Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar on gender justice and women empowerment
Dr. Aparna De
In India, it is believed that women enjoyed an equal status as men in the Vedic Period. The education of women held considerable significance, especially from works of katayana and patanjali. The Upanishadas and the Vedas have cited women sages and seers. But the condition of women declined considerably afterwards. During the period of Dharmashastras and Puranas the status of women gradually declined and underwent a major change. The girls were deprived of formal education. Daughters were regarded as burden. Freedom of women was curtailed. Sons were given more weightage than daughters. Historical practices such as Sati, Jauhar, Purdah and Devdasi, child marriage, and restriction on widow remarriage were a few traditions reflective of the gender imbalance in ancient and medieval Indian Society. Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar (1820-1891) was one of the key figures of India’s renaissance in the nineteenth century, who worked wholeheartedly for women’s empowerment and gender justice. Ishwar Chandra challenged Hindu orthodoxy by playing a pivotal role in passing the Widow Remarriage Act. He also fought for women’s education and vigorously challenged the barbaric practice of child marriage.