In Indian society the status of women has changed from time to time ; position of women in society is the index to the standard of social organization .We can divide the past [history] in to three phases to analyse the status of women. They are: ancient India , Medival India and Modern Indian period.
In ancient India women enjoyed equal status with man in all fields of life, she received the same education like man, many Hindu religious books like Vedas, Upanishads, Ramayana, Mahabharata have mentioned the names of several women who were great scholars, poets, philosophers of the time. The wife was 'Ardhangini' which means she is half of her husband. An unmarried man was considered to be incomplete man. All religious ceremonies were performed by the husband along with the wife. This shows the importance given to the women in ancient period.
But in the Medival period, the status of women went down considerably. She was considered to be inferior to man. Any historians have called this age as the 'dark age'. Her position became very miserable. Decline in the status of women in Indian society begins with the muslims rule in India: customs of pardha , sati, child marriage & restrictions on widow marriage are prevalence of joint family system have been the factors responsible for the injustice done towards women.
The position of women in modern India has changed considerably. Her position in modern Indian society is equal to that of men, socially, economically, educationally, politically & legally. Her sufferings from Sati, Child marriage, Institution of Temple prostitution are no longer existing.
Now, she has the right to receive education, inherit & own property, participate in public life & political life of the nation. She has become economically independent. She can seek employment anywhere and remains not a domestic slave. So, she is certainly enjoying the equal status with man in all respect.
For this change in the status of women several factors like women's education, reform movements by many social reformers, women participation in politics and many social legislation are held responsible.
ROLE OF LEGISLATION:
Today Indian womanhood is marching towards liberty and equality. For this march towards liberty and equality, various social legislation passed from time to time are mainly responsible. This legislation aimed at eradication of social evils. Following are the significant enactment, which helped in bringing about the change:
1. THE HINDU WIDOW RE-MARRIAGE ACT
In the traditions Hindu society there was a ban on widow remarriage. Ban on widow remarriage was one of the most important evils from which women in the traditional Hindu society suffered a lot. This Act allowed widows to remarry and section 5 of this Act ensured her to enjoy all the rights which a married woman did.
2. THE CHILD MARRIAGE RESTRAINT ACT
The practice of child marriage was another social evil from which woman in traditional Hindu society suffered a lot. Age at marriage for girls was 9 or 10 and after passing this Act the minimum marriageable age of women was fixed to 15 years. Later it was increased to 18 years.
3.THE HINDU WOMENS RIGHT TO PROPERTY
ACT OF 1937:
In traditional society women had no property right. In the eyes of law she was miner or ward. This Act recognized a widow of a deceased person as his surviving personality with the same right as his in the joint property. Thus through this Act women in the Hindu society received the property right to a limited extent.
4.THE HINDU MARRIAGE ACT OF 1955:
This Act has recognized the equal rights of man and woman in the matters of marriage and divorce. Under the provision of this Act either the man or woman can present a petition in a court of law for divorce, wife has got an equal right to divorce her husband as he can do.
5. THE HINDU SUCCESSION ACT OF 1956:
This Act recognized an equal right for women in the matter of inheritance of property. She can inherit the property of father along with her brothers. She can also sell or mortgage the inherited property or use it for herself. For the first time absolute ownership was conferred to a woman by this Act.
6. THE SUPPRESSION OF IMMORAL TRAFFIC
IN WOMEN AND GIRLS ACT OF 1956-57:
This Act aims to deal with the problem of prostitution and to promote the welfare of fallen women. Main objectives of this Act are to reduce the scope of prostitution and to reform the prostitution under this Act. Every state is expected to set up protective homes and to appoint women police and women social workers. In protective homes these fallen women will be given training
in tailoring, toy and basket making and oter crafts so that they may earn for their maintenance in a proper way.
7. THE DOWRY PROHIBITION ACT OF 1961:
The main objective of this Act is to abolish giving and taking dowry at the time of marriage. The term dowry refers to a valuable property or thing which is determined by the parties to a marriage for a marriage. The practice of dowry had produced very bad effects. Dowry has become a social evil. Even though this Act prohibits dowry system, the dowry cases have not been
reduced. Still this Act makes some effort in bringing social change.
Above mentioned are the important legislations which brought upward trend in the status of women in India. Today what women are enjoying their status is because of legislations. She is protected in every way of life. Thanks to legislations, women in India are gaining better status, recognition and respect.