As India celebrates its 72 nd Independence Day, we reached out to seven women to ask them what freedoms Indian women are still fighting for today.
Since then powerful women have taken to the stage to lead the way for others to follow. They’re shattering glass ceilings, stereotypes, and our notions of what is possible. Yet, despite these inspiring stories, India has a patchy track record when it comes to women’s empowerment. Here are some of the struggles Indian women still face.
Dr Aruna Kalra, 45, Director & Senior Gynaecologist Surgeon, CK Birla Hospital, Gurugram“Indian women need to be free from age-old beliefs of their place in society, of what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. This includes the belief they’re in second place after their partner or that they need to do their duty by conceiving a boy child. The crux of the problem is that 80 per cent of our girls are taught to be second class citizen/humans. They are not given the right to speak their minds, discuss forbidden topics, and rationalise unscientific rituals and rites. This leads women to believe they’re incapable of taking decisions for themselves. We first need to believe in ourselves and only then will the world consider us equal.” Hitangi Brahmbhatt, 27, Museum Curator“Overtly, it would seem that the 21 st century woman has everything she needs. But look closely and you’ll realise that it’s not the case. Patriarchy is the root cause for several issues that women face—whether it’s financial dependency after marriage, domestic harassment or even marital rape. Sexism exists because of patriarchy. If there’s one thing women need freedom from today, it is patriarchy.” Nisreen Mamaji, 53, Financial Planner & Founder, MoneyWorks Financial Advisors“Women in India need freedom from daily domestic chores. Family is still considered the woman’s domain and she is the fulcrum for the whole family system. This means that all household and family responsibilities, duties, and chores fall on her shoulders. It doesn’t matter if she’s holding down a full-time job. Women are constantly running a marathon inside and outside their homes. This societal mindset has to change so that women can become more independent. There should be an equal division of responsibilities between couples, siblings, etc. Women need to raise their sons to understand that housework isn’t just ‘women’s work’. There should be equality in the household.” Priyanka Gupta, 33, Director, Make-up Designory, India, & Leap India Institute, & Owner of Bomb Bae FC “We all are so bogged down with trying to live up to the expectations of family, friends and society at large, that we are unable to do what we want and be ourselves. We are so scared of being judged and criticised. Also, there is constant pressure to be successful, at home and at work. We are always trying to please people—be it our mother-in-laws and husbands or our bosses and superiors. This pressure causes us to behave differently at home and with friends. Women need freedom from this dual life. This Independence Day, I want the freedom to be myself. I want the freedom to do what my heart and gut says without the pressures of society and its norms.” Kamalika Bhattacharya, 37, Co-founder & CEO, QuoDeck“Women today need freedom from being cast into stereotypes: homely, career woman, feminist or mother hen. We are more than a single dimension, and I say that without pride or comparison. I believe in a woman’s right to choose her dimensions. The choice to be single, married, divorced, a parent, a freelancer, a business owner, a corporate head honcho or a housewife. The ability to choose without being judged or typecast into a stereotype is the freedom I feel we need to work towards.” Aanchal Saini, 31, former lawyer at Delhi High Court, & CEO & Founder, Rent It Bae“Mansplaining and the glass ceiling are two big issues that women are looking to free themselves from. We want equality and by that I mean equal rights for men as well. We can’t pressure/blame one section of society because it’s a two way street. On the other hand, men really need to stop putting women’s opinions down or demeaning them. The glass ceiling has become such a thin layer that it’s barely visible, while mansplaining is quite evident and can be called out easily. It’s beautiful to see how this fight is being picked up, with men as well actively fighting for these issues.” Kejal Mehta, 39, Homemaker“I believe there should be freedom of individuality in a marriage; the freedom to bring in one’s own traditions, customs and way of life. Most Indian families expect the woman to immediately drop everything she knew from childhood to adopt and adapt to the man’s way of life. Practically and logically I find it very disturbing when these things are imposed without a thought! Women should have the freedom to retain their individuality and adopt what improves themselves and their marriage.”