Social Scientist. v 4, no. 43 (Feb 1976) p. 57.


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Women of India

The All-India Conference on Women at Trivandrum^ organised by the Indian School of Social Sciences^ came to the following conclusions at the end of a series of public sessions and group discussions which lasted from 27 to 30 December 1975:

IN INDIA today women are relegated to a position subordinate or inferior to men. Neither preordained nor true for all history of past Indian society, this is a legacy of several epochs marked by the rise of private property in the means of production and division of labour. The man came to assume primary control of the productive means, shifting the woman primarily to housework. In the isolation of the home, she was denied access to social knowledge and experience, an essential precondition for mental development. Once pushed to the background, her lowliness in the family and society was maintained by all the weapons at the command of the ruling classes: religion, epics, literature, art, social norms and sheer force. Struggles by women for their rights have thus become indispensable. Growing awareness of the need for improving the conditions of women prompted the United Nations to declare 1975 as International Women's Year. India joined the ritual, but the year is coming to an end without so much as touching the basic problems of women's emancipation. No progress has been made either in the formulation or implementation of concrete programmes of action.

Available evidence suggests that women enjoyed a much better status in primitive society. Later, in feudal times, women were looked upon as chattel, the playthings of men, with child-bearing and -rearing as their main functions in life. As capitalism was superimposed over the feudal and semi-feudal system in India during imperialist rule, new forms of exploitation and social oppression of women appeared in the wake of large-scale ruination ofhandlooms, handicrafts and other cottage industries and the increase in the landless agricultural population.

The last 28 years of national independence witnessed continuance of some of the old, and emergence of the new, forms of social oppression of women. In order to hoodwink people in general and women in particular there is glib and extensive propaganda about women's "opportunities" for participation in every walk of life.

Notwithstanding all the talk about socialism and the status of



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