Monday, 15 April 2013

Dr Ambedkar as the Champion of Women’s Rights - Shura Darapuri



                        Dr Ambedkar as the Champion of Women’s Rights 
 Shura Darapuri


"We shall see better days soon and our progress will be greatly accelerated if male education is persuaded side by side with female education…" were the words of young Ambedkar, during his studies at New York which came out while writing a letter to his father's friend. On 18th July 1927, Dr. Ambedkar addressed a meeting of about three thousand women of the Depressed Classes, where he said,”I measure the progress of community by the degree of progress which women had achieved. He strongly believed in the fact that if “a woman is educated a family is educated”. He not only encouraged them to get educated themselves but also encouraged them to educate their children and keep them away from all kinds of vices. He strongly opposed taking of intoxicants that was because he realised that most cases of domestic violence occurred under their influence.
Women were the major force in all the struggles initiated by Dr Ambedkar. In the historic Mahad Satyagraha, there were about 500 women who took active part in the procession. Dr. Ambedkar also raised the women's issue as Member of Legislative Council during his debate in Bombay Legislative Assembly on 10th Nov. 1938. He strongly advocated family planning measures and said that besides many other problems giving birth to many children negatively affects a mother's health. In India, the insatiable desire to have son renders the life of women miserable, for she is pestered to produce more children till she gives birth to a son. Later in the year 1942, Dr. Ambedkar also introduced Maternity Benefit Bill during his tenure as Labour Minister in Governor General's Executive Council.
While drafting the Constitution of India, Dr. Ambedkar was the prime mover of the provisions related to the welfare of women. On the question of civil rights, Dr. Ambedkar made provisions in Articles 14-16 of the Indian Constitution, which provided equal status to women and also banned the sale and purchase of women prevailing in Hindu India. Further to ensure women’s status Dr. Ambedkar also introduced an emancipatory bill (the Hindu Code Bill) in Parliament which intended mainly (1) to abolish different marriage systems prevalent among Hindus and to establish monogamy as the only legal system; (2) Conferment of right to property and adoption on women; 3) restitution of conjugal rights and judicial separation; attempts to unify the Hindu Code in tune with progressive and modern thought. The Bill invited a lot of opposition from the orthodox sections of society and ultimately Dr Ambedkar had to resign on that account. In the history of India, perhaps that was one sole instance when a man tendered resignation for the cause of women.
 But unfortunately, in the present times despite the various Constitutional safeguards and various laws claiming equality to all citizens, women are denied rights enjoyed by a citizen of this country. In fact she is denied even the basic right to live. She may bring the man into the world by carrying him in her womb for nine months yet she is not allowed to live another day once it is known that it is ‘she’ and not ‘he’ there in the womb. It is found that though advances are being made in the field of science and technology, worldwide literacy rates have risen yet old societal norms seem to govern the day. On accountn of this the cases of violence against women, are on a rise . According to one World Report report 70% of women had experienced physical or sexual violence at some point in life.
Most countries make proud claims of being ‘independent’ yet a cloud of fear lurks constantly over the minds of most of their womenfolk. In India, for example though men are supposed to be custodian of women’s honour and dignity, yet it is seen that leave alone  the common man  neither well trained army nor police with high tech arms have been successful in preventing a woman from getting raped in this country. On the contrary, they also seem to choose the most vulnerable ‘ill-nourished’ lot of women of their country to ‘show off’ their prowess.  In a recent Tarn Taran incident of Punjab it was seen, hefty policemen took turns to beat a poor dalit girl when she went to lodge a complaint against her molestation. In a recent incident a young child of ten is put behind bars for “being raped” while the culprits moved freely and fearlessly.
In another incident at Delhi, a young child of three was drugged and raped by the ‘husband’ of the owner of the playschool.
People religiously take turn to take dips in the holy river at Kumbh, year after year people go for Haj, women remain more hungry for most days of the year, yet none ensures her a secure environment where she can breathe freely, move out of her house fearlessly!
In such a situation when immorality seems to be the order of the day how is a woman expected to get herself educated and contribute to the progress of the country?
Dr Ambedkar greatly emphasised on a society based on moral values. Education is incomplete without instructions in moral values. According to Dr Ambedkar “Morality comes in only when Man comes in relation to Man. It arises from the direct necessity from Man to love Man.  It does not require the sanction of God. It is not to please God that Man has to be moral but for the good of the society.”
Dr Ambedkar attached great importance to the need of right relations i.e., social morality which according to him sustained the society in the hours of crisis. It can prevent the acts of barbarism, injustice and inhumanity. Man by following the path of righteousness, which in other words means right relations between Man and Man in all spheres of life, can pave the way for peace and justice which serves as effective coordination among people themselves. That is possible only when all of us come together irrespective of caste, creed, sex, religion, region to build a better world for our future generations!

Shura Darapuri
Head, Department of History
Baba Saheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University,
Lucknow (UP)

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