Women in Kashmir have come a long way. In earlier times, women in Kashmir were not given as much importance as men. They were merely seen as a commodity. Women were considered to be inferior, subordinate, and underlings. From their very childhood, girls were taught to be modest and coy. Their education wasn’t considered important due to which they remained illiterate and thus their vision remained confined within the borders of patriarchy. At an early age of nine or ten they were married and they didn’t even know to whom they were married. Their opinion wasn’t considered important and decisions were thrust upon them. They had no individual identity and their existence was merely a reflection of the males that dominated them. After they were married, their role was to look after family and children. Many women had to suffer torture from their husbands or on-laws and this was considered to be perfectly normal. Women were taught by their parents to endure every situation, no matter how harsh.
Women were treated unequally and unfairly in every sphere of life. They were discriminated against in their own family. Their male siblings enjoyed every freedom but women were not even allowed to express their opinion or to step out of the house. Women in traditional Kashmiri society were totally depended on the male members of their family, due to which they weren’t able to develop a personality of their own, and their dependence lowered their status both socially and economically. Even women who belonged to the upper social class were not allowed to do any professional work as it was considered to be beneath their high status. Although women who belonged to the lower social strata were engaged in various economic activities, like agriculture, spinning, weaving, handicrafts, but they did so out of economic deprivation and it did not raise their status either socially or economically. It took a very long time but finally the situation of women in Kashmir began to change. Women began to seek independence. Women began to break the shackles of orthodoxy and to extend their vision beyond the borders of patriarchy. In present times we can observe that when a girl is born, it is considered to be a blessing by most people (even though a large section of society still considers girls as a burden). From childhood girls are being taught to be brave and are being given equal importance. Their opinion is considered, they are treated as an important part of family, their education is given utmost concern. The status of women has improved in every field, whether social, economical, political, or cultural. Socially, women are no longer considered as inferior to men. Culturally, their role is no more to merely to look after their family and children. Economically, women are no longer dependent on male members of their family but are working in various white collar jobs and even in male-dominated fields. Being independent, equal and secure has helped women develop self-esteem and self-confidence.
The government has also played a vital role in improving the status of women. The Indian Constitution under “Article 15(B)” gives special status to women and over the years various programmes have been initiated for the development and prosperity of women. Still, there exists widespread violence against women and there are a lot of taboos which women still cannot defy. Also, with changing times the modes of patriarchy have also been modernised. The patriarchal reaction takes place in the form of increasing crimes against women, in rapes and sexual harassment, in acid attacks and honour killings, in domestic violence and marital rape. Moreover, there are still people in society who consider women to be inferior and are of the opinion that women should not seek independence and should remain confined within the four walls of their house. There is a lot more to do, a lot more to reform. But nobody can help a woman until she herself wants to change her condition. It is only women who can break their shackles and change the thinking of people about them.
Women are the plinth of the society. Women play a vital role in building up the nation. Women build the future of the nation. William Golding, the British novelist, playwright and poet, has said thus and I quote him further:
“I think women are foolish to pretend they are equal to men. They are far superior and always have been. Whatever you give a women, she will make it greater. If you give her a sperm, she will give you a baby. If you give her a house, she will give you a home. If you give her groceries, she will give you a meal. If you give her a smile, she will give you her heart. She multiplies and enlarges what is given to her. So, if you give her any crap, be ready to receive a ton of shit.”
The writer is a student of English [email protected]