The Changing Role of Women in India Since Independence

The status of the role of women in India since independence has been subject to many changes throughout Indian history

In the struggle for independence, it was stressed that political freedom must ultimately lead to the emancipation of women by eliminating shortcomings in terms of education, nutrition, and health. But this aspiration is yet to be realized. Investing in the role of women in India since independence by capabilities and empowering them is the best way to advance economic growth and overall development.

During post-independence India, improvements were made in terms of various areas that led to the well-being of women within the society. There was a formulation of many programs and schemes that had the main objective of bringing about progress among women. Encouraging them towards the acquisition of education and participation in the employment settings are the main aspects that promote women’s empowerment. Despite the initiation of the measures and policies, still, in some of the rural communities, women are regarded as subordinates to men.

The Indian political system has also been characterized by concern with the role of women in India since independence by its status and rights. This is reflected in various constitutional provisions. But robust gender laws need to be effectively enforced.

True, there are some striking cases of breaking the glass ceiling. The names of Meera Kumar, Speaker of the Lok Sabha; Sushma Swaraj, Leader of the Opposition in the Parliament; Chanda Kocchar, Chairperson, ICICI Bank; Shikha Sharma, Chairperson, Axis Bank; Kalpana Morarka, India Head, JP Morgan and Sudha Sharma, Chairperson, CBDT easily come to mind. But as one swallow does not make a summer, the fact of some women occupying top positions does not make the development process broad-based, equitable, and inclusive. Much more needs to be done.

Hence there has to be a shift from narrow welfare measures to broad-based development in the role of women in India since independence :

The Finance Minister rightly stressed in his Budget Speech “There is no bank that exclusively serves women. Can we have a bank that lends money to women and women-run businesses; that supports Self Help Group and women’s livelihood; that employs predominantly women, and that addresses gender-related aspects of empowerment and financial inclusion? I think we can”. We are now in the process of starting “India’s first women’s bank as a public sector bank” with an initial investment of Rs. 1000 crore approx. 

There is certainly a case for cheap and accessible credit to women by public sector banks. But this concept of a women-centric bank has sometimes been viewed as an extreme case of inclusion by exclusion.

There has also been a greater awareness of the need for inculcating confidence among women, generating awareness about their rights and privileges, and training them for economic activity and employment. The benefits of development for the role of women in India since independence have extended both qualitatively and quantitatively.

Gender-specific policies with emphasis on activities and resources beneficial to women may help in providing greater opportunities because of the injustices against women. But what is required is affirmative action in areas, such as education, health, and welfare to overcome entrenched discrimination caused by gender bias, denial of opportunities, lack of employers’ trust in their capabilities, and apprehension about not getting a fair deal.

The national policy for the empowerment role of women in India since independence stresses policies, programs, and systems to ensure mainstreaming of women’s perspectives in all developmental processes, both as agents and beneficiaries.

It is time now for us to make a difference and effect a mindset change in the oppressively male-centric scheme of things and bring about true socio-economic empowerment of women across regions, regions, and classes. We can and we must- do this. But gender integration and promotion of a cohesive social framework require the active participation of all stakeholders in the development process, including the society at large, government, educational institutions, premier technological institutions, voluntary agencies, policymakers, and women themselves.

Laws relating to marriage, divorce, maintenance, and inheritance have not been fully effective because of their inherent problems. Hence, attempts to provide de jure equality to women must be carried to their logical conclusion. This requires tougher laws, stricter enforcement, and exemplary punishment.

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