Women in Perspective (Essays on Gender Issues)

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Item Code: NAH542
Author: Shoma A Chatterji
Publisher: Vitasta Publishing Pvt. Ltd.
Language: English
Edition: 2010
ISBN: 9788189766245
Pages: 242
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 8.7 inch x 5.5 inch
Weight 380 gm
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Book Description
About The Book

Society has created women stereotypes and expectations that they should behave in a particular way. This has led to discriminations and biases. Every time a woman is violated or exploited, the incident is scrutinized through the magnifying lens of societal norms. This has forced women to stay locked up inside their conventional stereotypical image.

The very nation of woman submissiveness, spontaneous, trained or socially conditioned, has triggered off a range of varied shades of violence around her in the form of domestic violence, female foeticide, female infanticide, rape, acid attacks, denial of parliamentary participation and so on.

Through this book, which is a collection of essays on women-related issues, the author has sought to highlight the image of women as they see them. The multiple ways and gender bias as seen through the eyes of women.

Is the domestic violence law really a boon for women? Is a fair skin one’s only guarantee to get a job of choice? Should a rapist be pardoned for his heinous crime if he offers to marry the victim, and will it be justice for the girl/woman who was robbed of her honour and treated merely as a commodity?

While the male-dominated feudal society discusses things from a traditional viewpoint, these essays try to touch upon what impact these incident produce on suffering women. The central themes is why should she be treated as a commodity. Why is she defied to be commodified? Why can’t society treat her as equal?

About The Author

Shoma A Chatterji is a noted author freelance journalist and film scholar. She holds a Masters in Economics and a Masters in Education from the University of Mumbai. She obtained her PhD In History (Indian Cinema) from Netaji Subhas University, Kolkata.

Her areas of specialization include cinema, gender, television, child rights, human rights, literature and relationship. She conducts workshop on writing, journalism and film appreciation in Mumbai and Kolkata, and film made presentation on gender and cinema across India and beyond. She has served on the international and FIPRESCI Jury at several Films festivals across the world.

She has been recipient of many awards, some of which includes Best Film Critic in 1991 at the National Awards; Best Film Critic award from the Bengali Film Journalists’ Association in 1998; commendation for her ‘Outstanding Contribution to Women’s issue from the Eve’s Weekly Women Journalist Award; National Award for the Best Book on Cinema in 2003 for ‘Parama and Other’. Outsider—The Cinema of Aparna Sen; and Bharat Nirman Award for ‘ Excellence in Journalism’.

She has also won several research fellowship for research in gender and media from National Film Archive of India, Pune; Public Service Broadcasting Trust, Delhi; The Network University, the Netherlands; and the Indian Council of Social Science Research, Delhi.


The Indian woman has always been misled by the imposed ideal of womanhood. Be it in her gentle manners and natural tenderness, or her lack of physical strength, she has always found herself hidden behind a mist of illusions, social constructs, fenced in from all sides and forced away from the real world into the seclusion of a helpless and dispossessed life. It is the unfair system that fosters the absurd notion that she has no place in the world of work outside her home. Man is the maker of that world, and woman's duty is to make it a home according to the structure that is a pre-conceived, square pattern for her to follow with rigid and unquestioned loyalty, without curves or circles to permit the flexibility human nature is born into.

Indian women's involvement in the nationalist movement could be termed the turning point in the change in their position and status. Women could not be denied this participation largely because their involvement developed within the parameters of traditional gender ideology and colonial concepts of legality, both of which identified respectable women with privacy and domesticity. By the 1920s, mass demonstrations and shop and court picketing by women challenged Indian and colonial gender stereotypes. The British hoped that purdah-related values would inhibit women from breaking colonial law. But by then, India had become any woman's home within the context of the nationalist struggle and purdah ceased to stop women from confronting British rule in public.

Against this historical backdrop, it would be interesting to place the Indian woman in perspective, in the contemporary situation and explore how she has fared in the rat-race to equality in a largely patriarchal society.

In September 2000, the United National Population Fund (UNFPA) reported that across the world, one in every three women had been physically assaulted or abused in some way, typically by someone she knew, such as her husband or another male member known to her. In response, governments publicly condemned violence against women and committed to show political will and provide financial resources for its eradication, but their performance, in practice, failed miserably to meet women's needs. In Peru or Jordan, the US or South Africa, or other states, men who beat or rape women in their homes or in state 'custody, or who murder female family members to restore "family honour", or sexually assault female students, all too often do so with impunity. Too often, states' response to this violence is perfunctory and shortsighted. At times officials do not bother to respond at all.

The larger issue of contemporary women addressing Indian women specifically needs to be dealt with through the printed word here and now.

The situation of women in India is no better. But there is not much in written form in the shape of a contemporary book that explores and analyses these issues in depth that the lay man and woman would find interesting and informative. The legal machinery for example, puts in modifications from time to time, but one new legal issue leads to the violation of human rights of some other interested party. These things need to be recorded and documented for posterity as a frame of reference for women's studies in the future and as a trigger for further studies along similar lines.

This is a humble attempt towards that goal.

Author’s Note

The word 'perspective' stands for a specific point of view in understanding or judging things or events, particularly one that shows them in their true relations to one another. It is a word that has wide connotations in human life, across cultures, cutting across borders of time, place, people, language and economy. Through this collection of essays, the author has sought to throw up images of women from multiple perspectives, particularly from a gendered perspective-looking at issues from a woman's point of view. Feminist critiques of the institution of the family now unfold aspects of vulnerability and violence that are a part of everyday lives of women. Certain groups of women outside family such as widowed, separated, living together and deserted women seem particularly vulnerable to violence. Other groups include faceless women who continue to suffer violence on the streets by the moral police and within the home by their family members. When a girl comes back to her parental home after her marriage breaks up, the family often fails to take into account the changing structural construct of contemporary Indian life and draws upon the familiar model of the widow while laying down its expectations for the prodigal daughter in her new social role-that of a divorced or separated woman.

Women in our epics-Sita, Draupadi, Kunti, Gandhari, Urmila-have metaphorical significance. Their names conjure up crucial experiences that sustain for all women till this day. Their relevance is an acknowledged fact. While going through their experiences, we not only get swallowed up by the starkness of their agony and suffering but at some point of time we start to identify with them. They reveal the quintessence of the woman's self which is incised with the marks of fear of social slur and its silent resistance against a system that subjugates and silences her and enjoys her as a commodity. There are powerful discourses in which the entire existence of Draupadi is explored as she experiences the most acute trauma of insecurity and disillusionment within the four walls of her own family. By implication, these texts raise issues of a woman's identity and self-determination in the face of her destiny being decided by others. In the course of the dramatic narration, the writer turns the mythical into the real.

Contemporary poet Suman Kesahri imagines what the original author denied Draupadi by stating what Draupadi would have said had the author given her a 'voice'. "Draupadi Panchali, Krishna, Yajnaseni-all of these are adjectives, none of them is a noun. Did it ever strike you that I have no name I had only raised some questions, I only had some queries. and you have taken away even my name! These are just a few examples of a woman's perspective, the author, on the woman, per se.


Women have always been misled by the imposed ideal of womanhood. Be it her gentle manners and natural tenderness, or her lack of physical strength, she has always found herself hidden behind a mist of illusions, fenced in from all sides and forced away from the real world into the seclusion of a helpless and dispossessed life. It is the unfair system that fostered the absurd notion that she has no place in the world of work dominated by the 'stronger sex'. Her domain has been demarcated around her-home and she is consistently reminded of it. Man is the maker of the outside world, and woman's duty is to make a home.

Women in Ancient Hindu Scriptures

The earliest religious texts of Hindus show some measure of freedom for women. For example, it is clearly stated in the Rigveda that a woman is free to choose her life partner.

Bhadra vadhur bhavati yat supesa

Swayam sa mitram vanute Jane cit.

(RigvedaX 27:12)

The wife walked ahead, not behind the husband (cf uso yati svasarasya patni Rigveda V: 115:2). Female sexuality was neither despised nor reviled as it later was. A woman could make advances towards a man with impunity. Sexual aberrations were openly admitted; illicit lovers of both sexes (jara and jarini) find frequent mention in ancient literature. But when nomadic tribal values gave way to conservative ethos of settled agriculture, this free and open relationship between men and women became a thing of the past. As a result of racial miscegenation, woman lost her right to ritual initiation or upanayana depriving her from her right to education because upanayana was mandatory for formal education. Rituals for women from then on were without mantras. Interestingly, only the courtesans had the right to formal education. While they were trained in the 64 arts listed by Hinduism, that too at the state's expense, other women were trained in housework and at the most in music and dancing.

Around this period, marriage became mandatory for girls. But even the entire marriage system was oriented towards the man's happiness and pleasure with the wife vowing to obey the husband's wishes without any questions. The idea of a 'model wife' was hammered into the minds of girls at an early stage to the effect that becoming a 'model wife' remained the only instigating force in their lives. The model wife obeyed her husband and in-laws implicitly and never talked back. She could run the household in her husband's absence but could not give anything away in charity. She had no right to wealth or even to her own body. (Manusamhita I: 10,11; 6: 3; IV: 14: 9; X: 10: 11; 15; VI: 5: 8: 2). This has been seconded by the Satapatha Brahmana (IV: 4:2: 13) which states that the wife had neither property rights, nor any right on her own body. She had no economic freedom. The husband fulfilled her basic needs but with time, she lost all her social freedom. Her movements were restricted even within the four walls of the house. The plight of womenfolk comes as no surprise when there are scriptural texts which look down upon women as something evil. For example, the Apastamba Dharmasutra and Satapatha Brahmana state that woman is inherently evil. and so should not be seen. The Dharmasutra even provides a minor expiatory rite prescribed for killing "a blackbird, mongoose, rat, dog, Shudra and a woman." (Apastamba Dharmasutra I: 9:23:45).

In ancient times, the women were never allowed any political representation either. Sabha and Samiti, the two popular political assemblies, did not permit women to participate in the matters of jurisprudence. They soon lost the right to choose their partners. The situation worsened when Aryans settled down in India, making farming their main occupation. The bulk of productive labour fell on men and women were pushed further within the confines of their role as mothers and housekeepers. The divide between the liberties allotted to men and women was not restricted to their economic and political rights only. While social norms allowed polygamy to men as their inherent right, women were not allowed to practice polyandry. The Atharvaveda (IX: 5:27) mentions polyandry twice-the woman had to offer an oblation if she married a second time and polyandry was permissible regionally for a small period of time. Pakistan With time, the fetters confining women indoors became stronger.

If the fetters binding the growth of womenfolk were not enough, ancient scriptures have ensured that women do not have any identity of their own. The tradition of giving away women as gifts in sacrifices along with other material goods was practiced in India in earlier times. This is clearly laid down in Sankhayana Srautasutra XII: 29:21 in connection with the Sarasvatanamayana sacrifice where mares, women and children were part of the sacrificial offerings. Women were also given away as gifts for entertaining guests and as dowry to priests and kings. Giving away girls to temples as devadasis was considered to be a matter of pride. The Maitrayani Samhita repeatedly says that a woman's body is not her own, hence she cannot prevent herself from being molested." Violence thrives in the victim's acceptance of the victimizer's moral right, social superiority and physical power." Timely intervention through effective protests could have secured the position of women, but the efforts have been fractional. When women protest against violence to their person by men, other women, social groups or the machineries of the government, they are once again made victims of violence.


Author's Notexv
Part I
1Changing Status of Women1
Part II
Gender and Violence
2Gender Blues33
3Language of Acid51
4Hidden World of Incest59
5Mirage in Guise of Law67
6A Modern Tragedy73
7Talibanization of Dress79
8Not So Fair or Lovely87
9Girls Not Wanted95
10Violence through AIDS105
11Guilty Proposing Victim111
12Trafficking in Women119
13Women, Terrorism and Violence129
Part III
Women, Gender and Society
14Information as Empowerment135
15Positive Image of Women in Commercials143
16Women, Gender and Media153
17Legalization of Live-in Relationships167
18Girl Child-The New Heroine175
Part IV
Women and Indian Economy
19Women in Emerging Indian Economy183
20Women and Work in Informal Sector193
21Women in Boardrooms201
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