Is gender equality possible? This is the question raised in today’s discussion. I am not a woman. I do not understand what difficulties a woman has to go through. Whatever, I am writing is from the perspective of a man.
Traditionally, in Indian society women had and still have a high place. Deities in female form are still worshipped all over India, as manifestation of Shakti, in different names and forms – Durga, Kali, Lakshmi, Saraswati, the list goes on. The highest knowledge attainable for a human is self knowledge. In Vedic times, Maitreyi had challeged seer Yagnavalka, who also happened to be her husband, in an open debated on Brahman. History is replete with examples where women have not only excelled in knowledge of self, but they have ruled kingdoms, fought battles and entered fire fearlessly to prove their honor.
It is true that for many many centuries women have been treated poorly in India. For a long time it was believed, and in many places it is still believed, that the rightful place of a woman is in the kitchen. A man marries a woman only to give birth to a male child. Though proscribed by law, a girl child is still killed at brith, before birth and after birth. A girl child is not given the advantage of education, in many a case a girl is raised only to be married off, if not married off early. Brides are set on fire for not bringing enough dowry or for not producing a male child. A male child obsessed society believes that like Shravana Kumar of Mahabharata, a son will look after his elderly parents and may open the door to heaven during final journey by lighting father’s funeral pyre. It is becoming more and more apparent that it is our daughters who look after elderly parents, even at the expense of not having any family.
At the spiritual level both man and woman has equality because both are entitled to self knowledge. At the physical and mental level differences manifest in physique, physiology and psychology. Nature has created male and female with different objectives in mind to perform different natural functions. Though by rigourous discipline a woman can develop muscle like a man or a man can change into a woman. But women needs to decide whether they become another man with a female physique or retains characteristic traits of a woman yet competes with a man professionally. Like in an organisation, two functional area heads may be interdependent but not subordinate to one another.
Only thing a woman needs is an opportunity to grow. In free India, policies are being created to give women opportunity to study, to get employed, to protect the nation, or to blossom in another way they consider possible. In recently concluded Jakarta Asian Games of 2018, athletes Hima Das, Swapna Barman and Dutie Chand have shown that given right opportunity a woman can a achieve similar feat, if not better, compared to a man. Women have to take these opportunities come to position of power and extend the helping hand to other women following them.
Though women in India have a long road ahead to attain the freedom enjoyed by their counterparts in other developed democracies, framework for their stride ahead is being setup. Dignity and equality of women is part of our culture and tradition. We need to nurture it and make it blossom. Because, without women sharing the burden of national building with men, society remains lopsided.
In the words of Swami Vivekananda, “All nations have attained greatness by paying proper respect to women. That country and that nation which do not respect women have never become great, nor will ever be in future. The principal reason why your race has so much degenerated is that you have no respect for these living images of Shakti.”
This post is written as part of Indispire prompt on Gender Equality. More posts on the prompt may be found here.