Women in India

12 December 2016

Other Sikh Gurus also preached against the discrimination against women. See also: Women in Sikhism Historical practices Traditions among some communities such as sati, jauhar, and devadasi have been banned and are largely defunct in modern India. However, some cases of these practices are still found in remote parts of India. The purdah is still practised by Indian women among some communities, and child marriage remains prevalent despite it being an illegal practice, especially under current Indian laws. Sati Sati is an old, largely defunct custom, among some communities in which the widow was immolated alive on her husband’s funeral pyre.

Although the act was supposed to be a voluntary on the widow’s part, it is believed to have been sometimes forced on the widow. It was abolished by the British in 1829. There have been around forty reported cases of sati since independence. [21] In 1987, the Roop Kanwar case of Rajasthan led to The Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act.

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[22] Jauhar Jauhar refers to the practice of the voluntary immolation of all the wives and daughters of defeated warriors, in order to avoid capture and consequent molestation by the enemy.

The practice was followed by the wives of defeated Rajput rulers, who are known to place a high premium on honour. Purdah Purdah is the practice among some communities of requiring women to cover their bodies so as to cover their skin and conceal their form. It imposes restrictions on the mobility of women, it curtails their right to interact freely and it is a symbol of the subordination of women. It does not reflect the religious teachings of either Hinduism or Islam, contrary to common belief, although misconception has occurred due to the ignorance and prejudices of religious leaders of both faiths. citation needed] Devadasis Devadasi is a religious practice in some parts of southern India, in which women are “married” to a deity or temple. The ritual was well established by the 10th century A. D. [23] In the later period, the illegitimate sexual exploitation of the devadasi’s became a norm in some parts of India. British rule European scholars observed in the 19th century that Hindu women are “naturally chaste” and “more virtuous” than other women. [24] During the British Raj, many reformers such as Ram Mohan Roy, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, Jyotirao Phule etc. fought for the upliftment of women.

Peary Charan Sarkar, a former student of Hindu College, Calcutta and a member of “Young Bengal” set up the first free school for girls in India in 1847 in Barasat, a suburb of Calcutta (later the school was named Kalikrishna Girls’ High School). While this list might suggest that there was no positive British contribution during the Raj era, that is not entirely so, since missionaries’ wives like Martha Mault nee Mead and her daughter Eliza Caldwell nee Mault are rightly remembered for pioneering the education and training of girls in south India – a practise that initially met with local resistance, as it flew in the face of tradition.

Raja Rammohan Roy’s efforts led to the abolition of the Sati practice under Governor-General William Cavendish-Bentinck in 1829. Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar’s crusade for the improvement in condition of widows led to the Widow Remarriage Act of 1856. Many women reformers such as Pandita Ramabai also helped the cause of women upliftment. Kittur Chennamma, the queen of the princely state Kittur in Karnataka[citation needed], led an armed rebellion against the British in response to the Doctrine of lapse. Abbakka Rani the queen of coastal Karnataka led the defence against invading European armies notably the Portuguese in 16th century.

Rani Lakshmi Bai, the Queen of Jhansi, led the Indian Rebellion of 1857 against the British. She is now widely considered as a nationalist hero. Begum Hazrat Mahal, the co-ruler of Awadh, was another ruler who led the revolt of 1857. She refused the deals with the British and later retreated to Nepal. The Begums of Bhopal were also few of the notable female rulers during this period. They did not observe purdah and were trained in martial arts. Chandramukhi Basu, Kadambini Ganguly and Anandi Gopal Joshi were few of the earliest Indian women to obtain educational degrees.

In 1917, the first women’s delegation met the Secretary of State to demand women’s political rights, supported by the Indian National Congress. The All India Women’s Education Conference was held in Pune in 1927[citation needed]. In 1929, the Child Marriage Restraint Act was passed, stipulating fourteen as the minimum age of marriage for a girl through the efforts of Mahomed Ali Jinnah. [19][25] Though Mahatma Gandhi himself married at the age of thirteen, he later urged people to boycott child marriages and called upon the young men to marry the child widows. [26] Women played an important part in India’s independence struggle.

Some of the famous freedom fighters include Bhikaji Cama, Dr. Annie Besant, Pritilata Waddedar, Vijayalakshmi Pandit, Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, Aruna Asaf Ali, Sucheta Kriplani and Kasturba Gandhi. Other notable names include Muthulakshmi Reddy, Durgabai Deshmukh etc. The Rani of Jhansi Regiment of Subhas Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army consisted entirely of women including Captain Lakshmi Sahgal. Sarojini Naidu, a poet and a freedom fighter, was the first Indian woman to become the President of the Indian National Congress and the first woman to become the governor of a state in India.

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