Shafiq R Khan


Status of Women in Punjab


Economic prosperity isn't always a sign of social progress. The Social fabric of Punjab consists of hierarchy based on caste, class and community. Another significant characteristic of the Status of Women in the State is the absence of a homogeneous social, cultural and economic structure that makes any generalizations about the conditions of women impossible. There are huge regional differences to contend with. The obvious diversities in women’s situation in the different regions of the State extend to health, literacy, education and sex ratio of mortality, employment, incidence of poverty, political participation and so forth. Such diversities can be attributed to the pre-existing levels of development, availability or otherwise of natural resources, policies of the State Government and regional socio-cultural norms and beliefs.

A new study using gender disaggregated statistical indicators has highlighted disparities in gender development across the different States and Union Territories of India. The study, entitled 'Gender biases and discrimination against women: What do different indicators say?' focuses on disparities across the diverse regions of the country, analyzing individual indicators pertaining to health, education, mortality, economic participation, decision-making and safety and security.

The high incidence of dowry deaths, torture or cruel treatment of women in northern states including Delhi and some Union Territories such as Chandigarh, Daman and Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands may all be contributing factors leading to relatively shorter life spans among adult women. Better sex ratios are noted among the southern states, some hill regions and in states where tribal groups are a significant proportion of the population. These, feels the author, could be due to the historical prevalence of matriliny, women's control over property and resources and their greater participation in decision-making.

Notwithstanding the disparities, however, deprivation of women cuts across all regions, classes and castes of women in the State. For example, the success of the Green Revolution has pushed back women, so far important contributions in the production process, back into the private domain. They thus lost their economic independence and their higher status within their class, because, with the increased income and consequent higher social status for the families as a whole, women were the first to be withdrawn from the work force as symbols of that newly gained status.

Violence against Women has always remained a part of patriarchal value system. This violence may take place at various levels i.e. within the Family, at workplace, at Public Places and even in the State/Judicial Custody. The State of Punjab being dominated by patriarchal and feudal values is one of the states, which come under this domain. But, where previously the women was victim of the family or culture, now the market forces have also joined against her and the culmination of the same can be seen in the form of sex selection or mis-use of the PNDT Techniques resulting into the Female Foeticide. In other words, it can be said that now with modernization and urbanization, the violence against women has got increased in many forms resulting in the form of increase in Dowry Deaths, Domestic violence, Sexual Harassment at Workplace, Molestation and Eve teasing, Increase in rape cases, Child abuse, Bigamy, Abandoning of new born girl child and also the declining sex ratio. The Violence against Women senior citizen has also got increased. The menace of use of alcohol and other intoxicants has perpetuated the phenomenon of violence against women and has got increased in the State in Punjab in manifolds resulting into more and more women becoming victim of this menace.

Even the suicide rate has gone up so far the women in State of Punjab are concerned. One of the reason that due to patriarchal and feudal values women are oriented not to come back to their parental house in case of dispute with her husband and in-laws and since either there are very less support systems available to the women in distress or they are not aware about the existing support systems finally there is no way out left and number of women are reduced to commit suicide. Recently, the plight of abused married girls deserted by their NRI husbands (through fraudulency and treachery) is also setting an alarming situation in the State of Punjab.

To state the obvious position, Data tables on the following pages are enough to support our contention about Violence Against Women and also Discrimination / Biases expressed by the holders of patriarchal values against Women.

Violence against Women

Violence against Women is largely prevailing because of the societal mechanism combined with patriarchal values by which women are forced into a subordinate position.
Violence is defined as a physical act of aggression of one individual or group against another or others. Violence results in or is likely to result in physical, sexual, psychological harm or suffering. This also includes the threat of such act, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty in public or private life and violation of human rights of women in situation of armed conflicts. While the basic reason for violence against women is their lower status in a male dominated society educationally, economically, politically and socially, there are other factors too. The increasing criminalisation of society, media images of violence, poor enforcement of legal provision, unabashed, and rising incidents of alcoholism and addiction alongwith erosion of traditional values have all added to it.
Violence against women is also getting manifested in the form of Rape, sexual abuse, sexual harassment at workplace, dowry death, suicide, Female Foeticide and Female Infanticide, harassment by NRIs to their wives, Social Violence against Widows and Psychological and Physical Violence by Alcoholic / Addict Husband to their Wives.

  1. Foetal Stage
Sex Selection
Female Foeticide
Female Infanticide

2. Infancy
Negligence or Gender Biasness

3. Childhood
Neglect due to absence of medical care and education
Sexual abuse
Physical Violence
Child Labour
Negligence or Gender Biasness

4. Adolescence and Adulthood
Early Marriage
Early Pregnancy
Sexual Violence
Domestic Violence
Dowry Harassment
Harassment due to infertility / failure to produce sons
Desertion Witch hunt

5. Older Women and Widows
Neglect-Emotional, Financial, Social and Physical
The BIMARU states of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, despite some improvements, still show figures indicating backwardness in terms of various health indicators. Despite these adverse findings, demographic imbalances such as negative sex ratios are not highest in these states. On the contrary, it is the prosperous states of Haryana and Punjab that are among the worst with adult sex ratios of 869 and 886 respectively compared to the national figure of 934 females per 1000 males in 2001.

Death is a tragedy in whatever form, at whatever time and in whatever way it lays its hands. Female foeticide is a unique form of violence against women. The word “abortion” has meaning “Offensive” and truly, the practice made to take away the wholeness of a woman is an offense who resorts to taking away the life of her own unborn child.

The inhabitants of Punjab, who pioneered the green revolution in the last century, are now heading for a devastating economic and social fall out in the near future due to sharply declining (882 in 1991; 874 in 2001) sex ratio. The reasons of ‘son-mania’ are socio-cultural, economic and political ones. Among others, the predominant cause is the agrarian set-up associated with the ownership of land and the social infrastructure sustained by Punjabi’s that accords a low status to women.

Chandigarh, the City beautiful has the dubious distinction of having the lowest sex ratio (773) in whole of the country despite its high literacy rate of 81.76%(7). The worst affected districts of Punjab are Ludhiana (824), Fatehgarh Sahib (851) and Patiala (864). With 11.4% increase in literacy rate during the last decade (58.5% in 1991; 69.95% in 2001), The juvenile sex ratio of 793 compared to overall sex ratio of 874 is a cause of concern in one of the most prosperous states of India.

The boards displayed in nursing homes that “Sex determination tests are not conducted here” is just a strategy to deceive the authorities. The reports of recovery of female fetuses from drains, garbage dumps, public lavatories etc. have created shock and protest in the state. Legal instruments like MTP Act, 1971 and PNDT Act, 1994 and their subsequent amendments could not check this menace.

Governmental efforts through ad-campaigns, documentaries, workshops etc. have proved inadequate in this regard. The voluntary and non-governmental organizations too are still groping in the dark
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