In 1992, the Indian government passed the 74th constitutional amendment act, which mandated creation of third tier of governance, namely the rural Panchayati Raj Institutions and urban Municipalities. A provision was made to reserve one third of the seats in these institutions for women, with the goal of their empowerment in mind. Then, the phenomenon of ‘pati panchayats’ took hold, where the office held by these women was actually controlled by their husbands, making them mere puppets.
Mahatma Gandhiji, father of the nation and beacon of Indian morality, had views about women that run contrary to modern day feminism. For him, the ideal women was Sita, of the Ramayana fame. She bore all the difficulties heaped on her by her husband, Rama; she followed him to the forest, she walked through fire to prove her chastity and she waited patiently for her husband to rescue her from the clutches of her kidnapper, Raavana. The woman was the keeper of the home and hearth, and better than men at nurturing children. The originator of satyagraha as a mode of resistance, did not tell women to employ it against injustice in the domestic sphere.
In the 2020 report of Gender Gap Index, India has slid down many ranks to reach 140 rank among 156 countries, performing the worst in health and survival. On counts of economic and political participation also, India is among the worst performers. Indian women spend 40% more time on domestic work than their counterparts in countries with similar rates of economic progress, like South Africa and China. They spend 577% more time a day on domestic work than Indian men.
Why do Indian women seem especially disadvantaged?
My thoughts in Feminism in India (Part-2)