First Ladies: Contribution of Indian Women in 20th century

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Contribution of Indian Women in 20th century

Indira Gandhi, the “Margaret Thatcher” of India, is one of the most powerful Indian women in the country’s history. There is a list of powerful and emancipated Indian women, like Indira Gandhi, such as Sarojini Naidu, a devoted participant of India’s freedom struggle alongside Mahatma Gandhi; Kiran Bedi, India’s first women who joined Indian Police Service in 1972 as a highest ranking officer and is famous for her tough and innovative police strategies; Indira Noyi, chairwoman and CEO of PepsiCo is Indian-born leading business women in corporate America; internationally acclaimed actress and former Miss World Aishwarya Rai Bacchan; and many more. Although there are a number of powerful women in India, who are able to exercise their agency in India and abroad, there are also the common women. For the common woman in India, generally the society places her in an endless cycle of duties as a mother, wife, and daughter, which obliterates her identity as well as restrains her agency within the society. Because India is diverse and vast, women’s status depends on their position within the stratified society. For example, the status of an upper middle class woman in the metropolitan cities is far better than the women in the remote towns and cities, who are still following the traditional lifestyle of the 18th century. Though not discussed in the paper, caste is another method of classification in the Indian society. Over the course of the twentieth century, there 4 have been many reform movements to transform the subjugated role of women in the Indian society. The purpose of this paper is to examine the evolution of a common Indian woman’s status through literature from 1900s to present. Literature acts as a lens into a culture and novels intensify and exemplify the numerous issues, which Indian women have faced. The novels I will study are Rabindranath Tagore‘s The Home and The World (1915), Manju Kapur‘s Difficult Daughters (1998), and Anita Nair’s Ladies Coupé (2001). In these novels, the three female protagonists, Bimala, Virmati, and Akhila try to overcome their traditional roles and impose their identity in their respective society. Although there are exceptional cases, it is education, which allows distinction between a progressive woman and a woman confined in her traditional role. The more learned a woman is, the more she is able to exercise her agency. However, before delving into the novels, it is vital to the place them within the historical as well as sociological context. In order to do so, the knowledge of the status of women pre1900s is essential. Hence, I will mention a brief summary, which discusses the status of women during the Indus civilization, Aryan, and Mogul times. In addition, my focus will be on the three reform movements, which took place after the 1900s, which have taken place to promote the agency of women in the Indian society. I will compare the characters of the novels such as Bimala, Virmati, Akhila, and Janaki with either real women, such as Sarla Devi, Rabindranath Tagore’s famous niece, who were in similar situations as they were or will compare them to mythological Goddesses such as Sita from India’s famous epic, The Ramayana. I have also examined the sociological books such as Elizabeth Bumiller’s May You Be the Mother of a Hundred Sons and Bharati Ray’s Early Feminists of Colonial India. In addition, I have also 5 mentioned Hannah Fane’s “Female Element in Indian Culture” and Sophie and Michael Tharakan’s “Status of Women in India: A Historical Perspective.” I will also examine a quote in Manu smriti and how this saying has codified in the Indian culture. Tagore’s The Home and The World is set during the Swadeshi movement. The Swadeshi movement developed from the Partition of Bengal, which took place in 1905 and 1908. Initially, the Partition plan was opposed in 1905 Calcutta Town Hall meetings, through the conventional methods of opposition such as press campaigns, meetings, petitions, as well as, conferences were held. Because these methods failed to make a difference, new methods were introduced such as the boycott of British goods “with the aim of encouraging indigenous industry and cottage crafts.” 2 At this time, the women’s emancipation movements were gaining momentum. One of the most influential organizations was All India Women’s Conference, it was established in 1927 as a forum, which not only began a forum to discuss women’s issues, but grew to become an organization, which targeted issues such as purdah, child marriage, and other issues women faced in the 19th century India (Bumiller 19). The nationalist movement was causing fervor and changing the gender dynamics of Bengal at this time. The concept of motherland was becoming popular at this time as notions such as the Mother Goddess. Bankim Chandra Chaterjee had penned the National Song of India, Bande Mataram (Hail Motherland) in 1876. 3Rabindranath Tagore was among those involved in the Swadeshi movement. He wrote a song portraying Bengal as Goddess Durga. In addition, he composed Gaire Baire, or the Home and The World, which I will further study. While the novel has themes of Indian nationalism and terrorism, it also deals with emancipation of women. Bimala, the female protagonist, is caught in the love triangle, between two men. Nikhil, her husband, embraces the western ideologies and his rival and friend, Sandeep represents values, which Nikhil disagrees with, especially Sandeep’s 6 involvement in the Swadeshi movement. Nikhil encourages Bimala to become an educated woman. He hires a Miss Gilby to teach her. (Tagore 19) The confusion she faces is symbolic of the inner conflict a middle-class woman faced at this time period, which was whether to become independent or to remain confined the walls of her threshold. The next novel is Difficult Daughters, written by Manju Kapur. Although it is written in 1998, the novel is set on the time period during the last years, which were leading to the sociopolitical catastrophe, the Partition of 1947. During this time period, women were involved in Gandhi’s Satyagraha movement. The Satyagraha movement was essentially Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violent civil disobedience campaign. While women were gradually becoming active during the Swadeshi movement a decade earlier. It was during this movement, when they were highly involved in the fight for their independent nation. According to Jawaharlal Nehru’s The Discovery of India, mentioned in Bumiller’s book, he recounts that “our women came to the front and took charge of the struggle. Women had always been there, of course, but now there was an avalanche of them, which took not only the British government but their own men folk by surprise. Here were these women, women of the upper or middle classes, leading sheltered lives in their own homes-peasant women, working -class women, rich women-pouring out in their tens of thousands in defiance of government order…it was not only that display of courage and daring, but what was even more surprising was the organizational power they showed (Bumiller 19).” While there are female characters in the novel like Swarnalata participating in the movement, the novel is centered on Virmati. Harish falls for her because she is an educated woman, unlike his wife, Ganga, whom he has to marry according to the tradition of arranged childhood marriage. Virmati struggles to create an identity for herself and is like, Bimala, in many ways because she is unable to make a mark of herself within her society. Her desire and 7 passion towards Harish impedes her intellectual goals. The goals, which could have led her to emancipation like the women, she idolized. While these two novels are set within the historical context exemplifying the struggles women faced during in the early 20th century. However, the final and last novel, which I will analyze, will focus on the contemporary issues women face. The last novel is Anita Nair’s Ladies Coupé. In the Ladies Coupé, Nair questions a taboo, which continues to affect many women in India to this day. Akilandeshwari or Akhila is a forty-five year old spinster, who was unable to marry due to the hardships and circumstances, which her family faced after her father’s death. She was immediately considered the “man” of the family because she is the eldest daughter. She has to take responsibility for her siblings and mother, and therefore, no one imposes marriage upon her and assumes she is happy with her situation. In the novel, she is seated in a ladies cabin in a train from Bangalore to Kanyakumari. I will examine her and a fellow passenger, Janaki. Nair alludes to Sita, Rama’s consort in the Ramayana. However, Janaki is not like Sita and dominates her husband. In order to place the novels in the India’s socio-historical context, it is important to briefly discuss the turning points of the status of women in the Indian history.

The Status of Indian Women Pre-1900s:

The Discussion of Manu smriti and Ramayana . While it is difficult to compress the thousands of years of Indian history in a couple paragraphs, I will discuss the important moments in a historical timeline, which defined the status of women before the 1930s. The “golden period” of a woman’s status was during the Indus civilization. The matriarchal society transformed into a male-dominated system after the 8 Aryans came to India. The third and final declination happened during the Mogul times. It was not until the 19th century when reforms began to take place opposing the practice of sati, purdah, and child marriage. There were three major reform movements, which elevated and involved women: The Swadeshi Movement, The Satyagraha movement, and another movement, which began in the 1970s ignited by the report “Towards Equality,” written by Vina Mazumdar. India’s civilization began in the Indus Valley 4,500 to 5000 years ago. Mother Goddess was one of the major Gods the Dravidians*, the inhabitants of the Indus Valley worshipped. In Hannah Fane’s “The Female Element in Indian Culture,” Fane notes that in the pre-Aryan society, archaeologists have unearthed figurines in Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro. The figurines were adorned with necklaces and wore a headdress. In addition, archaeologists also found “seals and sealings, approximately one-inch square; many of these portray the Goddess. One depicts a nude female, her legs apart and a plant issuing from her womb.” 4 Animals, such as tigers, doves, and bulls, were also illustrated in the seals. There is a seal, which shows a nude woman with a body of tiger and horns of a goat. The tiger is still considered the vehicle of Goddess Lakshmi even in contemporary India. There are more depictions of bulls rather than doves in the society. The bulls are also a symbol of fertility painted beside a dancing woman. It is also always found beside the Shiva-lingam in the present India (Fane 55).These depictions indicate that there was female pre-dominance in the Indus civilization. Sir John Marshall*, the man who discovered the Indus civilization, agrees that the women’s maternal attribute was venerated: In no country in the world has the worship of the Divine Mother been so deep rooted and ubiquitous as India. Her shrines are found in every town and hamlet throughout. She is the…prototype of power…which developed into that of Sakti. The first reform movement of the status of Indian women took place during the nineteenth century among the middle class in Calcutta, during the time period of British Raj. The Home and the World is emblematic of the struggle, which was taking place within the middle class households. These reformers challenged the practices of sati, purdah*, and child marriage. During this era, Raja Rammohan Roy* and Mahadev Govind Ranade* are few renowned names, who were an important part of this reform. In 1856, the widow remarriage was allowed while sati was banned in 1859. 11 During the 1930s, a significant progress was made of the status. It was in 1937, when the Hindu Woman’s Right to Property Act was passed for the widows. Tagore’s Home and The World was first published in 1915. Its contents magnify on a single woman, Bimala, who seeks to become independent, after being educated on her husband, Nikhil’s insistence, and steps out of the domestic sphere. The moment she steps out of the traditional boundaries, she is drawn towards his friend, Sandeep who preaches the Swadeshi movement and even worships her comparing her to Goddess Durga. Because her husband is progressive, he does not impose any decision on her and lets her decide between him and his friend. However, this novel is more than just a romantic novel; it also represents Rabindranath Tagore’s inner struggle. His disdain of the nationalistic movement occurs because he feels sympathetic towards those who are alienated from participating in the movement. As mentioned before in the introduction, the Satyagraha movement involved the participation of women in large numbers from all walks of life. After these movements, the latest movement began in the 1970s. According to Bumiller, mid-1970s also saw a major development of the status of Indian women when the government had released the contentious report on the status of Indian Women. It was 14 written by Vina Mazumdar*, entitled “Towards Equality”, which studied the status of women since independence. This report serves as the basis “for the current status of current women’s status in India.”


Has the Status of Women Progressed in 2009? The Ladies Coupé embodies a certain amount of progress, which the status of woman has made over the years. The ending of the novel, when a forty-five year old woman has achieved agency despite making numerous self-sacrifices for her family is a sign of progress, when she does not have to depend on any body in her life. At the end of the novel, Nair ends with Akhila gathering courage to bring Hari back into her life. Akhila abandons her inhibitions regarding the stigma attached with the odd nature of her relationship with him: The telephone on the table near the bed rings. Akhila walks towards it. Her heart races. She wonders: could it be him? Hari’s voice is low and cautious; incredulous, too. ‘Hello,’ she says. ‘This is Akhila. Akhilandeswari.” (Nair 290) The novel ends in a powerful note. Akhila emphasizes her name towards the end of the novel as if her identity has been resurrected and she has finally able to live for herself and pursue her desires, without the duties she was restricted to before the life-changing journey in the ladies 44 coupé. Nair‘s novel is emblematic of the progress, women have made in India. Akhila is strong and independent. She supports her family after her father’s unexpected death. Because of the responsibilities placed upon her as the breadwinner of her family, no one expects that Akhila will get married. Instead, her family depends on her for their needs, ignoring her needs and wants. However, the end of the novel is Akhila’s triumph and for once, she is able to live by herself without any strings attached. The novels, The Home and the World and Difficult Daughters, showcase the gradual progress of the status of Indian women, which is achieved in Ladies Coupé. In Tagore’s masterpiece, Nikhil forces his wife, Bimala, to step out of the domestic sphere and the moment she does, she is drawn to the fire of the Swadeshi movement, ignited by Nikhil friend and rival, Sandeep. Sandeep is symbolic of every notion, which Tagore despised; he is also the “devil”, which lures Bimala to betray the trust of her ideal husband by stealing for Sandeep to support her involvement in the Swadeshi movement. On one hand, Tagore is definitely suggesting that the Swadeshi movement allowed the women a medium, by which they were able to step out of their allocated sphere at home and were able to involve themselves in the force of nationalism, which was sweeping across India, especially in Calcutta. On the other hand, Tagore is ambivalent towards the status of women in India during the era he resided in. Sandeep reveres Bimala as a Goddess. This is a gender-reversal of a concept of India, where women generally worship their husbands. In this case, Bimala is venerated, which shows that women were no longer viewed as just mothers, daughters, and wives, whose lives revolved around her husband and children, but a woman who is able to impose her agency within the society. Nikhil desires to gain Bimala’s love outside of the domestic sphere and therefore, allows 45 her to step out of the purdah. He is an idealistic man. According to Mohammad Quayum, Nikhil “remains calm, gentle, understanding, forgiving, liberal, rational and altruistic throughout the novel, while Sandip is selfish, manipulative, irrational, oppressive, and tyrannical. Nikhil is so tranquil that he does not lose his poise even when his wife flirts with his friend in his own house, in front of his very eyes”.43In a patriarchal system, Nikhil’s behavior is astonishing. He allows the “world” to enter his “home” through Sandeep’s presence and although he is aware of Bimala’s infatuation of Sandeep, he does not resist their liaison. The ending of the novel is cinematic. Bimala’s realization of her forbidden lust of Sandeep’s obsession of the Swadeshi movement provokes her to steal from her husband. Thereby, she falls from her Goddess-like character. She was elevated to by Sandeep. Ironically also, after failing from her euphoric obsession of Sandeep and the nationalist movement, she falls into Nikhil’s feet after realizing her mistake: When her storm of grief had abated she sat up. I tried to draw her to my breast, but she pushed my arms away and knelt at my feet, touching them repeatedly with her head, in obeisance. I hastily drew my feet back, but she clasped them in her arms, saying in a choking voice: ‘No, no, no, you must not take away your feet. Let me do my worship (Tagore 199). Throughout the novel, Bimala is the object of glorification and worship, by both men but at the end, she returns to her role as the traditional wife, who worships her husband. Therefore, Tagore points to the growing movement, which was designed to elevate the status of women. However, there was an air of ambivalence in response to this movement. Hence, Bimala returns to the feet of her husband. Her action symbolizes her return to the duties, she upheld in the domestic sphere 46 before becoming infatuated with Sandeep. However, Nikhil hesitates her gesture showing his chivalric and broad-minded nature, but Tagore emphasizes that Bimala had made a mistake, when she was drawn to Sandeep. It should not be forgotten that Nikhil wanted to test his relationship with Bimala outside of their domestic space. Unfortunately, Bimala is unable to handle the freedom and is overwhelmed with the veneration she receives and thus steals from him, showing her inadequacy to handle this freedom to act as an independent woman. Hence, Bimala is symbolic of the hesitancy, which many families surely must have faced when their daughters and wives were becoming involved in the Swadeshi movement. However, it was a time of change. This novel represents the ambivalence people were feeling towards the consequences of the movement. It was forcing women to step out of their “home” into the “world.” The title of this novel is representative of the dilemma women at this time were facing, due to the frenzy ignited by the movement. The Difficult Daughters, which observes the decade right after the early 1900s, when the Swadeshi movement was taking place. It was the time when Gandhi’s Satyagraha movement was taking place where women joined with Gandhi to oppose the British Raj. Kapur focuses on the life of Virmati, the heroine of the novel, who opposes the traditions of the society in order to become independent. However, before she is able to achieve her own independence in the society, which her cousin, Shakuntala, and friend, Swarnalata experience, she is suspended into an endless cycle, where she experiences independence and incapability to exercise her agency throughout the course of the novel. The ending of the novel shows her ending as a traditional housewife, who has borne, Ida, her daughter and narrator of the novel. Despite many attempts to end the illicit relationship she has with Harish, she is constantly drawn to him. The turning point happens when Harish’s friend finds out that Virmati is leaving for Shantiniketan, Tagore’s 47 school, because Harish has not made any decision and has been avoiding his marriage to her. Even when his friend tries to persuade his marriage to Virmati, he is hesitant to marry her: ‘What can I do? I am hemmed in and tortured on all sides. I know I have been unfair to her- I know. And yet what can I do?’ Harish turned an agitated face to the poet. ‘Everyone will condemn me, her. My children will never accept it, nor my mother. You know the constraints. Surely, I need not explain myself to you (Kapur 185).’ Harish wants the best of both worlds. While he wants to continue his marriage to Ganga to comply with the traditions, he also wants Virmati in his life. Whenever Virmati tries to remove herself from him, he pursues her to keep her with him. Throughout the novel, there are many instances, which show his unwillingness to let go of her. For example, when Virmati’s marriage is arranged to Inderjit, Harish sends her numerous letters persuading her to break the marriage. When she moves to Lahore to pursue her B.A., he follows her there as well. His friends in Lahore arrange their secret rendezvous, which lands her pregnant. Tired of waiting for him to marry her and divorce Ganga, Virmati decides to join Shantiniketan, which is her last attempt to start a new life for herself, where she can exercise her agency. However, she ends up marrying Harish in unforeseen circumstances. Her marriage to him is not received well and suddenly, she loses her agency she experienced in Lahore attempting to become a part of his family. Eventually, she escapes the uneasy and uncomfortable atmosphere when she decides to pursue her Master’s degree in Lahore. Virmati represents the gradual progress, which was taking place at this time. While there were strong and independent women who were taking part in the Satyagraha movement, women like Virmati who wanted to experience both independence and a 48 married life, were viewed as having incapability to govern their life. Kapur’s book was released in 1998 and unlike Tagore’s novel, which was written when the movement was taking place, Kapur creates a problematic character in Virmati to show numerous shades of women, who were affected by the force of the Satyagraha movement. From the progression of the novel, Bimala returns to her husband and falls into his feet after realizing that her infatuation with Sandeep and his ideologies. During her era, women in middle-class India were not able to become educated, but Nikhil provides education for her and wishes that she accept him out of her heart and decision, not because she has to because of the traditions of arranged marriage imposed of her. Virmati’s education leads her to have an illicit affair with Harish, who is her teacher. She tries numerous times to break away from his presence, because he wants to make her his companion despite social taboos. Eventually, she ends in a polygamous marriage with him until the Partition, when Ganga and Harish are separated. However, she is never as successfully “independent” as her cousin, Shakuntala, and Swarnalata. Education allows women to become stronger and aware of the events happening beyond the responsibilities they had as a housewife. Finally, Akhila’s decision to overcome social taboos in pursuit of her love, Hari at the end is evidence of her agency, which she has gained after leaving her responsibilities and ungrateful family members to live her life, the way she wants to. Although all these characters we have discussed have experienced some agency, the situation of women in India is much better than it was in the 19th century. However, due to the lack of education available to all women in India, especially in remote villages in India, women are wholly unable to impose their agency. Nair’s use of the name Janaki to discuss the story of a stereotypical wife is evidence of Ramayana’s effect on culture. Sita’s character as the demure 49 and obedient wife is still revered culturally. The famous Law of Manu, which was highlighted in the study of the novels, continues to become an important part of the Indian culture. Since independence, the role of women has become expansive within the Indian society and Elizabeth Bumiller’s sociological study, May You Be the Mother of a Hundred Sons, is evidence of it. Since Rammohun Roy, there have been many feminists activists in India. Women like Vina Mazumdar, Ramabai Ranade, Aparna Sen, Deepa Mehta, and many more, are making a difference in India showcasing the plight of many societal issues, which women face in India. No longer are women bound to child marriages, or are being burned into the pyre. Although their situation is much better than it was in the 19th century, women continue to be in the 20th and 21st century in India are in a paradoxical situation. 50

Indian Women in Post Independence period

Women in India now participate fully in areas such as education, sports, politics, media, art and culture, service sectors, science and technology, etc. Indira Gandhi, who served as Prime Minister of India for an aggregate period of fifteen years, is the world's longest serving woman Prime Minister.[18] [1] The Constitution of India guarantees to all Indian women equality (Article 14),[19] no discrimination by the State (Article 15(1)),[20] equality of opportunity (Article 16),[19] equal pay for equal work (Article 39(d)) and Article 42[21].[19] In addition, it allows special provisions to be made by the State in favour of women and children (Article 15(3)), renounces practices derogatory to the dignity of women (Article 51(A) (e)), and also allows for provisions to be made by the State for securing just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief. (Article 42).[22] Feminist activism in India gained momentum in the late 1970s. One of the first national-level issues that brought women's groups together was the Mathura rape case. The acquittal of policemen accused of raping a young girl Mathura in a police station led to country-wide protests in 1979–1980. The protest, widely covered by the national media, forced the Government to amend the Evidence Act, the Criminal Procedure Code, and the Indian Penal Code; and created a new offence, custodial rape.[22] Female activists also united over issues such as female infanticide, gender bias, women's health, women's safety, and women's literacy. Since alcoholism is often associated with violence against women in India,[23] many women groups launched anti-liquor campaigns in Andhra Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and other states.[22] Many Indian Muslim women have questioned the fundamental leaders' interpretation of women's rights under the Shariat law and have criticised the triple talaq system (see below about 2017).[14] Mary Roy won a lawsuit in 1986, against the inheritance legislation of her Keralite Syrian Christian community in the Supreme Court. The judgement ensured equal rights for Syrian Christian women with their male siblings in regard to their ancestral property.[24][25] Until then, her Syrian Christian community followed the provisions of the Travancore Succession Act of 1916 and the Cochin Succession Act, 1921, while elsewhere in India the same community followed the Indian Succession Act of 1925.[26] In the 1990s, grants from foreign donor agencies enabled the formation of new women-oriented NGOs. Self-help groups and NGOs such as Self Employed Women's Association (SEWA) have played a major role in the advancement of women's rights in India. Many women have emerged as leaders of local movements; for example, Medha Patkar of the Narmada Bachao Andolan. In 1991, the Kerala High Court restricted entry of women above the age of 10 and below the age of 50 from Sabarimala Shrine as they were of the menstruating age. However, on 28 September 2018, the Supreme Court of India lifted the ban on the entry of women. It said that discrimination against women on any grounds, even religious, is unconstitutional.[27][28] The Government of India declared 2001 as the Year of Women's Empowerment (Swashakti).[14] The National Policy For The Empowerment Of Women came was passed in 2001.[29] In 2006, the case of Imrana, a Muslim rape victim, was highlighted by the media. Imrana was raped by her father-in-law. The pronouncement of some Muslim clerics that Imrana should marry her father-in-law led to widespread protests, and finally Imrana's father-in-law was sentenced to 10 years in prison. The verdict was welcomed by many women's groups and the All India Muslim Personal Law Board.[30] According to a 2011 poll conducted by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, India was the "fourth most dangerous country" in the world for women,[31][32] India was also noted as the worst country for women among the G20 countries,[33] however, this report has faced criticism for promoting inaccurate perceptions.[34] On 9 March 2010, one day after International Women's day, Rajya Sabha passed the Women's Reservation Bill requiring that 33% of seats in India's Parliament and state legislative bodies be reserved for women.[4] In October 2017 another poll published by Thomson Reuters Foundation found that Delhi was the fourth most dangerous megacity (total 40 in the world) for women and it was also the worst megacity in the world for women when it came to sexual violence, risk of rape and harassment.[35] The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 is a legislative act in India that seeks to protect women from sexual harassment at their place of work. The Act came into force from 9 December 2013. The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 introduced changes to the Indian Penal Code, making sexual harassment an expressed offence under Section 354 A, which is punishable up to three years of imprisonment and or with fine. The Amendment also introduced new sections making acts like disrobing a woman without consent, stalking and sexual acts by person in authority an offense. It also made acid attacks a specific offence with a punishment of imprisonment not less than 10 years and which could extend to life imprisonment and with fine.[36] [2] In 2014, an Indian family court in Mumbai ruled that a husband objecting to his wife wearing a kurta and jeans and forcing her to wear a sari amounts to cruelty inflicted by the husband and can be a ground to seek divorce.[37] ). [3] [37] On 22 August 2017, the Indian Supreme Court deemed instant triple talaq (talaq-e-biddat) unconstitutional.[38][39] [4] In 2018, a survey by Thomson Reuters Foundation termed India as the world's most dangerous country for women due to high risk of sexual violence.[40] Although National Commission for Women rejected the report stating that the sample size was small in the number of people surveyed and could in no way reflect the state of affairs in a country of 1.3 billion people. National Commission for Women (NCW) also pointed out that there could be no doubt that India is far ahead of a number of countries in terms of women's rights.[41] The survey was similarly rejected by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies on the grounds that it lacked transparency with respect to sample size and possible selection bias.[42] The report has also been rejected by the Indian government. Union minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore criticized the Indian National Congress for using this survey to damage the reputation of the Modi government and that the survey that was based on "perception" and "afar from any solid facts or numbers".[43] Also in 2018, the Supreme Court of India struck down a law making it a crime for a man to have sex with a married woman without the permission of her husband.[44] Prior to November 2018, women were forbidden to climb Agasthyarkoodam. A court ruling removed the prohibition.[45]

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  1. "Oxford University's famous south Asian graduates (Indira Gandhi)". BBC News. 5 May 2010.
  2. "Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013" (PDF). Government of India. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 April 2013. Retrieved 11 April 2013.
  3. "Wife's jeans ban is grounds for divorce, India court rules". Retrieved 28 October 2015 The wife was thus granted a divorce on the ground of cruelty as defined under section 27(1)(d) of Special Marriage Act, 1954.
  4. "Supreme Court scraps instant triple talaq: Here's what you should know about the practice".