On August 10, Delhi high court Justice Prathiba Singh addressed an event organized by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) to opine that Indian scriptures like Manusmriti have granted a very respectable position to women. She said that Indian women were blessed as the Indian scriptures have always honoured women with a lot of respect.
“Our scriptures have always given a very respectable position for women and as Manusmriti itself says that if you don’t respect and honour women, all the pooja path that you may do has no meaning. So I think our ancestors and Vedic scriptures knew very well how to respect women”, she said.
She added that the Asian countries were doing much better in respecting women in households, workplaces, and society in general as compared to the other different countries in the world. “That is because of the cultural and religious background that we have, what our Scriptures tell us”, Justice Pratibha Singh remarked.
Singh was called at the FICCI event to address the people on challenges faced by Women in Science, Technology, Entrepreneurship, and Mathematics (STEM) where she went on to say that India is much more progressive about women being in leadership roles. “I think we are lucky to be in a country like India where India is much, much more progressive about women being in leadership roles. I am not saying we need to ignore the violence and the bad things that happen to women at a lower level, but yes at the higher level, in the middle level, we are seeing women growing”, she was quoted.
Driving towards the topic, the Justice said that women had equal roles to play in society as that men. Sharing some statistics, Singh said that more than 50% of the undergraduate STEM students in India are girls. “In B.Tech, it is 42%. M.Tech, 63%. Medicine and health-related causes, 30 to 35%. In engineering and computer science, it is 19%. And these are from 2018-19. In India overall, the STEM graduates are 43% at the undergrad 1st-degree level. Whereas in the US, it is 34%, 38% in the UK, 27% in Germany, and France is 32%. This is a World Bank report. So India is 43%. That means we are educating our girls properly”, she lauded.
Meanwhile, she also stated that the women in India were not able to identify and translate their capabilities well. “Mentally, we are very inventive and creative. But why is it that we are not able to translate our inventiveness, and innovative mindset into actual material inventions which can be commercialized which can help women in making more progress in society and their own business?”, she pondered.
Further, very importantly, she advised women in India to stop seeking sympathy. She said that a woman at work must never say personal things and discuss personal problems. “You can always take an off but never give the reason. You can just say it is a personal difficulty. The more you repeat the reason, the more it becomes a chronic thing that men keep mentioning all the time. So don’t mention”, she said. “When men take an off, do they give a reason? No. So why would you give a reason?”, she added.
During the course of her address, she also advised the women to consider joint families over neutral families and that it is our tradition and it should continue. “Joint families are what promote women. It is the men in those joint families who promote women because they are older, and wiser, whether it is the father or the fathers-in-law, the uncles, or the husbands. They feel proud that women are doing well. So please start encouraging and tuning yourself to live in the joint family system. That way we share our resources”, she noted.
However, Singh’s words were criticized by many left women leaders like National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW) general secretary Annie Raja and CPIM politburo member Brinda Karat. While Raja said that Justice Singh had ‘presented highly regressive ideas which reeked of casteism as well as classism’, Karat mentioned in the statement that the lady was duty bound to uphold the Constitution of India regardless of her personal views.
“The scriptures she has quoted are in many sections directly in flagrant opposition to the Constitution and the rights granted to women of India and especially Dalit and Adivasi women by the Constitution. Her statement only strengthens the retrogressive views of those who uphold the caste system and that women must accept subordination and control of men, fathers, husbands, sons,” Karat said in a statement.
(This piece is taken with gratitude from OpIndia)