So Much for ‘Mother’ India

By Aashna Chawla, Second Year, B.A, LL.B (Hons.), Amity Law School

Editor’s Note: Historically, women have been considered to be and have been treated as physically, emotionally and intellectually inferior to men. Kant, a German philosopher, in his book wrote: „A woman is embarrassed little that she does not possess certain high insights; that she is timid, and not fit for serious employment . . . . She is beautiful and captivates, and that is enough.’ Kant associated women only with beauty and considered them incapable of doing the right thing. Feminism challenges this state of affairs and demands equal treatment of men and women. It’s not anti-men as presumed and even practiced by some women. The author guides us to her reaction to the affirmative action provision of our Constitution and makes us ponder whether the approach we follow for woman emancipation, really helps them? This paper furthers the debate.

So Much for ‘Mother’ India: Critique on Article 15(3)

68 years after the independence of India, I would like to quote Swami Vivekananda who had rightly said, “Just as a bird could not fly with one wing only, a nation would not march forward if the women are left behind.” We have all read mundane articles about how women are not respected and are not given equal rights and are always meant to be the ‘inferior’ ones. Always the victims.

However, this article seeks to show how the constitutional provisions of this country do give women equal rights as men and how other legislations of this country have always done what it takes in order to empower women, at times even more than men. But before I start with this quest of establishing equality and expound on the various rights that women have, I shall like to throw light on whether women actually need empowerment or is it just Indian women?

How did this gender inequality actually start? What made people think that women are inferior in the first place and why did the government feel the need to protect women? Does the government itself not concede to inequality when it passes legislations that say that women need protection? Did the so called ‘modern’ makes of the constitution also believe that women are inferior and must thus be empowered? Why is gender inequality more of a fact in this country than a fight? Why is it that women can’t be looked at with the same respect and dignity as a man? Why is she always vulnerable? Why is he never weak? Before addressing rights and legislations we must see the idea behind passing such laws. Was the ideology of the law makers correct? Was the passing of all those bills actually a solution or do these people also agree to the unequal status of women?

The problem with the framing of the law is that it focuses on sexual wrongs and not sexual rights; it is victim-oriented and not rights oriented. Both, sexual wrongs, as well as sexual rights, deserve equal recognition from the law, but sexual rights have not acquired the keen interest of feminist legal theorists or the parliament as having sexual wrongs. This kind of protection of women and only the recognition of sexual wrongs committed against women would be supported by radical feminists.

This school of thought sees the relationship between man and woman as that of domination and subordination. It believes that the oppression of women should stop and that women must determine themselves who they are and what they want. Catherine Mackinnon, the proponent of this theory has written extensively on the ill effects of rape, sexual harassment, and pornography as according to her these are means men adapt to dominate over women. This theory and the existing law on sexual harassment treats women as victims and they hence lose out on the other aspects of the problem of gender discrimination.

The focus instead needs to be laid on wiping out the preconceptions of how women should behave ideally and try to put an end to the stereotyping of women. To achieve this, the dominance theory of feminism needs to be discarded or modified and a post-modern, anti-essentialist theory needs to be adopted. An effective law can only be enacted when it is drafted by people who acknowledge that women are individuals who have the right to assert their will, to live in a society with dignity and to work without being demeaned due to their gender. Ironically, the bill was passed in the Lok Sabha in 16 minutes.

Once such issues are addressed I would like to move on to establish that the legislation does not lack when it comes to gender justice ‘on paper’, India has done what it takes to create gender equality, however, the reality is far from the same. People blame women for having wrong morals, for dressing up inappropriately and for letting go of family values and culture. And what does the country do? It follows suit, it backs such arguments.

Women today are blamed for neglecting family over work, well, haven’t men do the same thing? Since centuries thousands of cases of cruelty towards a wife have been reported, most of which happen because of the pressure of work. For years, men have come home tired, irritated and angry and have vented it out on their families. Why then are women blamed? Were the men right? Was it alright for them to do what they did? Was that not morally wrong? Our so-called mother country has enough legislation, we don’t need laws, we need minds – open, accepting minds that are free from bias and look at women as equals, not better than men nor worse.

Formatted on February 20th, 2019.

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