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The Freedom of Women in India

Updated on August 20, 2015

My phone’s dictionary describes freedom as the condition of not being in prison or captivity and as the condition of being free of restraints, especially the ability to act without control or interference by another or by circumstance. The same dictionary defines woman as –

  1. An adult female human

  2. An adult female human belonging to a specific group or nationality such as a congresswoman, an Englishwoman etc.

  3. A female servant or subordinate

Man in turn is defined as follows –

  1. An adult male human

  2. A human regardless of sex or age, a person

  3. A human or an adult male belonging to a particular occupation, group or nationality such as an Englishman etc.

  4. A male human endowed with qualities such as strength, considered characteristics of manhood.

However, why it decides to define the woman as a female servant or subordinate and doesn’t define man as a male servant or subordinate, the dictionary best knows itself.

Luckily though, both man and woman, irrespective of servant or not, are entitled to the fundamental right to freedom by the constitution. The constitution at least isn’t silly like the dictionary. The constitution under the umbrella of right to freedom entitles us to the freedom of –

  1. Speech

  2. Expression

  3. Assembly

  4. Association

  5. Union

  6. Movement

  7. Residence

  8. Profession or occupation

  9. Life

  10. Liberty

Aren’t those like 10 amazing freedoms given to us by the constitution? Yet, are we free to practice those freedoms that we are constitutionally entitled to?

In a country, where the birth of a girl child is a taboo, dowry practices are rampant, honor killing is practiced, women are married off at an early age in order to prevent them from indulging into boyfriends and affairs, widows are mistreated, domestic violence and rape are prominent, women are not allowed to go to work etc. one is constitutionally entitled to these ultra amazing freedoms.

Let us say, these practices have now been done away with and are only alive in very few and very remote areas. So, does this mean that women from the urban areas are free? Do they have the freedom of movement, speech, expression, residence etc.? Are these women allowed to wear clothes of their choice? Are they allowed to go wherever they like without seeking permission from anyone? Are they allowed to say what they want to or do as they please?

Of course, they are not! Let me pick up a simple example. I belong to an extremely liberal family and stay in the most developed city of India. I also love bathing in the sea and getting wet in the rain. Yet, I am not allowed to do that because the water will show the shape of my body drawing a lot of male attention. Now, I love male attention but the kind of male attention something as simple as the shape of my body will draw is lechers and catcallers.

Every time I try to go against the restriction and sea-bathe or rain-bathe, a few guys keep following me, looking at me, passing comments on me, without any discretion. Yes, they are as free as I am but they take freedom for granted and for me, it is a privilege. No one ever tells the boys not to catcall and mind their own business. It is only me who is told not to reveal my body shape to those boys and I don’t have any sense and I am losing ‘respect’ (izzat). The boys aren’t losing any respect by being disrespectful towards someone who is simply enjoying herself but I am. Yet, both of us are completely free under our constitution.

The boys continue to get wet in the rain while I am taken away. Am I not entitled to enjoy the rains as much as they are? A million and more such examples could be cited by girls from the so-called liberal families from the urban cities of India.

Frankly, the same thing happens to men when bathing in the sea (oh, they can even go topless) but no one tells them not to reveal their body or not to show their shape. Some of these men are incredibly hot and I do stare at them from afar. I don’t specifically go there and make it obvious making the man uncomfortable. Though, if I do that, I will be yelled at for staring at the man and the man won’t be yelled at for showing off his abs.

Yet, both of us are completely free to act as per our own will. Women are told to act in a modest and coy manner, you are yelled at for expressing your opinion, you are tamed since you were born so much so that half of the women take it as a way of life and don’t even know they are tamed. In such circumstances, freedom of profession and freedom to life sound like a joke.

Women in liberal families don’t really practice the freedom of liberty. Most of the women are under scrutiny for their entire lives and they don’t really care about it. So, just like everything else in India, freedom is just on paper, never fully implemented.

Is there a solution to this? The only solution I see is women need to stop taking things lying down and stand up for themselves. While a lot of them are doing it and things are slowly changing, a vast majority of women are still reluctant and think it wrong to practice their rightful freedom.


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    • Karishma Tolani profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from Mumbai

      Well, lions44, I am so glad you brought this up. You will be surprised and all the more baffled with what our male politicians are like. A minister's son is accused of rape and his father said "Boys will be boys" in response to it while the minister was criticised for what he said, he is still the minister and his son is roaming free. You could simply google things said by Indian politicians in response to rape and you shall be aghast at it. And well, no, the Indian male which is more than 60% of India's population absolutely doesn't want to take advantage of the female workforce except if we take care of their house and children and cook for them. The best example of this would be the movie English Vinglish, you can see how the Indian female travelling in the USA with her husband is treated by her husband in the movie. While the Americans treat her respectfully, the husband actually looks down upon his wife and goes about telling people how his wife is lacking and in subtle tones which is a common practice. Oh, I could go on and on but I think I'll shift these feelings into another article. Will share it with you. :)

    • lions44 profile image

      CJ Kelly 

      3 years ago from Auburn, WA

      Important topic. It's fascinating that in the 21st century this is still happening. Countries where both genders have equal protection do better economcially. We hear stories from India of the assaults on women, etc. and we are all shocked by how many are not even investigated or prosecuted. I realize it's an ancient culture but it is time to move forward. Are male politicians afraid to lead the movement for change? I'm assuming it would have to be a prominent male to really implement legal change.

      Another reason Americans are so baffled by India is that we have so many women of Indian descent at all walks of professional life doing very well. Why wouldn't India want to take advantage of this workforce?


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