The Social + Political Situation of Women in India in 5 Minutes or Less

Hey Marigold lovers! Seeing as I have the honor of being one of the first guest bloggers for Marigold, I should probably introduce myself. My name is Mikaela Ryan and I’m a senior political science major at Westmont College, as well as the founder of a media company, Mira Global.  

Due to living with Mary Elizabeth last year, I’ve watched Marigold unfold from it’s baby stages of mini design iterations scattered across our kitchen table (meanwhile I was just trying to figure out how to perfect my quinoa recipe that year ;).

Three generations of women in Hanumanthapuram village. Photo by, Mary Elizabeth Heard

Three generations of women in Hanumanthapuram village. Photo by, Mary Elizabeth Heard

I’ve never been to India. So why ask me to write a blog post about the social and political situation of women in India? Great question. First, when I was little girl, I dreamed of traveling to the “3 I’s”: Ireland, Israel, and India. The interest is alive and well to this day. Second, my major has helped me understand how social, economic, and political systems interact with each other. Third, my work with @miraglobal combines a heart for social impact with an obsession for beautiful design, which is why we love Marigold & Co! Read on for some of my research and insights into this issue.

“Largest democracy in the world”  /  4th most dangerous country for women

Child marriage is illegal / 40% of the world’s child marriages occur in India (Dana Foundation)

Dowery Prohibition Act passed in 1961 / A woman dies a dowery related death every 90 minutes

India is a place where practice is slow to catch up to legislation. How can the law be so counter to reality? Currently, India is a modernized government with ancient roots in the Hindu caste system. India is experiencing a clash of values between traditional and progressive. Culturally, it is still a very patriarchal society, even if their Constitution says otherwise. There’s a big difference between gender inclusive law and gender inclusive cultural attitudes. Women still experience gender discrimination in the form of domestic violence, rape, the abandonment or aborting of baby girls, child marriage, and ostracizing of widows. Such practices are hard to abolish when they are/are believed to be rooted in ancient religious texts. How can we translate the law into practice?

Woman weaving palm frond for a thatched roof in Kochi, Kerala. Photo by, Mary Elizabeth Heard 

Woman weaving palm frond for a thatched roof in Kochi, Kerala. Photo by, Mary Elizabeth Heard 

There is hope. Lawmakers are working hard to implement gender equality. For example, this week, the Indian Supreme Court has ruled that having intercourse with a wife between 15-18 years old is illegal. Hopefully this will reduce the number of child marriages. Parliament is also working to reduce sex crimes against women by passing a bill that establishes more severe retributive justice for sexual offenses.

Additionally, financial independence is a huge factor in raising the standards of women in India. Instead of being dependent on a man, they can have the resources to send their children to school and provide food for their family. Financial independence creates a sense of security for women. When women are given opportunities such as developing a skill set and earning an income, they have a tangible financial power, which is why what Marigold & Co. is doing is so important! Hopefully, unequal cultural mindsets will eventually be transformed by the economic independence and political freedom of women.

In the past few years, there has been a shift from resignation to hope. Women are rising up and moving forward to shape a brighter future. A sense of social and political empowerment in India's women is tangible in the cities. The hope is that with time the work of feminists in these urban areas will radiate out into rural villages. Although change in legislature is important, it is the work of women who have the privilege of activism in the midst of crisis, who bring freedom to women existing in different spaces and to future generations. 

 

Young woman riding her motorbike to school in Singaperumal Koil. Photo by, Katelyn Luna 

Young woman riding her motorbike to school in Singaperumal Koil. Photo by, Katelyn Luna 

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Mikaela Ryan

is a professional lover of honey lavender ice cream and chronic podcast-listener. On a more serious note, she has studied International Security and Development (fancy name for Political Science) and is the founder and editor-in-chief of MIRA. She founded MIRA with the goal of informing millennials on social and political issues in a visually pleasing way. As a plan B, she hopes that arranging flowers and brunching at all hours of the day can be considered a legitimate career path.

Mikaela Ryan