank?’ ‘Just six month back’ she replied. ing in the bank then impelled by the situation I agreed to marry. “I am competent in
Manisha was not only my classmate, we were roommates too in the hostel during every way... I am beautiful... intelligent... working, naturally numbers of proposals
our college days. We were intimate friends. Manisha Choudhury was the all rounder WERE coming for me. But I always wanted them to know about my past. I also
of our college. Nobody ever beat her either in studies or in extracurricular activi- expected them to empathies with me.” She said sadly. “People like me while they
ties. I could remember each and every moment we spent together. Those days were see me. But as soon as they know about my past they disapprove me for marriage.
so exciting and interesting. We used to read romantic novels together. My family got tired of this recurring refusals and ultimately they stopped their
efforts to get me this recurring refusals and ultimately they stopped their efforts to
Manisha asked me, ‘Lipsa are you writing stories still now?’ ‘Yes, sometimes’ I get me married and got busy with their own affairs. I tried to be busy with my
replied. We kept quiet for sometimes. Then Manisha murmured -Lipsa I can not tell career.” Manisha smiled. I saw tears falling down from her smile. She was in search
you how I passed those painful days when I came to know that Abhinava had a of a person who could empathize her. She wanted her to be accepted not only as a
heart problem. ‘And god knows only how I spent those days till he expired’ Manisha woman but also as a human being. It was afternoon. We spent quite a long time
started sobbing. I tried to console her. She took some time to control herself. ‘After together. My son must have returned from school by this time. So I came out of the
the death of Abhinava’, she said ‘I do not feel like living’. But there was no other bank with a heavy heart. And I felt it was not Manisha’s problem only it was a
way for me but to live. And I survived somehow. ‘You know Lipsa’ she spoke problem which many women often face.
unmindfully, ‘I could remember those beautiful days of our college life. We to-
gether read so many novels. I remembered how we used to go to the canteen An empathatic person Sree Das is a house wife with a curious
together. Those days were so lively and colourful. We were so empathetic. We felt mind.
happy when we saw somebody happy, we were sorry when some one shared one’s
sorrow with us.’
59 60
invitees pray to god for a smooth and peaceful married life of their daughter

Nikah Sinni or Methai sent by the bridegrooms family are being distributed
among the invitees. Then one of the relatives who must be a woman of
the bride comb her hair. Usually the poor relatives are given the oppor-
tunity to perform this ceremony.And she has been offered a Saree called
Nayana Begum Mathabadhani Saree from Lagandala (specialy sent by bridegrooms
family for this ceremony).
It is said that Nikah is decided in the heaven but happens in the Then there is mehendi ceremony, mehendi has been put on both the hands
earth.Hence nikah is something of a divine event.It begins with the prepa- of the bride. Beautiful designs are drawn with the mehendi. She putting
ration of Uptan - I would like to call it odorous ceremony.One month on a beautiful bright Saree make-up and ornaments comes a to have the
before this divine happening al most all the elder female relatives of the kheer. Then her mother serves her Khusbudar Kheer and some other
bride collect the scented flower petals like Rose, Jesmine,Gandharaj etc. palatable dishes like chicken, sweets, malpoa, Pakwan, fruits etc.All the
Masurdal, yokeof the eggs, scented masala get dried in the sun sepa- invitees offer Kheer to the bride from the bowl and then offer money as
rately. Then they are mixed and smashed together and the Uptan is ready. theirAshirbad to the bride. ‘Kheer Khawano’continues in the next day.
It has a unique smell. The bride applies this Uptan on her body and face In the very morning of the divine happening there is a Rasam said ‘Uso-
fifteen days before the divine happening -the marriage.It adds glow in her tel’.
skin and makes the body odorous. There is a Rasam called Lagan which 7 married ladies hold a Dopatta on the brides head and pour oil on it. It
is being observed two days before the Nikah. They send Lagan dala is said that the bride’s anger will flow away through this oil.The women
from bridegroom’s house. Sarees,Churi, Cosmetics, other daily usable takes the oil from brides head and applies the same on the hair of unmar-
of the bride, turmeric, big fish , dahi, methai are there in this Lagan dala. ried girls as it is believed that marriage of those girls who have been given
And it is supposed that the bride will use the items of the Lagan dala the same oil of the bride’s hair will be quickened . Then finally the bride-
henceforth. The quantity of fish, methai etc are decided during the’Pakka groom comes along with his companions (baryatri) the female who ac-
katha’ between the elders of two families. The quality and as well as the companies the bridegroom are called ‘Dolar bibi’. There is separate ar-
quantity of the items sent in the ‘Lagan dala’ in fact represents the Shan- rangement for this Dolar bibi.After reaching the bride’s place they offer
o-saukat (status) of the bridegrooms family. This fish, dahi are distrib- one Saree and one nose ring to the bride’s mother. The bride performing
uted among the nearest relatives and neighbour’s of the bride. the ‘uju’(washing one’s hands , face and feet before the prayer) puts on
the saree and the nose ring. Moulovi saheb or any relative of the bride
There is one red bordered saree dyed in turmeric in that Lagandala sent who is a religious person preferably a Haji functions as a ukil ‘chosen by
by the bridegrooms family. The bride applies the same turmeric on her both the families of the bride and bridegroom. He is the person who in
body. Then she takes bath and puts on the same Saree dyed in turmeric the majlis takes the consent from both bride and bridegroom individually
. In the evening there is another Rasam called ‘Kheer Khawano’ whether they are agreed to marry. He comes to the bride with three wit-
The nearest relatives and neighours of the brides are invited in nesses from bridegroom’s family and informs the bride that the son of Mr.
the evening in this Rasam . Moulovi Saheb chants ‘Milad sharif’.All the so and so stays in so and so place. He comes to marry her and as nego-

61 62
tiated before the bridegroom is ready to pay the amount of Denmohor. sweets and milk to the bridegroom. And the left out of those sweet and
By the way the amount of Denmohor are not offered to the bride in the milk are offered to the bride. Covering
Majlis. It is announced only. Thus it is rather a symbolic event. If there is the head with a Dopatta of both the bride and bridegroom the sister in-
a Talak or the marriage breaks then the same amount announced in the law of the bride or any female relative of the bride puts a mirror inside the
Majlis as Denmohar will be paid to the bride by the bridegroom. Dopatta. And both of them have to see each other through this mirror.
The bride agrees She has to say yes for three times. This is called ’Akat’. The sister in-law then asks the bridegroom how is the bride? The bride-
AfterAkat the daughter is handed over to the bridegroom’s family offi- groom replies that she is just like a moon. Nikah is over now. The Rasam
cially. Naturally the relatives of the bride become sad.Then the Ukil along of Bedai is observed after the Nikah. All the gift items offered to the
with those same witnesses comes to the male Majlis and informs the bride and bridegrooms by the relatives, invitees and the bride’s family
bridegroom .The same way he announces in the Majlis of the bride.And are given with the bride while she is going to the Sasural.Aspecial ‘thal’
if the bridegroom agrees and says yes thrice then Khurma (a kind of dry is also being given for bridegroom’s mother during Bedai.Apoor woman
fruit) is distributed among the invitees by the bridegroom’s elders. The or any other relative with whom the bride is comfortable accompanies
bridegrooms mother comes to the bride’s mother or in absence of her her to the bridegroom’s house so that she does not feel lonely in the new
mother to the other aged female and offers her a Saree along with Chola, place. At the moment of Bedai bride and the close relatives of bride
coconut, fruits, sweets etc because the bride’s mother is observing fast weep and with tearful eyes they see off the newly married couple and
throughout the day. the bride’s mother offers Saree to the bridegroom’s pray to god for their happy conjugal life. And surprisingly the heavenly
mother too. This Rasam is called Samdin Milani. odour vanishes...
Then the bridegroom is being served with a Thal - a special dish. It con-
sists of chicken roast, pakwan, sweets, kheer, fruits and other palatable Nayana Begum is a social worker working in the field of youth
items. The friends of the bridegroom and companions are also invited in development for last 12 years.
this feast. All the invitees, the baryatris are catered with biriani, kabab,
murg massalam and burani. Then bridegroom’s elder show the Saree and
ornaments which they will offer to the bride and the bride will put on the
same during the Milan to the Majlis. And the
bride’s elder also shows the valuables they are going to offer to their
daughter as decided during Paca dekha there in the Majlis.
Then the bride puts on the Saree and ornaments, gifted by the both the
families. One or two relatives of the bridegroom helps her to get pre-
pared .By this time the bride’s elders prepare a place for the Rasam
Milan.At first bridegroom sits there then the bride comes. The father of
the bride takes his daughter’s hand and places in the hand of the bride-
groom. The relatives of bride come and offer gifts to the bridegroom.
Some offer gifts to the bride too. Then the bride’s mother offers some

63 64