Women's rights are the rights and entitlements claimed for women and girls worldwide and which formed the basis for the women's rights movements as the photographer Kristian Bertel learned in India. In some countries, these rights are institutionalized or supported by law, local custom and behavior, whereas in others they are ignored and suppressed.
Poor health for women in India
Malnutrition results in poor health of women and this means they eat whatever is left after the men folk are satiated. As a result most of the times their food intake does not contain the nutritional value required in maintaining the healthy body. In villages, sometimes women do not get to eat a whole meal due to poverty. A report of clearly states that the women of South Asia are not given proper care, which results in higher level of malnutrition among the women of South Asia than anywhere else in the world. This nutritional deficiency has two major consequences for women first they become anemic and second they never achieve their full growth, which leads to an unending cycle of undergrowth as malnourished women cannot give birth to healthy children. The women of India are prejudiced from birth itself and they are not breastfed for long and in the want of a son get pregnant as soon as possible which decreases the caring period to the girl child, whereas male members get adequate care and nutrition.
"Women are not given the right to free movement that means that they cannot go anywhere on their own if they want and they have to take the permission of male member of family or have to take them along. This means that women miss visiting doctors even when they should, which adds to their poor health"
Maternal mortality in India
The maternal mortality rate in India is among highest in the world. As females are not given proper attention, which results in the malnutrition and then they are married at an early age which leads to pregnancies at younger age when the body is not ready to bear the burden of a child. All this results in complications, which may lead to gynecological problems, which may become serious with time and may ultimately, lead to death.
Lack of education for women in India
In India women's education never got its due share of attention and from medieval India women were debarred from the educational field. According to medieval perception women need just household education and this perception of medieval India still persists in villages of India even today. Girls are supposed to fulfill domestic duties and education becomes secondary for them whereas it is considered to be important for boys. Although scenario in urban areas has changed a lot and women are opting for higher education but majority of Indian population residing in villages still live in medieval times. The people of villages consider girls to be curse and they do not want to waste money and time on them as they think that women should be wedded off as soon as possible and the main reason for not sending girls to school is the poor economic condition. Another reason is far off location of schools. In Indian society virginity and purity is given utmost importance during marriage and people are afraid to send their girl child to far off schools were male teacher teach them along with boys.
The lack of education is the root cause for many other problems and an uneducated mother cannot look after her children properly and she is not aware of the deadly diseases and their cure, which leads to the poor health of the children. An uneducated person does not know about hygiene this lack of knowledge of hygiene may lead to poor health of the whole family.
Mistreatment of women in India
In India violence against women is a common evil and not just in remote parts but even in cities women bear the brunt. They are subjected to physical and mental violence and they are the one who work most but are not given their due. Every hour a woman is raped in India and every 93 minutes a woman is burnt to death due to dowry problem and there are many laws to protect women and punishment is severe but the conviction rate of crime against women is very low in India.
Overworked women everywhere in India
Indian women work more than men of India but their work is hardly recognized as they mainly do unskilled work and their household chores is never counted as a work, if a woman is working in a field to help her husband it will also be not counted as a work. A study states that in Andhra Pradesh a woman works around 15 hours a day during the agricultural season whereas a male on an average works for around 7-8 hours.
"Child marriage is a practice which is widespread across the world and is often connected to poverty and gender inequality. Child marriage endangers the reproductive health of young girls, leading to an increased risk of complications in pregnancy or childbirth. Such complications are a leading cause of death among girls in developing countries"
Lack of power for women in India
In India a large percentage of women do not have power and they cannot take decisions independently not even related to their own life. They have to take permission of male members for each and every issue and they do not have any say in important household matters and not in matter of their own marriage. The family mainly fixes the marriages in India and the scenario in villages is very bad. Here the girl is not consulted but is told to marry a groom whom her family has chosen for him and they are taught to abide by the whims and fancies of their husbands. Going against the wishes of husband is considered to be a sin and in marriage husband always has the upper hand and the groom and his parents show as if they are obliging the girl by marrying her and in return they demand hefty dowry.
Another serious issue in modern India is dowry and the courts are flooded with cases related to death due to dowry harassment by husband and in laws. In ancient times women were given 'Stridhan' when they departed from the house of their parents and this amount of money was given to her as a gift which she can use on her and her children but her in-laws did not have any right on that amount. This amount was supposed to help the girl in time of need and slowly this tradition became obligatory and took the form of dowry. Nowadays parents have to give hefty amount in dowry, the in laws of their girl are not concerned whether they can afford it or not. If a girl brings large amount of dowry she is given respect and is treated well in her new home and if she does not bring dowry according to expectations of her in laws then she has to suffer harassment. Due to this evil practice many newly wed women of India have to lose their lives.
Female infanticide and foeticide
As women were supposed to be and in some areas of India are still considered to be curse by some strata of society their birth was taken as a burden. So in past times they were killed as soon as they were born. In some of the Rajput clans of Rajasthan newly born girl children was dropped in a large bowl of milk and were killed. Today with the help of technology the sex of the unborn baby is determined and if it is a girl child then it is aborted and in all this procedure women do not have any say they have to do according to the wish of their husbands even if she does not want an abortion, she has no choice.
Divorce rights for women in India
The divorce rate in India is not so high compared to western countries but that does not mean that marriages are more successful here. The reason behind low level of divorce rate is that it is looked down by the society. It is regarded as the sign of failure of marriage, especially of women and she is treated as if she has committed some crime by divorcing her husband. In some communities like Muslims, women did not have the right to divorce their husband they were divorced at just the pronouncement of "I divorce you" by their husband thrice and they could not do anything except to be the mute spectator. Recently Muslim Law Board has given right of divorce to women. After divorce women is entitled to get her 'Mehr' for herself and her children's sustenance and in Hindu society women get maintenance for themselves and their children after divorce.
About the author
Kristian Bertel (born 1980) is a Danish photographer who is most widely known for his series of Indian images, which started as a long term project on India in 2008. Here he started taking humanitarian pictures of the Indian people and their living conditions.
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