Women in South Asia - The Raj and After

Tanika Sarkar examines the evolving position of women in India before 1947 and since independence.

The fiftieth year of Indian independence lends itself to various kinds of stocktaking. It seems almost natural that the history of modern Indian women should be an essential part of this exercise, so when and why did the condition of women become an index to measure the nation's progress?

The nineteenth century started with extensive and anxious debates about the state of gender relations in Indian traditions. The new print culture, journalism and other forms of vernacular prose took up discussions about 'private' family matters and 'intimate' subjects concerning women and the household: suttee or widow immolation, age and forms of marriage, the possibility of divorce, of widow remarriage, education and male polygamy and so on. Social and religious reform associations spent a great deal of time arguing about such matters. Later, with the deepening of popular anti-colonial protest, the possibility of women’s' participation in this widened the area of discussion still further.

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