Women in India - Statistics & Facts

In a country where over 80 percent of the population worships Goddesses of different kinds, the status of women and what they represent has varied greatly from ancient to modern times. In the Vedic society, women had the same status as men in all aspects of life. Following the influence of changing rulers in the medieval period from the Mughal empire, the Rajputs, and the formation of the caste system, the standing of women deteriorated.

Positive and regressive practices involving women have existed in a historical context. The Naari Puja in Kerala is a month where thousands of women are worshipped in December every year regardless of which caste or religion they belong to. On the other hand, Sati and Jouhar were practiced before it was made illegal after British colonization of the sub-continent. These involved widows being immolated alive with their husbands’ funeral pyre.

In the patrilineality of India’s society, women bear what is often an unfair burden of representing the values of the family they are born into, or later married into. Subsequently, Indian culture also places a higher value on the male sex. A woman’s identity, therefore, is often tied to her role in her family. Although this is gradually changing, sons are preferred to daughters, because of the financial burden associated with their upbringing. This has caused an imbalance in gender ratio, creating clear demographic, socio-economic shortcomings. This is especially prevalent in the prosperous regions across the country.

Even though specific laws guarantee safety, security and equal opportunities for women, the reality of enduring the legal process, in addition to victim shaming prevents most crimes from being reported. From female infanticide, honor killings to sexual abuse and harassment, dowry, domestic violence and rape, India was ranked the most dangerous country in the world to be a woman.

Other socio-economic struggles such as caste and religion add to the assortment, creating a complex and diverse web which needs to be dealt with in multiple ways. The central government’s “Beti bacho, beti padhao” campaign literally meaning "save the daughter, educate the daughter" is one among many in order to raise awareness to figuratively and literally save the girl child.

Despite these negative facets, the Republic of India has seen women participate and sometimes excel in all fields of art, science and culture. The country has had women in the cabinet and as leaders of the nation in Indira Gandhi, who served as Prime Minister in the 1980s and more recently, Pratibha Patil between 2007 and 2012. Although India needs to make many leaps forward in securing the safety and position of its women who face discrimination and violence on a daily basis, the situation has a improved over the years, and continues to be a subject at the center with feminist movements, with #MeToo taking the spotlight in recent months.

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