Status of Women
Valorised and Real Status of Women in Bundelkhand
Bundelkhand's history has many valiant women figures. Historical
incidents of sati are also celebrated in folklore and popular history as
examples of women 'daring' to take extreme steps 'to save their honour' (read
However such reverence bears no relation to the actual status of
As in most other rural parts of the country, women in
Bundelkhand's villages toil from dawn to dusk - cooking, working in fields,
grazing cattle, collecting dung, collecting water, collecting firewood, doing
manual labour at construction sites - and their contribution is not realised.
A study by Suman Manju of the Indian Grassland and Fodder
Research Institute, Jhansi, found that on average farm women in Bundelkhand
worked for 8.75 hours a day, whereas men worked for only 4.72 hours [Manju].
When they work for wages, women get lower daily wages. This is
an unchallenged norm; in the entire Bundelkhand region, there is no strong and
extensive women's rights movements, although many small, localised efforts
(Notable amongst women-led initiatives is Khabar Lahariya -
Bundeli for 'News Waves' - a fortnightly rural newspaper written, edited,
illustrated, produced and marketed by a group of women in Chitrakoot and Banda
Domestic violence is common in Bundelkhand and largely
uncontested. Among the forms of violence practised are literal demonstrations of
the phrase naak katwana - the woman's nose is chopped off.
Women from SC groups are also vulnerable to sexual assault
exercised by upper caste men.
A 2004 nine-state study of violence against women, supported by
Oxfam (India) Trust, reported this narration of an SC woman from Chhatarpur
district [Kriti, p 27]:
I work as an agricultural labourer. My husband does not work at
all…My two elder sons and two daughters are married but I still have three young
children to think about. I also rear chicks to supplement my income. Last year
Raghavendra [name changed] came to my house at 7 pm and demanded that I sell
chicken to him. He is a thakur by caste and lives in the village. I told him
that I have already promised the chicken to someone else and even taken the
money in advance from that person. He did not pay any attention to me and took
the chicken, without paying for it. He then came to my house again the same
night at 2 am with two other men. I was sleeping with my husband and children.
He shouted at me and said that the chicks have flown back to my house. I said
how could that happen when you have already eaten it. He got angry and started
beating my husband. The other men with him were armed. They were carrying axes.
They then tied up my husband and dragged me away from home towards the field. On
the way they tore off my clothes. I did not have any clothes on me. Two men
pulled me from each side and they kicked and punched me when I resisted. I was
crying and shouting for help. But no one came out to help me. As they were
dragging me, Raghavendra saw another woman who had come out to defecate. He
tried to take her also, but her husband was standing nearby. He called out for
help so Raghavendra and others left the woman and hurried away from them taking
me with them. They took me near a tree at the outskirts of the village. They
kept me there for the entire night and the next day. I had scratches and marks
all over my body…I was bleeding profusely…I begged them to let me go. Finally my
husband came looking for me with two policemen. When they saw the policemen with
my husband, Raghavendra and his men fled…This man had raped three-four women
before he raped me. The women were all from the dalit community…Some years back
he had used bottles and sticks to rape a woman…This man is an animal. Once he
gets drunk he loses all sense…There are only three or four thakur families in
this village. All other families belong to scheduled castes or other backward
castes but no one does anything about this man. No one protests because they are
all scared of him.
There is no data on how many such cases take place in
Bundelkhand - and we have no way of knowing how many such cases go unreported -
but some indication can be got from state-wise figures.
According to a January 2008 report by Shuriah Niazi of the
Womens News Network, in 1,300 days - from Dec 7, 2003 to June 30, 2007 - 1,217
gang rapes were reported in Madhya Pradesh as per State Assembly records.
Of these, 362 victims were from SC groups, 310 were from ST
groups, 381 were from the other backward classes and 169 were from the general
category. In 726 cases, the victims were minors.
Efforts to raise women's status in Bundelkhand are stymied by:
low levels of
poor health condition of women
force of tradition and
lack of economic opportunities for women
A largely unrecognised issue is the large number of
poor young widows struggling to survive in the region.
Courtesy : bundelkhandinfo.org