Everywhere in the world, the patriarchal setup of the society is under discussion on daily routine basis on tea tables, coffee shops, schools, colleges, universities and even in every walk of life. India is swept by the debating issue of patriarchy. Before going further lets sum up what does a patriarchal society mean? What are the factors and what are the bases which are promoting it? And most importantly how this setup of the society is oppressing and discriminating women from every possible angle. Patriarchy is no less than a menace social disease of every society of the world, many of us don’t think about it and in a state of unconsciousness, we are promoting it at the same time. Many of us even can’t pronounce it correctly.
Patriarchy is a political-social system that insists that males are inherently dominating superior to everything and everyone deemed weak, especially women. And they think that it is their dignity in dominating something. That dominance may be through psychological terrorism and violence.
In his article “understanding patriarchy”, Bell Hooks said that he at church had learned that God created man to rule the world and everything in it and it was the work of a woman to help the man to overcome the tasks, to obey and to always assume a subordinate role in relation to a powerful man. They taught that God is a male and these teachings are reinforced in every field of life in every society of the world. According to Sylvia Walby, it is a social system in which men hold the primary and basic roles of political leadership, moral authority in the domain of the family, the father and the brother hold the authority over women and children. According to the Therborn in the patriarchal setup of the society is a practice in which men dominate, oppress and exploit the women.
How patriarchy is deeply rooted in the Indian society? Let's talk about it.
“It is impossible to think about the welfare of the world unless the condition of the women is improved. It is impossible for a bird to fly on one wing”—- Swami Vivekananda
These lines of Swami Vivekananda actually aver that without the development of the condition of the women the welfare of the entire world is impossible. In India although many programmes, progress in women’s development has been made but yet most of the women are feeling subordinate to the men. Adverse sex ratio, poor educational and nutritional status, inequality in wages and violence against women are prevalent in Indian society, just as in many of the patriarchal societies of the world the gender discrimination is taking place by every possible angle.
Not only in India but all over the world there are many societies who looked upon women as an inanimate object. In every walk of life, the discrimination is taking place with the women, sometime in the wages, sometime in the economic field and almost in every walk of life. To fight for the equal rights for women there have been many feminists’ movements around the globe.
These movements started firstly from France and UK and gradually spread across the entire world. The modern western feminist history split into three periods or we can call it as three waves, the first wave of the 19th century and early 20th century focusing on averting legal inequalities the second wave includes gender norms and role of women in society. And the third wave refers to both continuations of the second wave and a response to the failures.
In India feminists have had to fight against culture, specific issues within India’s patriarchal society like sati, dowry female infanticide, female foeticide, discrimination in employment etc. However, those evils still exist in Indian societies despite the progress made by feminist movements.
Modern Indian societies still believe in the subordination of the women. Traditionally right from the ancient days India has been made a male-dominated culture, Indian women were facing many prejudices and ignorance, however, today women in India are struggling to get the same status with men. Social reformers like Raja Ram Mohan Roy and Pundit Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar brought a revolution in Indian society by abolishing sati and encouraging the widow remarriage. They played a very strong role in introducing the western education and in encouraging the women to become educated by setting up schools and colleges especially for women. Many other social and political activists and revolutionists gave women a new dimension. There have been women like Indra Gandhi, Sarojini Naidu and many others who have been successful in proving that they are no less than men.
In India, there are many spheres of life where women are at disadvantage. Discrimination against females starts with birth and continues throughout life. Even before birth a girl child is aborted with the help of sex determination techniques, she is not given proper notorious food in some cases, as she grows she is either denied of the right to education and in some cases, she is limited to the elementary level. She is married at an early age and this puts an end to any possibilities of growth and a good life in most cases.
The discrimination doesn’t end here but continues with heinous incidents of eve teasing, some unfortunate to be assaulted sexually and raped. The marriage of women becomes more problematic if she faces dowry which sometimes causes death also.
Both illiterate and partially literate women have limited access to health care, we can analyze that in Indian patriarchal society women even can’t go to medical stores or health care centers in emergency cases too without getting permission from her husband. In spheres of a job the low paid wages are considered to be for women even if she has the same qualification. In this setup of the society, people have the notion that women don’t have caliber and intelligence to take up managerial positions or high profile jobs. This is another proof of discrimination against women in our society.
According to 2011 census, the female literacy rate is 65.46% compared to 82.14% for males. They thought that educating women is of no value as they will only serve their husbands and with no cash benefits accruing to family in future, this makes their parents unwilling to spend on girl’s education.
The extent of discrimination is that women don’t hold any significant place in society despite the fact our constitution denies any discrimination on grounds of religion, sex, caste or race. The society which favors men and gives them higher authority consequently makes women vulnerable to subjugation and domination by men and also to crimes like rapes and sexual abuse etc.
The above discussions on issues patriarchy and gender inequalities bring out the glaring facts of women’s deprivation and subjugation. Patriarchy must be thrown in dustbins and men must know that they are not superior to women for merely having a greater physical strength (which seems now to be challenged). The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is reported to have said ” the noblest among you are those who are the best to their wives and family members’.
About the author: Syed Zahid Kazmi is a Sociology student from Aligarh Muslim University, UP