The Indian Journal of Social Work, Vol. XXII, No. 2 (September 1961). ...
The Indian Journal of Social Work, Vol. XXII, No. 2 (September 1961).
T h e author discusses in this article one of the vital aspects of Indian society, viz.,
status of women.
Mr. Mann is a Research Scholar in the Department of Anthropology, Delhi University.
One of the vital aspects of Indian Society individual's personality can very easily be
is the status of women. The Universality of a judged by his or her resultant behaviour in
high or low status of women has always been a particular culture or society. Consequently
denied. The above fact can be evidenced it can be said that to search out the real
from the stratificational study of culture socio-economic standing of women, the study
change and women's position. The diversities of their relationship to different patterns and
in the position of an individual are always traits of culture is indispensable. Women's
found because the status itself depends upon standing is thus an integral part of culture
and is conditioned by certain situations, and a slight progression or retrogression in a
traditions and environment at a particular specific culture pattern will bring a major or
place and time. Again the position is largely minor alteration in women's position. It can
determined by certain functions that a woman be emphasised that the position of women in
or man undertake to do, also by the any society is a significant pointer to the level
behaviour and inter-relationship with others, of culture of that society.
Also, to some extent women's lot has always
On the same path and tracing identical
been controlled by the will of her lord. They approach, the position of women was
never dared to rebel because they have determined in Alipur Village (a Northern
accepted their inferiority as the converse of Indian Village, situated about eleven miles
men's superiority. As womanhood is relying northward to Delhi). The more emphasis in
on so many factors and therefore naturally, this study is laid on the rights of women when
there has always been diversification in her in husband's house and when in father's
house; in marriage; in interpersonal relations
in the situation when they are widows; in
Even Plato and Aristotle have offered property and its inheritance; in their freedom
divergent views. According to Plato women to movement. The diverse opinions in
should be admitted to all the rights and connection with the above mentioned spheres
duties of men and that the state was the loser when evaluated, and interpreted also have
in keeping them on a low level. Aristotle, helped in predicting that the old conventions
however, considered men superior to women are the greatest agencies of resistance to the
and hence their natural rulers. Therefore it elevation of women's standing. The intro-
can be inferred that in the social fabric the duction of new conventions may still take a
change in women's lot is necessary.
long period.
To understand one's status, a considerable
Most of the emergence in women's stand-
portion of his culture is studied and hence an ing has largely been owing to the changes in

last half century. Previous to that they were
Family, Interpersonal Relations and
regarded intellectually, morally and physical-
Status.—The family which is the smallest
ly inferior. The old outlook towards wives unit in social organization is patrilineal and
was in the form of drudges and slaves of so the property is inherited from father to
men. The villagers never recognised woman-
son and not to daughter. The head of the
hood as entirely and exclusively dependable, family is always a male. But if father is not
honourable, sane and wise. The concept was alive, then the consultation of the mother in
that making the living is women's main con-
certain matters has been recognised. In a
cern. It has been informed that men con-
situation where a father does not have a son
trolled religious matters; political affairs, the then he adopts some near kin. But if the
family authority and also the division of parents have a daughter the property is
labour. But there were certain approved given to her but in an indirect manner.
fields of endeavour, such as wifehood and Her husband is kept as gharjamai and
motherhood where she enjoyed considerable ultimately she takes the whole possession. A
freedom. The women themselves were never woman is respected more provided she
worried about their rights and believed as follows the age-old concepts of an ideal
firmly as their menfolk that woman's place woman such as one who does maximum
is in the home.
work in the household and also in the fields,
who does not intervene and backbite any one,
As a result of infiltration of new ideas who is faithful to her husband and does not
through various agencies and avenues as seek extra-marital relations and one who
Arya Samaj, education, speeches in never opens parda outside the house and also
independent movement delivered by various in the house when elders are present. But
speakers, mass contact with the Punjabis, now there are other avenues through which
the implementation of Five-year Plans women much can be added to the house economy.
now have better understanding and some-
Some girls are no more educated, have
what new outlook. No doubt, the majority learnt some cottage industries and spend
of the women are still illiterate but they now much time on them which escapes them from
understand marriage laws, the property laws hard toil of fields. Two to three girls are
and the personal laws enacted by the legisla-
regularly appointed and such womenfolk are
tion to raise their status. In a way, they are comparatively honoured more. The ideal
now in a transitional stage between the pattern of womenhood was also represented
newly emerging social order caused by reac-
by certain obligations which should be
tionary forces and the dead weight of the preserved by a woman for instance, she
old society. Though women are gradually should not show her hair to males, she should
and with a very very slow intensity emerging get up from the charpai if somebody is
from a long subservience to men but still passing by and she should stop her move-
because of certain blockades there are few ment when she comes across someone on the
women lawyers, doctors, journalists, editors, way, and finally, she had to massage the tired
architects and engineers. There are, however, limbs of elderly women in the house. But
two women teachers in the village. The none of them in the strict sense is found
analyzed study with regard to the effect in today though exceptions are there. In the
the position of women is made in the under-
eyes of old people this is degradation but the
mentioned determinants of culture.
younger generation does not mind it

Comparatively, the birth of a male child quirements or suggestions from spouses were
is considered as an occasion of great rejoicing. offered. Hence in this matter of engagement
Even the women who are regarded mad, the girl or the boy had almost equal position.
start attaining a great respect after she has But now the services of a go-between are no
given birth to a son. Thus, it is obvious that longer required, the girl is sometimes con-
right from the birth a great discrimination in suited and the boy is always made to agree by
matters between male and female starts, and telling him all details. Exceptions are still there
it is the boy who enjoys all amenities and in some families who are of very very old type
facilities. The girl is regarded as Paraya in all respects. The boy before he is engaged
Dhan (other's property) and Kikar (a babool sees the girl. The girls too sometimes desire
tree with thorns). She is less cared to see their would-be husbands. This is done
physically. The above mentioned two local in an indirect manner without bringing it to
words can very well explain the inferiority of the notice of the boy. In some families who
womanhood in a wider sense.
are well educated, the spouses who have to
indulge in marriage sit together for a long
Marriage.—The idea of early marriage, time and talk about each other. The idea
both in case of males and females is gradually of establishing a matrimonial relation with
diminishing. But certain lower castes, such as a family which has a sound economic position,
Chuhras and Chamars marry their children good social standing was prevailing. Also
at a very early age. However, the girl is sent bride's industrious nature, her smartness
to the husband's house only when she reaches and outer appearance were heavily stressed.
puberty. First, the idea governing early Now the preferences are based on bride's
marriage was the unpalatable criticism merits to a great extent. Every family
of neighbours about the young age of the whether literate or illiterate now prefers an
girl. Secondly, the parents wanted to educated bride and that's why in the begin-
marry her before their own eyes. ning they enquire about the standard upto
The changed attitude now is due to the which the girl is educated. Individual merits
danger that some girls became widows at a are now gaining importance. But among the
very early age and then they had to spend 'Banias' (the traders) the richness of family-
their whole life in the same channel. Another is still a great consideration because they
is the effect of education. The usual defence take bride price. As a result of this
is that the girl or the boy is receiving educa-
preference for education almost all the
tion and we cannot accept the relation. villagers send their daughters to village
Though the people well understand that leg-
schools so that they may seek good and settled
ally there is a limit to marriage age but this husbands. Through this long and complicated
hardly influences the people.
avenue women are coming forward and
The girl is not at all consulted in the matter ultimately their status.
of her marriage. The parents themselves
take the initiative and previously they
Widow Remarriage.—In this region there
utilised the services of a go-between, has been a great diversification of the idea
(barber). The girls never dared to say of widow remarriage. The Brahmins, Banias
anything and the go-between used to engage and one or two lower castes never practised
the boy after explaining the whole social widow remarriage but in the rest of the castes
and economic background of the family in it did happen. Among the Brahmins and
which engagement had to be made. No re-
Banias the widows either lived with their

parents or lived alone in their husband's brother of the deceased husband but if no
house. The idea was that the woman after such candidate was found then to some near
marriage should not be touched by others relative. This remarriage is entirely and
except by her own husband. But as the time exclusively dependent upon the widow and
passed the young widows started some everything is left to her choice. The process
immoral business and also elopements of remarriage is locally known as "Chuhri
prevailed. When this sort of moral crime and Pahrana". Widows with children also
decadence started people thought widow remarry. A widow is regarded as unlucky and
remarriage as a good appliance to check it unfortunate and her position is also lowered
and from that time onwards widow remarriage down.
among Brahmins and Banias started. Among
It appears therefore that social change
the other castes a widow could remarry. positively catalyses the elevation in woman's
Generally she married to the elder or younger standing.