Social Scientist. v 4, no. 40-41 (Nov-Dec 1975) p. 115.

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Status of Women in India: A Historical Perspective

A STUDY of the status of women in any society must examine the social organization of that society, which in turn is based on primary economic relations. "The ways men live their common lives affect mightily the ways they understand the meaning of that life."l A comprehensive understanding of the true nature of women's status in society can be obtained only when we study the role they play in the productive process and the control they exercise over the means of production.

Such an approach to the problem necessarily starts with the nature of man-woman relationship in the early history of mankind. The division of labour based on the sexes and the contradictory forces that it unleashed later, are fundamental in this respect. As Marx observed: "The modern family contains in embryo not only slavery (servitus) but serfdom also, since from the very beginning it is connected with agricultural services. It contains within itself, in miniature, all the contradictions which later develop on a wide scale within society and its state."2

This article attempts to view the evolution of the status of women in India within a framework of analysis based on the concept that upward or downward changes of status occur in relation to changes in the primary economic and social structure of society. Primitive society is seen as one in which women enjoyed a relatively high status. Substantial changes

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