The role of women in society, in particular, in the family are dual: first in their parents’ house and after that in their husband’s home. The circumstances under which the birth of a daughter was considered unwelcome have changed, and although the treatment meted out to a daughter in Indian society is still not on par with that of a son, she is not denied care and affection by her parents.
As among the upper and middle classes during the medieval period, the ideal occupation of girls was considered to be preparation for marriage, which comprised some formal education in household chores, social and religious ceremonies as well as family and caste traditions. The importance of education, academic or otherwise, for girls, was considered to be of little importance. In the parents’ house, the girl was supposed to help her mother in domestic work, look after the younger brothers and sisters and obey her elders in all respects.
Among the higher classes, women were trained to be decorous, gifted in music and dance, well-mannered and to serve their husbands. Among the middle classes, the most important occupation for young girls was the same as among the higher classes. This type of upbringing consisted of an intensive training in the art of pleasant conversation (based on an introductory study of history, art and modern literature) and the art of discreet flirtation. Even at the beginning of the 20th century, women of the upper and middle classes were chaperoned when they went out.
The situation, however, varied with the region, period and society and there have been occasions when women gained control. Even today, despite constitutional provisions for equality of the sexes, there is virtually no distinction between femininity and submission, sacrifice and economic dependence, etc. There are certain literary references proclaiming the woman to be the ruler of the household, but in fact, she has been put in the position of an inferior being. Her Held of activity was restricted to the home, comprising role of women in society as daughter, sister, wife and mother and it never extended beyond the house. The only alternative to home was a monastery and this too depended on the wishes of the family, for example, for gaining social prestige or to follow the tradition of widows having to lead a monastic life.
Among the lower or working classes, living conditions did not allow strict imposition of the ideal of female chastity and fidelity cherished by the middle and upper classes. Girls and women working in the fields or carrying water or other items of domestic necessity could hardly be restrained from meeting other young men or from resorting to planned meetings.Role of women in the family
Religion bestows its own status on the woman. Even in temples dedicated to male divinities, the homage to the consort is considered indispensable. Frequent propitiation in various forms is made to ward off the wrath of the Devi (Kali and Mariamma). However, despite this religious attitude, a woman generally has been reduced to playing a subservient role.
Processes such as modernisation, urbanisation and socio-economic changes in post-independence India have brought in their wake many fundamental and far-reaching changes. The most revolutionary change has been the emancipation of women in India from their tradition-bound ethos into the mainstream of national life. Two of the oldest and most basic institutions of life, namely, marriage and family, have been tremendously affected by feminine emancipation.
Present scenario for role of women
India is among the four largest countries in the world, accounting for 15 percent of the world’s population while its share in the land area is only 2.5 percent. Forty-nine percent of India`s population are women. Among them, 80 per cent are in the village.
Indian womanhood has withstood valiantly the challenges and ravages of time, economic depressions, invasions, social problems religious upheavals and political turbulence. It has adapted itself to social changes and new developments in leadership demands. The ancient religious background has given women in India a heritage of the finest spiritual values and ideals that human imagination has created, ideals of chastity and courage. Women in India are the bedrock of the home and have carried forward over centuries these qualities and strengthened them.