How emancipated are Indian women?
In early 1930s Sub-continent's noted commentator, Dr Sir Muhammad Iqbal said `women add colour to the universe'. However, notwithstanding this `epoch' making statement, nothing has changed for women in this part of the world. They suffered then and they continue to suffer now. The plight of women can be gauged from the fact that people (in sub-continent) welcome the birth of a female calf but the birth of a girl child is mourned and in some cases the mother and the newly born are condemned.
A few years ago, there used to be big bill boards and advertisements in Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan stating "Invest Rs.500/- and save Rs 500,000 spent in the upbringing of a girl and her dowry. The advertisements signified that an "unwanted" or to put it plainly a female foetus could be aborted by spending five hundred bucks only. When Dr Zakir Naik made a mention of this in one of his speeches, he was ridiculed by Hindu chauvinists.
Talk of emancipation, women's' liberation and stuff like that, therefore, has to be taken with a pinch of salt. First of all women have to start believing that they are human beings with rights. Apart from procuring children for the husband, she has to contribute to the development of society. But to take her to that level some measures ranging from creating awareness on various issues to providing facilities like closed toilets have to be provided.
India's former Minister for Rural Development, Jai Ram Ramesh while speaking at a function on June 24, 2012 said: "Nearly 60 per cent of the people in the world who defecate in the open belong to India. Even countries like Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Afghanistan have better records. We should be ashamed of this."
According to him, 626 million people in India (half of them women) defecate in open. This was corroborated by a Times of India report dated July 8, 2012. The report reads: " It's easier to find cell phone coverage in the most backward villages of India than a proper toilet."
The report also made mention of United Nation's Millennium Development Goals Report, 2012, which says by the end of 2011, close to 35% or more than one-third of the world's population was online. But 1.1 billion people, or 15% of the global population had no sanitation facilities at all.
Experts now say sanitation is the big failure, when it comes to India's target of achieving its MDG goals. Reacting to the UN's findings, Professor Jayati Ghosh from the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) said, "Sanitation remains our worst concern. India is the least improved country when it comes to access to proper sanitation. "It's not just an assault on human dignity but also a physical threat to women."
The sordid tale does not end here. Press trust of India (PTI) quoting a report by the British-based Institute of Development Studies (IDS) flashed news on September 17, 2009. " Despite India's recent economic boom, at least 46% of its children up to the age of 3 still suffer from malnutrition making the country home to a third of the world's malnourished children."
The recently released National Family Health Survey (NFHS-3), the third pan-India survey conducted since 1992 (covering 200,000 people from 15-54 years), highlights some sobering facts on this front.
In a similar survey, conducted between December 2005 and August 2006, a whopping 45.9 per cent of India's under-three kids are underweight, 39 per cent are stunted, 20 per cent severely malnourished, 80 per cent anaemic while infant mortality hovers at 67 per 1,000. More than 6,000 Indian children below five years die every day due to malnourishment or lack of basic micronutrients like Vitamin A, iron, iodine, zinc or folic acid. Overall, India hosts 57 million – or more than a third – of the world's 146 million undernourished children.
India's child sex ratio is still a nettlesome 927 girls for every 1,000 boys while even some of the poor African countries (Nigeria at 965 and Ghana at 964) fare better – as does neighbouring Pakistan with 958.
Thank God there is no sanitation problem in Kashmir. But that does not mean that the women in Kashmir are free and emancipated. During the past few years, dowry deaths have been reported from various parts of the Valley including Srinagar.
For reasons known to one and all, the PTSD cases are on the rise and the child sex ratio is dwindling. According to data furnished by Valley's only Psychiatric disease hospital, more than 70,000 women visit the hospital every year for PTSD treatment.
According to 2001 census, the number of girls per 1,000 boys (aged between 0-6) stood at 941, the latest Census (2011) found that it has plummeted to 859. At present, there are 82 fewer girls in the state per 1,000 boys. This is a problem and needs to be addressed.