hen we say women empowerment, what we mean is their empowerment through constitutional means. Anything less than that can always be subverted to help men continue with their subjugation of women.
Some of the Constitutional means are reservation in the legislative bodies, equal opportunities to women in all spheres of activity and activating the law enforcing agency to a point where any violation of the law against women is dealt with in all seriousness that it demands.
Where was the need to empower women? Male domination has been trotted out as the major reason for the powers that be to think on the lives of empowering women. The reservation attempt to give women a certain number of seats in the legislative bodies is to let them have a say in matters concerning women when women related laws are made. In other words, it enables them to assert themselves so that they are invested with a sense of importance.
But it is a fallacy to say that women have not been asserting themselves in the past. Our scriptures abound with instances where women did not toe the line. Sita stood her ground when asked to stay back after Rama was banished to the forests at the behest of Kaikeyi. She was adamant about accompanying Rama in his hour of distress. No blandishment could deter her from pursuing her course.
Every day we read in the press stories of valiant women running campaigns against vested interests or the establishment. Again, we read about women engaged in long drawn court cases, if only to prove a point. There are social activists who do not ride piggyback to run their campaigns. What this proves is that if one is imbued with a sense of purpose or if one is outraged at something unjust happening, one does not wait for a tool like empowerment to fight injustice with.
At the same time, we cannot just brush aside women empowerment as a policy provided it is aimed at arming the poor and the uninitiated. In India, most of the action takes place in the rural areas because India is predominantly rural. Women are simply male appendages mainly because of the feudal characteristic of life there. Exploitation is the natural fall out and dissent is unheard of. Child marriages, dowry deaths and women being violated are routine occurrences. In which case, arming women with statutory powers can go a long way in calling a halt to the kind of oppression to which they are subjected. Here again, there is the problem of women being unaware of their rights because of illiteracy. The laws remain only in the statute book. They are seldom invoked. The social legislation can be effective only when there is corresponding awareness among women. Of course, there are men and women leaders who take up cudgels on behalf of rural women or who educate rural women about their having to come out of the shadows of men. Thus, there is a kind of revolution on in rural India.
(This is the first part of the Diary and the later part will continue tomorrow.)
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)