There is no public speaker who does not advocate equal rights to women. There are countless norms and books advocating that women be given equal rights with men. The days when people need to ask, “Where is the need for education for women who have kitchen work?” they are long dead. Now men are ashamed to ask that question. But in the Puranas epics and in their source books, the scriptures it is written that women are the slaves of men. Many fictitious stories have been written on this basis. The women who read or listen to these stories that being the slaves of men is a mark of chastity and that it is a point of special credit to them.
India stands the foremost in the world in keeping women as slaves if there is any award for this it will come to India. The chief reason for this is the want of education in women. Another reason is that even educated women are devoid of courage. In South India, Brahmin women alone are educated. Most other women, excepting Christians, have learnt only how to chant verses of lamentation and participate in death ceremonies crying and beating the breast, how to dance as if under the influence of evil spirits and also how to waste time in scandal-mongering. We can’t say that they consider themselves human beings and conduct themselves wisely and in a civilized way.
The Indian Government sets apart crores of rupees annually for the advancement of women. Since the management of the entire amount is left to one or two Brahmin women, poor women and depressed class women do not get proper help, but thousands of Brahmin women get a monthly allowance of Rupees 200 or 300 each, under some pretext or other. This is not known to many. 99 per cent of the women who are getting substantial benefits from the Department of Women’s Welfare are Brahmins. However much other women try, they are not able to get into this circle.
In the course of a speech which the Queen of Bhavanagar delivered last week in a College Association in Madras, she remarked, “I don’t accept the view that women are fit only for domestic work.” That remark is worth nothing. It is a veiled dig at the administrators in Madras who have prepared a separate sylllabus for the education of women.
In these days, when the truth that anybody can do any job if suitable opportunity is given, is becoming manifest. It is very shameful on the part of the administrators of this province to have prepared a scheme of education based on Manu dharma. It is a low kind of strategy.
It is an inexcusable principle of Varnashrama that women are born only for kitchen work. To say that women exist only for cooking is many times more cruel and more damaging than setting apart shoe making to one community, washing clothes to another community and hair-cutting to yet another community. If community cooking comes into vogue, nobody will worry about cooking job. If underground drainage system is adopted, there will be no need of scavengers and a community being called a scavenger community. Even until then, associating one kind of work with each community is an atrocity which cannot be found in any civilized country.
Don’t we find some men doing cooking work and some women being engaged in such professions as medicine and law? Therefore the rule that women alone should do household duties has been framed by men just out of their self-interest; there is do other reason for it.
The Queen of Bhavanagar points out the example of Vijayalakshmi Pandit and Sarojini Naidu and has said that women have the ability to do any work successfully.
What she says is true. But from the few examples of successful women, we cannot come to the conclusion that Indian women have progressed sufficiently.
Because Dr.Ambedkar, Sivaraj, Parameswaran and Siva-shanmugam occupied high positions, can we say that the depressed class has achieved progress? Can we say that the Dravidian society has reached a very high level simply because Sir. A.Ramasami, R.K.Shanmugam and Dr.A.Lakshmanasami are world famous intellectuals?
The position of women in our country is also like this. They must get educated and hold high and responsible positions. As Queen of Bhavanagar has said, women with proper qualifications and competence should not give up their jobs after marriage and ruin their lives.
There is another major short coming in some of the women in our country. The thought that work is undignified is deep-rooted in them. Wearing silk sarees, putting on gold and diamond jewels, riding in motor cars and declaring that she is such and rich officer’s wife will not bring honour to any woman. If a woman thinks like this, she is only demeaning herself. Does a dog’s merit increase simply because it belongs to a collector’s household? What is important is whether it is Rajapalayam, or Alsatian or a bull dog or a local dog.
When even a dog is judged only by what it can achieve and not by its master, will any self-respecting person who belongs to womankind, capable of bringing into the world great heroes, try to win honour by declaring, “I have no individual merit; I am only a bundle of rice, a plant yielding gems, a tree covered with silk, a decorated doll, but I am a minister’s wife:”
Let womankind think about this leisurely and calmly. Let men also who find pleasure in keeping women in this undignified condition think about this.
(Viduthalai, 13th May 1950)
Thirty years ago in 1929 in the first Self-Respect Conference which was held at Chengalpet under the chairmanship of W.S.Soundarapandian, the following resolution was passed
“This conference resolves that women should be given equal rights with men for property and for the privilege of succession and the rights and facilities to be employed in any profession or job, and that necessary steps should be taken by the government to employ a greater number of women teachers in schools including primary schools.”
Another resolution stated that the age for a girl’s marriage should be above 16, that if the husband or the wife disliked the alliance and wanted the marriage to be cancelled, he or she should be given the right to get it cancelled, that widows should be helped to get married again and that men and women should be given the right to choose their partners without attaching any importance to religion or caste.
The All India Women’s Conference which met in Madras immediately after the Self-Respect Conference passed a resolution opposing and condemning the second resolution. “The same All India Women’s Conference has been conducting its deliberations in Rajaji Hall for the past two days. This is attended by women representatives from many countries like Russia, America, Rumania and Ceylon. Mrs. Ratna Charan who is presiding over the conference has regretted that some Indian women are unemployed and that some others are unwilling to take up any employment. She has pointed out that suitably qualified women are not available for appointment in some departments like Accountancy, Libraries, Advertising, Business Management, Catering Business and in places of work like Workshops.
The Indian Government sets apart crores of rupees annually for the advancement of women. Since the management of the entire amount is left to one or two Brahmin women, poor and depressed class women do not get proper help, but thousands of Brahmin women get a monthly salary.
Source : ‘Thoughts of Periyar’, compiled by Dr. K. Veeramani, and published by Dravidar Kazhagam Publications, Periyar Thidal, Vepery, Chennai – 600 007 in 2011.