Men and women are the two important creatures of the society and they are born equal but treated unequally. This is true not only in India but worldwide too. In Manu Smriti it is clearly mentioned that women give birth to next generation, enlighten the home and they bring fortune and bliss. Hence, women are synonymous with prosperity but still she (a mother) is thrown out of her own house by her own children. A daughter is kept away from her birth giver (parents). Swami Vivekanad said that if you want to see the development of a nation you have to first allow women to develop. Gender bias has existed for long years and exists even today in the 21st century. The reason is the mindset of the society which believes that women are made only for home and they cannot be equal to men. The Indian constitution says that every citizen of the country has a right to equality, be it a man or a woman; even then a woman is deprived of personal and proprietary rights.
- The objective of this research paper is to review the status of women in Indian society, both rural and urban.
- It has tried to analyse the role of women in the Indian media.
- It has examined the portrayal of women in the Indian media and the role of media in women empowerment.
Women in Vedic Era
The status of women in India has seen many great changes over time. In ancient times women were given equal rights with men, they were enjoying the same freedom as men. Patanjali and Katyayana (ancient Indian grammarians) suggest that women were educated in the early Vedic period. The Rig-Veda verses say that women married at a mature age and were allowed to choose their husband. Studies show that women enjoyed equal status and rights with men during the Vedic period.
Women in Medieval Period
The status of women started to decline in the medieval period and later Christianity curtailed women’s freedom and rights. The situation became worse during this period when Sati, child marriage and ban on widow remarriage became part of social life among Indian communities. The Muslims brought the purdah system to the Indian society and it was practised by nearly all Indian communities. The Devadasis or the temple women were sexually exploited, polygamy was widely practised, men had more then one wife and dominted the lives of all the wives. In the Muslim families women were restricted to the Zenana areas. They were not supposed to come in front of men except their husband. Women were considered the property of men. After her birth she is dominated by father and when she is married she is dominated by her husband. There were, however, a few women who sparkled like a star in the dark. They excelled in the field of politics, literature, education and religion. Razia Sultana became the only woman monarch to have ever ruled Delhi. The Gond queen Durgavati ruled for fifteen years before she lost her life in a battle. Chand Bibi defended Ahmedabad against the mighty Mughal forces of Akbar in 1590s. Jehangir’s wife Nur Jehan effectively wielded imperial power and was recognized as the real force behind the Mughal throne. The Mughal princesses Jahanara and Zebunnissa were well-known poets. Shivaji’s mother; Jijabai, was the queen regent and was an able warrior and administrator.
Women During Independence Struggle
The situation began to change when national figures started the struggle for India’s freedom. Mahatma Gandhi invited help from women.Women like Sarojini Naidu, Vijaya Laxmi Pandit and Mrs. Aruna Asaf Ali became part of the freedom struggle.
Mrs. Indira Gandhi became the Prime Minister of India. Kiran bedi became first female IPS Officer. The status of women in India increased a lot. It was proved that women are not inferior to men. Many women thereafter have occupied prestigious positions in India. They have excelled in almost all fields such as sports, politics, administration, science and arts.
The constitution of independ India gave equal rights to men and women. But even today one cannot say that all women in India enjoy equal rights with men in all matters. Indian women are denied all facilities, they do not get basic education and they cannot go out of the house alone. The woman is the responsibility of the father till she is not married; after she is married her husband has the right on her. On the other hand, women who are standing next to men are enjoying equal rights with men though there are certain exceptions. It is observed that women of metropolitan cities are well educated and well settled even then they have to fight for their rights in terms of financial equality, security and social status. It is found that in most rape cases the accused are known to the victims or related to them. The December 16, 2012 gang rape case in Delhi shows the insecurity of women in the national capital. Despite being with a male caompanion she was raped by six men of the so-called civilised society.
Media in India
The Indian media has become distinctive over a period of time. It consists of different mediums of communications: television, radio, cinema, newspapers, magazines, and Internet-based Websites and portals, most of which owned by private or semi-government organizations. Traditional media exists not only in rural areas but also in urban areas. It includes folk songs, music, dance, yatra, drama and theatre, puppetry and street theatre.
Each category of media in India has a glorious past. Newspapers are the oldest in this context. It started in 1780 when JA Hicky started Bengal Gazette from Calcutta. Cinema came in 1913, radio came in 1927 in Pune, television in 1959 as an educating medium but gradually it gained popularity and in 1991 Doordarshan started a channel especially for entertainment. Internet came to India in the ninth decade of the 20th century. With the advent of new technologies and digitalization, many new forms of media are also coming including mobile phone, i-phone, i-pad, notebook, and Outdoor media. These new forms of communication are collectively called New Media.
Today, India has more than 70,000 newspapers and over 690 satellite channels. Radio and television have around 38 crores and 13 crores users respectively. The new media is getting popular all over the world. According to a survey, around 12 crores people are using internet in 2013 and this figure is expected to reach 14 crores in 2014. The young population of India is especially inclined towards the social media that includes Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Blogs and many more. Not surprisingly, there has been a mobile phone boom. Around 25.1 crores people are expected to use the mobiles in 2014. Needless to say, because of this huge reach many options are open for communication through mobile technology.
Women in Indian Media
Women were restricted by custom and law from access to the profession of journalism. They aced discrimination within the profession. Nevertheless, women worked as editors, reporters, sports analyst and journalists even before the 1890s. Today the scenario is changing. Women are walking as men’s equal. There is a large number of working women and there is hardly any field that does not have women representatives. We have women administrators, entrepreneurs, doctors, police women, computer specialists, politicians and most surprising the entire media business is full of women in practically all types of activities. Women in the media are working in every department as equals of male colleagues and at high position positions too. There women who are leading the media house. Many budding female journalist want to be like late Prabha Dutt, Homai Vyarawalla and Barkha Dutt who set a milestone in her career by covering the Kargil war in 1999. Before, Barkha it was her mother, Prabha Dutt who had convinced her editor in Hindustan Times that women journalists were good for more than reporting the local flower show in town, as quoted by Barkha Dutt in one of her early interviews. Late Homai Vyarawalla was the Indian female photojournalist, Maya Mirchandani of NDTV, Suhasini Haider of CNN-IBN and Anjali Kamat of the US-based “Democracy Now” are the few names of Indian journalist who have became inspirations for every female journalist in India. But it still a fact that most female journalist are given soft beats as it is presumed by the men that they cannot cover hard beat news.
On the other hand, women are being portrayed as subjects of entertainment. The advertising industry has made women a commodity. Every second advertisement has women in it, whether her presence is required or not. There are many advertisements which prove this statement. The advertisement of cement and iron rods have women when their presence is not at all required; it is just to grab the attention.
Media Role in Women Empowerment
Communication is extremely important for women’s development and media plays a significant role in it. In all sphere of life whether for controlling population growth, spread of literacy or improving quality of life of the masses, media has a crucial role to play. Media creates awakening in women to achieve their potential as the prime movers of change in the society.
Development communication is a term in third world countries which talks about the development of society through communication using mass media. Since women are an integral part of the society, it has become the responsibility of the media to contribute to the empowerment of women. Renowned scholar Roger Evertt (1948) says that media can help in development by creating ‘Opinion Leaders’ in the society who act as a medium between policy makers i.e. government, and commoners. Using this theory, it can be said that if media helps in preparing opinion leaders with positive attitude for women, then this will certainly help in the empowerment of the women at the ground level. Also, media can directly create awareness among the commoners about the rights and respect for women through special programmes and discussions on relevant issues.
Like a cart requires two wheels to work properly, men and women are the two important parts of the society and without both of them together a society cannot be formed and developed. Somewhere in their minds the men in the society know about this fact, still the majority of them are not mentally ready to accept this ground reality. It is also true that the suppression of any one of them, whether men and women, is not healthy for a developing society.
To an extent the media is playing its role for the welfare of the society, but it can do much better and much more, especially in awakening the people and the weaker sections. Women empowerment could be one of the areas where the media effort is required. The potential exists for the media to make a far greater contribution to the advancement of women.
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