Women's Rights in India Modern India Compared to Ancient India

Ancient India

According to the Laws of Manu, women must be honored and respected by her brothers and husbands, however, they also can't do anything independent of the male figures in her life.

The duties of a woman are also not few. They must take care of all the housework, always obey her father, her husband, and later on, her sons.

A woman who is a wife or will soon be a wife

Modern India

In modern times, many women face domestic violence, sexual harassment, and human trafficking.

In a recent study conducted by the Times of India, they found that 41% of women had been harassed before the age of 19. They also found that 73% of women had been harassed and experienced violence in the past month, and 26% of women hareported to have been groped in the past month


One of the reasons for so much domestic violence is because of the dowry system.

The dowry system was established long ago when it was customary for the bride's family to give a gift in cash to the bride. When the British had its colony in India, it was the only legal way to get married.

However, even though dowries are illegal(because many husbands mentally, physically, and sexually abuse their wives for a higher dowry), it's nearly impossible to enforce that law. As a result, and amendment to the law in 1986 states that any death or violence in the first seven years of marriage would constitute as being dowry related. Not only that, but according to the Times of India, a woman is killed every hour due to dowry demands.

However, there have been steps to better the situation. The Prime Minister of India has created a campaign called "Save the Daughter, Educate the Daughter". The "save" portion refers to the fact that many women have an abortion when they find out that their child is a girl. They do this because the burden of a dowry for the girls is too much and they have an abortion.

There were also two videos released that tackled the problems of dowry. In the second video, a woman is about to go for a ride with her husband, but her father-in-law orders her to go to housework. She replies by saying that since her husband accepted her dowry, she has bought him and closes the video by telling the father that if he wanted use her things, he should ask nicely and she may consider it. The point of the video, according to the makers, was to objectify the man and in turn, put him into a women's shoes for once.

The video previously mentioned. It tells the story of how the women says that since she paid for the scooter and paid for her husband, she owns her husband since he accepted the dowry and that the father could use her things if he asked nicely.

Domestic Abuse

The problem is, marital rape is not considered a crime in India. And, divorced wives do not get to share any of their husbands' assets. Not only that, but in Indian society, it's a given that the man is the one with all the power in the relationship. The husband controls the money, and he in turn often gives the money to his mother. If he gives it to his wife, fights over the power in the house are to be expected. Not only that, but many wives in India live with their husband and his mother, sisters, brothers, and father. Indian women, by the Law of Manu, are supposed to be treated with great respect, but in reality, they are often worked like slaves. Not only that, but they are often not allowed do many things. From wearing certain types of clothing to getting a job. There is also much rivalry between the older and younger women of the house which often result in bitter disputes.

A woman, Maya Kapoor(alias), was married to her husband and moved in with her in-laws. There, she was no longer her husband's equal, but rather an object forced to do as he pleased. She had to do all the housework, and when she was sick, her husband never offered to help. He merely told her that she could do it tomorrow. When she finally managed to convince her husband that they would be better off living on their own, her mother-in-law and her sister-in-law complained that she was stealing her husband away from them. Kapoor was forced to stay in the household, and although she could go to the authorities, she fears that nothing would be done and the abuse would only get worse.

There have been attempts at improving the situation for women with the Domestic Violence Act in 2005, but many times the authorities will turn a blind eye to the abuse. In 2014, the court declared that the law was being wielded as a weapon by unhappy wives to hurt their husbands and that police shouldn't immediately arrest men accused of domestic abuse

A woman cooks food on a gas-connected stove at her home in the village of Mangrauli in India’s Uttar Pradesh state. Photograph: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Getty Images

The Problem with Temples

In India, a few temples still don't allow women to enter. However, many woman have been fighting ot get into the temple, and, as one woman named Ms. Desai says, "These are man-made traditions. god does not differentiate between man and woman. He was born of a woman too." She states that it is her constitutional right as a devout Hindu to be abel to enter the temples.

Many woman have joined in on entering the temples. Just last month, several hundred woman marched from the western city Pune to the Shani Singnapue temple. They were stopped before being able to enter, but it was a valiant attempt.

At one temple, a temple official said that women could enter on one condition. they couldn't be menstruating. The temple official said it was because the deity of the temple, Shani, is a bachelor, he would emit a radiation that would cause harm to the women and their unborn children. This caused many to be angry and some young woman used a hashtag #HappytoBleed to spread awareness.

A Hindu Temple

Classroom Remedies

There have been many steps to solve the problems of domestic abuse in India. One of these are gender classes. In the classes, the students talk about how the igrls are treated differently simply because htey are girls; how they don't have as much downtime since they have to do housework. Activists that talking about everyday inequalities between boys and girls will help prevent domestic abuse further down the road. They believe that if boys learn that gender abuse and discrimination isn't morally acceptable earlier on, they are less likely to act violently later to their wives and other woman. And if girls learn to speak out earlier, they are less likely to stay silent about the abuse later on in life.

Unfortunately, this issue only came ot the attention of many Indians after a New Delhi woman was raped and killed by four men in 2012. And, when a documentary about the woman's life came out, India banned it because it contained an interview with one of the men who were convicted.

A Classroom

A Fight for Independence (The Story of Leena Sharma)

Many women have also taken it into their own hands to create change. Enter Leena Sharma, a woman who owned and inherited a piece of land that was estimated to be worth around $250000. She was working in the city, and while she wasn't home, her uncle would take advantage of hte land by letting his cows graze on it, farm on it, etc.

In the first place, it's hard for women to inherit land since inheritance always favors the son. In 1956, a law was passed(and later amended in 2005) that made it a bit easier for women to inherit the land, but still, only 13% of India's agricultural land is owned by women. And, as manya ctivists have discovered, even if by legal law women have a better chance at inheriting land compared ot th epast, societal rules can often overrule that and land that should legally be the daughter's could end up with the son. Often, when in a land dispute, the woman is persuaded to give up thier rights as heir or simply forced to give the up. Sometimes, women are branded as witches and as a result, 2413 women have died from 2000-2014.

Sharma was considered untrustworthy, a divorced woman, a woman who only went back to her hometown to abuse and harass her uncle for money to fill her greed. In court, she was declared the rightful heir.

When Sharma was building a fence around her property, her uncle and some of his lackeys beat he with sticks and stones. Her body was later found in a ditchm half-naked and withmany injuries on her body. This woman was strong and independent, she fought for her rights and was silenced.


In comparison, the differences between women's rights in modern times and their rights in ancient India are astounding. However, a lot of the legacy of ancient India is still present today. Dowries are still an integral part of life even though they have been outlawed a long time ago. Women are still not allowed to be independent as evidenced by Leena Sharma's story and Maya Kapoor's. Also, women are expected to do all of the chores in the house and obey their husbands. But in ancient India, women were respected and honored. In modern India, they are repeatedly objectified and harassed on a near daily basis. Not only that, but in ancient India, the wellbeing of the women in the household meant the wellbeing of everyone in the household. In modern India, many women face domestic abuse and feel afraid to turn to the authorities.









Created with images by donvikro - "india independence tricolor" • Yolanda - "india woman sari" • D-Stanley - "Hindu Temple" • Tom Maisey - "Classroom" • sam_churchill - "Telecom-Map-of-India"

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