Women and Indian Society

From the pre-Vedic period to today, women's societal roles have been much more nuanced. Women with advanced degrees and those with no formal education have always coexisted, with the former being held back by patriarchal norms and the latter by their lack of opportunity. A society's status may be measured in many ways, including how much its members labor and participate in politics, their level of education, health, ability to participate in decision-making bodies, access to property, etc. However, not all people in a society, particularly women, have obtained fair opportunities to the elements that make up these signs of status.

They face economic discrimination and social exclusion in Indian society. Urbanization, fast industrialization, and globalization have all had a profound effect on today's Indian society. However, because of these dynamics, geographical imbalances, class differences, and gender gaps have all grown. The position of women in modern Indian society has suffered due to several of these factors.

Gender Role Stereotyping and Household Chores

A youngster's first concept about gender roles is that of ladies in one's family marrying and leaving their homes to live with various groups of people. Second, males appear to wield significantly more power in decision-making and to be far more visible and noisy than their spouses. Third, the mother, grandmother, sisters, and so on perform most household work, and they transport meals to the fields for the men at meal times. These time-consuming and energy-consuming duties are not considered "work" or "employment," and no compensation is provided. Women's groups, lawmakers, and other concerned citizens in Western nations have been lobbying for paid-for housework and childcare.

In India, the subject of wages for homework has not been a major concern or demand. As we will see, other difficulties demand immediate care. At the same time, it is critical to note that non-payment does not imply non-recognition. Women are expected to complete all of these activities as part of their traditional responsibilities, with no special recognition given them for these exhausting and monotonous jobs. You have probably heard stories about how Meena's bad cooking caused her mother-in-law's stomach problems to worsen or how Rashmi's job as a teacher left her with little time to knit the usual number of sweaters for her family members.

Where Indian Women Stand in the Modern World?

Women had a high social status and favorable living conditions in India. Men and women have equal potential for intellectual and spiritual growth. A person's status in society determines the extent to which that person is entitled to various privileges and benefits. Members of any societal system are largely identified and evaluated by their roles within the larger group and any divisions to which they might also belong. Institutionalizing distinction and evaluation creates a complex structure that assigns the group's members to various social ranks. Several factors are generally accepted as indications of social standing. Measured in terms of resources such as money, property, and rights to quality healthcare and an excellent education. Women consistently rank lower than men on measures of social standing.

Most patrilineal Indian families are not affiliated with any particular caste or religion. The Nair's of Kerala and the Khasis of Meghalaya are unusual. Traditional patrilineal families trace their descent only via male ancestors. This arrangement indicates patrilocality, in which the husband or wife lives with his dad, brother(s), and family. When families join together, everyone's lives are made easier. Patrilocality restricts a wife's visits to her hometown to only ceremonial occasions and socializes a child following the father's values. A mother's role in a child's life cannot be overstated, yet men often make the most consequential decisions about the child's and the family's future.

Women's Work Participation

According to 1981 data, 19.7 percent of Indian women were paid employees, with over 87 percent working in the unorganized or informal sector of the economy. Women's labor-force participation rates were 22.3 percent in 1991 and 25.7 percent in 2001, respectively. The rise in female labor-force participation from 1991 to 2001 is mostly attributable to an increase in the share of marginal workers (6.3 percent to 11 percent) in the overall female labor force. In reality, the share of primary laborers fell from 15.9 percent to 14.7 percent.

Many analysts of the Indian economy believe that without women's paid or unpaid labor, the Indian agricultural economy would be unable to function. Without unpaid labor, the Indian agricultural economy would be unable to function. There is little legal recourse for difficulties in the informal sector, no maternity or other leave benefits, and no job security.

Working long hours as domestic maids, sewing clothing for the garment export business, or on the assembly lines of tiny electronics manufacturing units or beedi, tobacco, and cashew nut companies, women face retrenchment, exploitation (sometimes sexual), and insufficient remuneration. What is especially significant here is that the persistent under-representation of women's labor in censuses and other statistical exercises is the result of several circumstances. Various variables have influenced women's labor participation and position as employees.

Successful Women in the Workplace

More than eighty-seven percent of women in India who earn money do so in the unofficial economy. As a result, most women in India's labor force participation in the black market. If it were not for women's paid and unpaid work in agriculture, many Indian economists say the industry would fail. There is no legal protection, paid leave for new mothers, or work stability in the underground market. Women fear layoffs, sexual abuse, and inadequate pay. At the same time, they work long hours as personal maids, stitch garments for the garment export sector, or work on the assembly line at modest electronic manufacturing units or plant products, tobacco, and cashew nut enterprises.

How Women See Themselves?

A woman's socialization before entering the workforce will shape her behavior while she is employed. If she is a working woman, she will have internalized the superiority of the housewife role and will present herself as non-competitive, uninvolved, and humble. She believes in the value system's emphasis on family success above professional advancement, which is what she focuses on. The same holds for women who hold professional or academic positions.

Women are less likely than males to pursue more education after entering the workforce to improve their chances of advancement. If the requirements for promotion included relocating outside of the city or devoting more hours to the job, they would not be eligible to apply. Some women may not even enter the field they have been trained in, much alone avoiding pursuing advances for fear of jeopardizing their family commitments.

Stereotyping in the Fields of Education and Socialization

Male Indians are more likely to attend college and get a degree than female Indians. Traditionally, a girl's role has been to help out around the house, whether with mom or younger siblings. Education both reinforces and creates biases. The curriculum, the stances of teachers and administrators, and the viewpoints presented in textbooks are all part of the "educational system." There needs to be more policy clarity around women's education.


Indian women's social standing has been complicated. Due to patriarchal social forces, highly intelligent women have lived alongside others who never learned. One needs to recall that although during colonialism, the colonizers sought to identify all the colonized people as 'effeminate' and 'female,' Indian men fought to reestablish their power over Indian women by recovering and recreating history that exalted them. Despite popular belief, Indian women have participated in history.

Recent document recovery and subaltern rewriting of history has highlighted the long-neglected role of women throughout Indian society, whether in pre-Vedic periods, during the Bhakti movement, during the liberation struggle, or after independence. The historiography of women in Indian culture, especially Dalit and tribal society, highlights the paradoxes that may be the core reason for women's underdevelopment. Veneration and idealization as "Mother India" coexist with power institutions' efforts to control and enslave women and deny their rights. Naturally, women's literature reflects these paradoxes.

Updated on: 13-Apr-2023


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