Facts of Gender Roles
“I think basically I’m lazy, but I have a housewife’s mentality when I go about my job.” (Indira Gandhi). Woman in western and eastern sides of the planet were failed by men who refused to give them equality. Though today there is a strong woman presence in both the western and eastern world the reason for why they achieved equality and why women wanted equality was dramatically different between the two different cultures. India and Sweden are prime examples of eastern and western cultures where women did not have equality but were treated very differently in their lack of equality making there fights very different.
In Sweden gender roles in the family and women’s rights were introduced to the public in the 17th century by Sophia Elisabet Brenner and Beata Rosenhane. Though nothing really came of this, feminism did start much earlier compared to India. By the 18th century gender equality was commonly discussed and debated. Many anonymous female writers wrote under fake names in newspaper to spread concern to all of women’s social and legal status. India started the women’s right movement in the 19th century. It was not started by woman but by men who stood up for woman. Citizens of Bengali were tired of some Hindu customs like sati, which was a widow’s death by burning her alive on her husband’s funeral.
Because Christianity is the most popular religion in Sweden they didn’t have Hindu customs like child marriage and widow disfiguring which were all acts towards woman. India treated woman the way they did because of their religious views woman. Bengali citizens fought to remove these practices and introduced some women’s rights like education and the rights to own property. Most of the Indian woman reforms were created by the men in power, because at this moment in time woman don’t have any say in the government. By this time woman in Sweden were already developing a women’s colleges and woman were involved in low tier positions of the government.
By the late 19th century early 20th-century colonial modernization introduced western ideas to India. Concepts of democracy and equality were introduced which fueled woman to continue the wave of feminism introduce by men. Unfortunately, conservative men resisted the modernization of the Hindu family. One of the main problems Conservative Hindus had was rights woman wanted when it came to marriage. Many upper-caste women started to reject marriages they did not agree with and more woman wanted to change the age of consent.
At the time girls as young as 11 could be married off and the woman pushed for the government to raise the age of consent. An uprise in conservatives slowed woman reform. By the late 19th century early 20th century Swedish woman were writing books questioning gender roles. Royal family members like Sophie Albertine were helping woman all over the country to get educated, woman of power and education were building followings all with the same goal of equality. In 1902 the National Association for Women’s Suffrage was founded and by 1921, women were granted equal rights as men which included the right to vote.
In the 20th century many feminist groups like Group 8 and Social Democratic Women in Sweden were formed. These groups brought gender issues to the government to fix and also pushed for women to get involved in politics. In the 20th century India was focusing on becoming free of Britain rule. As Gandhi fought for the Indian people he also pushed for Indian women to start peaceful protest by initiating them into the non-violent civil disobedience movements against the British Raj. Gandhi included woman in the nationalist and anti-colonialist freedom movements. Since woman were so important in the anti-colonial efforts that the All India Women’s Conference continued to operate and fought for legislation that benefited women. However, feminist movements became less active after India’s independence in 1947. The nationalist agendas on nation building were more important over feminist issues. In 1966 Indira Gandhi was the first and only woman Prime Minister of India and the second-longest-serving Prime Minister.
I believe western and eastern woman had long uphill battles for equality. I believe the difficulty woman had was dependent on their culture. Since most cultures come from religious spheres woman in western societies had it easier because Christianity was the most common religion and it was a religion that did not include violent attacks on woman. Though woman in India have equality on paper, women in India continue to have problems such as sexual assault, gender inequality and dowry.