Although there exist many feminists and women advocating for women's rights and greater equality in India, their view's on gender roles is still one considered backward compared to Western society. The role of each gender in Indian society is one that is steeped in religion and culture and makes for an oppressive tradition.
There are many factors that contribute to the oppression of women in India; these include geographical locations throughout the country, education, and economic and religious reasons. Indian women usually suffer from a low social status compared to men and are sometimes treated negatively. But on the other hand women are revered in Hindu practices with many ceremonies dedicated to them, but Indian society and laws still fail to treat women with equal rights as men.
Following is a look at India's views on gender roles.
WOMEN AS NURTURER
A woman's sole purpose in life is to devote her life to her husband and children. Indian society is one that is male dominated and this is still the thought within the home. Women are thought to "eat and do nothing".
Although the wife is the person who does the cooking, cleaning and running of the household and children, her work still goes unnoticed in Indian society. Traditional roles in the family sees the wife fully devoted to her husband, even to see her eating her husbands leftovers. A women's joy in life will be found when she sees that her husband is happy and satisfied.
The wife is to be submissive and attentive to her husbands needs. She also must not question his authority and adore him to keep him happy.
Modern women in India, through education and women's rights movements are beginning to recognize that a man is not required to achieve fulfillment. Many are now living with partners, although social norms still dictate this is frowned upon and some celebrity Indian women are opting to become single mothers.
A tradition throughout India especially in the Northern regions is a practice called "sati". This is where upon the death of a woman's husband, to show entire devotion to him she will commit suicide to join him. This is often done by throwing herself on the funeral pyre.
Just like the men you would often see women working and toiling alongside the men, but according to Indian society views this is what's expected of them. In rural areas you will often see women farming on properties, but you won't see them using farming equipment.
Women are thought to be unclean; especially when they are menstruating and are not allowed to touch farming equipment so must weed and plant by hand. A woman's working hours are much longer than that of males, considering they need to work the land and look after the house and family at the same time.
A woman's contributions to the farm go unrecognized and rarely do men admit that a woman did a great deal of work that day.
In more modern times it is becoming increasingly regular to see women enjoying income earning jobs and developing independence.
WOMEN ARE LESS EDUCATED THAN MEN
Males of the family are more likely to receive an education than the female children of the home. In the male dominated world of India, a female who is educated may suffer from negative social status. The role of the female is to reproduce and education is not needed to perform this duty.
The Indian education system does not dictate a compulsory attendance by children. It offers free education up to the age of fourteen, but girls are more likely to be removed from school to help with chores at home.
DOWRY, DIVORCE & WIDOWS
Prevalent through Indian society is the Dowry system. This is where the groom is given a sum of valuables by the bride's father, usually in the form of jewelry to ensure the brides security.
The problem with the dowry system is that it's often abused; the groom demanding more from their father in law and the issue of a dowry became one of contention.
Soon marriages were decided on how much dowry a woman could bring to her marriage and became a way of sorting out prospectful marriages. Promises were broken and violence and sometimes death occurred over issues of dowries.
Divorce is an aspect of Indian marriage that is rarely witnessed as it's seen as a shameful failure of a woman's inability to maintain her marriage and family. Women will not receive any property or inheritance resulting from divorce.
Widows in India are also treated unfairly in Indian society. The death of the husband was often blamed on the wife's inability to keep him healthy, so they were ostracized from society and often made to wear ugly clothing and to shave their heads. This practice is declining in modern India and the welfare of widows is being maintained through surviving family.
Healthcare in India is poor but especially so for women. Due to the social views of women through society, an ill woman is less inclined to admit to ill health and seek treatment.
Ill health needs to be tolerated in order to keep maintaining her husbands needs and the needs of the home and family. Areas in which they cook and clean can be poorly ventilated resulting on ill health of the respiratory system. Farm work is arduous and takes it toll on a woman's body. Through pregnancy, a woman is still expected to work the same as when she was not pregnant.
There exists little maternal health in India that provides for women through neither pregnancy nor providing contraception education.
A woman is required to eat less than her male counterparts so misses out on vital dietary requirements. Many end up malnourished an anemic, resulting in low birth weights, spontaneous abortion and illness.
Although many laws in India recognize the equality between the genders, much of the social views relate to tradition and religion. There is a revolution occurring in India with a massive popularity growing with women's rights movements, but changing many of the social, religious and traditional structures may be a slow process.