While stone statues of the female form (Saraswati, Lakshmi, Durga/Kali) are worshipped in temples and religious rituals, a large number of those made of flesh and blood face violence on the streets and in homes, and encounter discrimination throughout their lives that begins at (or even before) birth, and continues during childhood, adolescence and adulthood.
A girl child is often treated differently from her male sibling in terms of nutrition, health care and education, especially in families with limited financial resources--with the insufficient means allocated unevenly in favour of the male offspring. Under the existing cultural and social norms, a married woman in India is no longer considered to be part of her parents' family and has to translocate from her parental home to live with her husband's family after marriage --moving from the subjugation of her father/brother to that of her husband.
What is it to be a woman in India?
For Dr Pooja Ramakant, an endocrine surgeon, it is quite challenging to be a woman in India. 'She has to grow up fighting for rights, which are rightfully hers. A woman needs to be become very strong to realize that her life is her own and not of others who keep advising her what is right and what is not. Once a woman breaks all these stupid bonds of society then only can she start living in earnest.'
Manisha, a homemaker, is saddened by the fact that an Indian woman is expected to sacrifice her happiness to keep others happy (sab ki khushi key liye apni khushi kurban karti hain).
Pallavi, who works in the corporate sector, is 'fed up with discrimination at the workplace-- it is tough to be a woman in workplaces earmarked as men's territory. It is terrible to be in India working with men who do not heed/value your opinion just because you are a woman. In the corporate world you tend to lose out on promotions and appreciations if you cannot join your partners for cigarette breaks and crack obscene jokes with them. If we have more female managers and a strong women's leadership in companies things are bound to improve.'
Then again, even though, according to Smriti, 'a woman is the heart of the family and drives society', Ritu rues that women in India are continuously under the scanner; judged for their actions by others; and expected to prove their worth (as defined by society).
India is a signatory to the Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and was represented at the 2013 session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), where governments committed to ending all forms of violence against women. Yet, despite pro-women laws that support gender equality and aim at ending discrimination, violence against women is not only increasing but also becoming more and more brutal and targeting even girls as young as 5 years (or even younger in age). As if the poor sex ratio of 940 females per 1000 males (as per 2011 census) was not enough, the National Crime Records Bureau reports that on an average 92 women are raped in India every day. There is also a large disparity in male literacy rate (82%) and female literacy rate (65%).