Women in Trouble-Gwalior and Bundelkhand

Indian society has grown to be a progressive society. Over last few years, market and lifestyle is radically altered Education level is also getting higher. Women are enthusiastically engaged in politics and scientific pursuits. Is it startling that many women are even today under the supremacy of men? Nothing much has changed inside the four walls of house. She is expected to be doing everything her husband or in-law desire Dowry is a enormous issue in a Hindu marriage. With only some exceptions, bride’s family is expected to put together dowry demand. It is in most cultured families and also in less sophisticated ones. Why does an educated and having a thriving job women follow the rituals of past? Even those men, who profess to be highly developed, carry on being in the same ensnare of traditional values.

The barriers around life of girl start from the day she is conceived in the womb of mother. In Gwalior and Chambal and Bundel Khand, stories of oppression on women are heard often. This entire region can be classified as an opposed to women freedom. It is easy to get carried away considering number of girls in the urban schools. Women’ presence in the Jobs is impressive as well. An effortless tête-à-tête with women discloses the reality. Women constantly live through the domination of males or in-laws. She cannot put across her rightful feelings concerning most of decisions taken. Noise and pomp of present boost of economic levels have camouflaged the happenings behind the four walls Mind-set of general public towards women continues to be conventional. She is to comply with the wishes of husband and family with no concern of her likes and dislikes. Beginning from the villages to the cities like Gwalior, the pattern is same. Several youth have broken down the old paths. But it is generally hidden from parents or limited to school and college period. Discrimination against gender is clearly expressed in the facts like sex ratio, age of marriage and denial to basic rights and services to women. Sex ratio can be as low as 860 females to 1000 males in some places. It is almost established that sex determination of the fetus and its selective abortion is widespread. Despite State laws and PNDT Act, the heinous crime is perpetrated with no restrain. Surveys have shown that it is present in all the caste and economic groups. Education and technology has only improved the techniques of termination of life of girl in the womb. Girl is universally targeted as unwanted human being. Undoubtedly, some parents are different and they love the arrival of a girl child. But in majority of cases Girl means a life time curse. Opinion is endorsed by men and women both. For men, girl means large sum of dowry for marriage, be ready to protect her from sexual assault and virginity. Hence sooner she is married the better. Mother wants to protect her from life time violence and inhuman treatment at the hands of men. She has already been through and is definite that her daughter will face the same. If she does not have attractive looks, situation is worse confounded.

Sudden upsurge is observed in number of the abandoned girl babies. Female Infants of few weeks to some years have been found in most vulnerable situations. Garbage, water drain, buried in the compound of Maternity clinics, in train and busy markets are some places to name. Parents disappear from the hospital after birth of Girl child leaving her behind. In short, life of a girl child is threatened from such barbaric and insane attitudes. In population groups like Gurjar, Dhakars, Kirars number of girls have fallen to the level that Men have to buy a girl to have a wife. Scores of such women are here who are bought from places in Bihar, Chindwara and Oddisa. It is going on for some years now and is culturally accepted practices. Poverty, hunger forces families to give away their daughters for some price. Cases of stealing and coercion are also not unheard. Here, we have a situation. Number of women is falling nationally, more pronounced in some geographical zones. Sahariyas are exceptional. It’s a tribal group which has a healthy ratio of male and female. They are very poor, uneducated and living life of utter deprivation. Death of children is also high. However, the number of both sexes remains healthy. Simply, it is because Sahariya society respects women and treats them with equality. Education and economy has nothing to do. Yes, they are primitive from modern scale of comparison. It is a question of accepting the importance of role of women in family and society building.

Even today, large number of rural poor families does not see relevance of Education. In a Project supported by Action Aid, UK at Pohri, Shivpuri the parents did not see much importance of education. Many educated Sahariyas are either unemployed or working as peon, office boy and water man. These are low status jobs. In the community, Sahariyas are more at peace with himself and the nature. Children help in most household and economic activities of families from very early age. It was also found that almost all girls and boys enrolled in Government Schools were incapable of basics skills of reading, writing and mathematics. The project started some tutorial education centers in Sahariyas villages. It took barely eight to nine months and girls showed great appetite for learning. Very soon they picked up skills. Several girls from these project villages did well in their exams. But it took lot of hard work to motivate community for sending regularly to the centre. Somebody went regularly house to house to collect children. That was about Saharia girls. Most girls do not receive good quality education. Up to grade five, somehow girls manage schooling. If middle school or Intermediate schools are locates at distance, many girls drop off. Number of girls keeps falling as we climb the ladder of grades. Most women cannot even write their names. Lack of education exposes them to countless exploitation and limitations.

Health of a bullock or repair of a diesel engine occupies preference over the health problems of women. She is the last to receive the health care. Quality treatment is a far cry. Women health professionals do not like to stay in the rural places, for valid reasons. Security, education of children, adequate housing conditions and lack of medical facilities are some reasons for staying away from such postings. Primary health care is abysmal in slums and rural areas. Women are deprived of regular health checkup, counseling and nutritional care. Female doctors are rarely available for women and reproductive health. Local healers and ill trained persons provide most non-dependable medical care. It leads to the suffering and serious physical and mental damages to the women. She is expected to travel 30 and 40 kms to reach to a female physician in rural areas. In the urban centers, the health services are completely commercialized. The free services are not free in reality. Medical personals are keener in making money rather providing rational treatment to women. Unnecessary diagnostic test, over prescription of irrational medicines and preference for caesarian delivery is routine here. Women and girls get extremely unfair deal at the government or private hospitals. Parallel to this, there is network of non-qualified and non-scrupulous army of medical practitioners. Nearly all of them have received no formal training in women health. Hence, unimaginable threats surround the women in sphere of health services. The abortion services for unwed mothers is even hard and thing of ridicule. Insensitivity of the men and women professionals is at the high point in such at risk situation.

I fail to understand the cause of increase in the sexual violence against women. Attempt to rape and actual rape and then murder of girls is becoming daily headlines in Print and Electronic media. Minor girls raped and murder is on rise. Persons of all socio-economic backgrounds are found indulged sexual abuse and atrocities of women. Physical security of women is a serious issue. Some studies indicate that some women and men are also framing false and untrue cases. The King and his officers have ruled this region for many decades. Feudal structure and caste divide have remained intact. King’s men, high caste and landlords are actual rulers. Violence and terror hangs in the air. Girls and women are always under the fear of molestation, kidnapping and sexual harassments. From Shivpuri to Chattarpur, similar dehumanizing climate exists for women. Malfunction of Administrative and police systems make it even more complicated.

Dowry and regular demand of money by the bridegroom change life of bride into living torture Marriage is very costly affair. Many parents sell all their savings to find a suitable match for their daughters. Though declared to be totally illegal, business of money changing hands in marriage is most widely practiced. Parents avoid their daughters getting better educated. It will naturally need an equally educated husband. He is going to be more expensive. Early marriages are also seen as bypassing high expenses. Early marriages are less expensive. Its impact on the health of women is far reaching. Number of children is more since fertility period is longer. Health of children is also affected. Such mothers are anemic, weak and lack stamina. Repeated episodes of malaria and malnutrition add to the woes and suffering of women. These mothers lack basic knowledge of basic health, child care and other essential element of well being. She is totally dependent on relatives and husband’s mother. The mother considers her rustic and nincompoop. From here begins a long drawn Indian gatha of Sas and Bahu and their alleged enmity between two. It takes heavy toll on family life and relationship between wife and husband. Always there is bitter exchange of acrimonious words between both. Young girl is subjected to torture and humiliation. It, in fact, extends beyond age, education and economic status of bride. She is depicted as malevolent person It becomes usually round the clock affair. Husband also takes sides with his mother. Making it even worse for the wife. It leads to violence, bride burning, murder and divorce in several cases. In our society it is considered as customary. Value of dowry and continuous demand for cash and expensive gifts make many marriages a nightmare. Within the family, bride is expected to be a paragon of virtue and dedicated to the family. She may be required to pull the sari or scarf over face to act as veil. Touching feet of husband’s parents or grandparents and other relatives could be an essential expectation from her. An elaborate mesh of kinship exists in India. It’s very strictly followed in traditional and rural families. Gwalior and Bundail Khand are dominated by traditional and feudal society. Caste and gender bias is present all over the region. Off late, women are getting organized and are seeking support of political and Government agencies for help. Social activists and media are playing positive role in highlighting gender issues. Government and Judiciary are also actively engaged in promoting the cause of women empowerment. It’s long to way to go. It is the age of women and they will not settle for anything less than equality and dignity.

Shiv Kumar Singh

Director, Sambhav

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