How has Independence affected the role of women in India and Pakistan?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I would make the argument that Independence, itself, did not really affect the role of women in either society.  Consider that after Independence, the bloodbath of Partition had a distinct bias towards gender.  A line of argumentation suggests that the political divisions became a mere excuse for thousands of Muslim and Hindu men to violate thousands more Muslim and Hindu women.  When a railroad car of butchered Muslim women enters a station only to be met with another railroad care filled with butchered Hindu women, one can see that the violence brought out in Partition had its foothold in many realms of hatred, one of which was gender.   The violence that accompanied partition was heavily biased in terms of gender, reflecting that Independence did not do much to impact each nation's women.

The emergence of women in both nations, to a great extent, is also removed from Independence in that the economic progress and embrace of globalization has helped to transform women's roles.  This is especially so in India, while Pakistan struggles with its own role in a globalized world.  For women in Pakistan, many women in India are role models primarily because of the educational and economic opportunities for empowerment that have become part of what it means to be a woman in India:

“Women in my country seek inspiration from them,' said Pakistani award winning rights advocate Shad Begum.  Indian women created better opportunities for themselves and came good in economic activities, Ms. Shad said after receiving the 2012 International Woman of Courage.

This is not a statement of Independence as much as it is representative of the capitalization of opportunity that came about with globalization and greater job opportunity.  At the same time, I would suggest that there are millions of women in both nations whose lives have not changed as a result of Independence.  The gap between the lives that rural and urban women are able to experience in both nations still exists.  Independence was granted and the lives of rural women in both nations has not changed since the British were present.  The presence of dowries, social relegation being dependent on if a woman gets married or delivers a boy for the family, as well as denial of opportunity in every form due to a patriarchal power structure represent reality that has not changed since pre- Partition times. It would be where I truly believe that Independence for both nations has not really done much to advance the cause of women's rights and transform women's roles in both nations.

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