In India women are rejecting their traditional role

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In India women are rejecting their traditional role

In India, more and more women are rejecting the traditional ideas about the role of women, writes Nilanjana Bhowmick.


Women form a human chain in New Delhi, as part of a campaign against violence to women. Photo by Ministry of Women and Child Development (GODL-India), published under an open license.

‘Today, I am sorry to say this, lots of modern women in India want to stay single,’ said the health minister of the southern Indian state of Karnataka. ‘Even if they get married, they don’t want children. They want surrogacy. So, there is a big change in our thinking, which is not good.’ He blamed it on the old idea of ‘Western influences’.

The minister, from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), thinks it is wrong that women can make their own personal choices or choices about having children. But it is wonderful that some Indian women now have the confidence to break away from a patriarchal society, a society ruled by men. They teach us from when we are children that the kitchen is our place and that marriage, housework, and caregiving are more important than jobs and careers or financial independence. They shame women who reject these ideas sometimes in private conversations or in public.

Yes, more Indian women are preferring to be single, or married but without children. In our last census in 2011, the number of single women in the country grew by 39 percent between 2001 and 2011. If they are choosing careers and not the traditional roles of homemakers and caregivers, it’s because there is no opportunity for them to have both roles. Family always seems to come before career. This is the only way we can explain why women are only 20 per cent of India’s workers even after they have closed the education gap – in 2018-19 women had over 53 percent of undergraduate degrees.

Indian society does not allow women to balance their careers with their home life, like a progressive society, and our lawmakers are no better. Past governments have not cared about power for women and BJP lawmakers always talk about women’s traditional role in Indian society. One BJP minster made people angry when he criticised the morals of women wearing ripped jeans. India’s budget for projects for women is still below one per cent of GDP – and in 2021 it went down by 26 per cent from the year before.

Indian women have made progress but they still have a long way to go. For example, in politics India elected a record 78 women to parliament – but they represent only 14.4 per cent of all lawmakers. Women still earn only about two-thirds of what men earn for the same work.

Personal freedom, too, is limited. Most women in India still need permission from the men in their families to do things like seeing a doctor or going to see a film They also miss out on school because of housework, caregiving, or early marriage. Only a very small number of Indian women are in a position to challenge patriarchy – but the number is growing every day. The fact that it worries men is a win in itself.


(This article is in easier English so it is possible that we changed the words, the text structure, and the quotes.)