By Justice Markandey Katju
In many women’s colleges and women’s groups, I asked the question why should there be equality between men and women ? Not one person could give me the correct answer. So here is the correct answer :
- Feudal society, which was predominantly agricultural, was based on physical strength. Agriculture was then done by primitive means like the wooden plough, and tilling the land by bullocks required a great deal of physical effort.
Men are ordinarily physically stronger than women ( I am talking of the average men and women, not exceptional ones ). Also, women were then often disabled for long periods due to pregnancy. There were no contraceptives in feudal times, and girls were married at a young age. Since sex is natural, most women had 10-15 children ( most of whom died at childbirth ot at an early age, as medical science was not then advanced. There were no anti-biotics, and since a child’s immune system is not fully developed, even small infections could lead to his/her death ).
In feudal times there was a broad division of labour between men and women, the former doing the hard outdoor work which required physical strength, like tilling the land, and the women doing the indoor work of cooking, washing clothes, cleaning, and taking care of the children.
Wars were then fought with swords, spears, bows and arrows, etc which required physical strength. Hence no women fought in wars in feudal times.
Since feudal society was based on physical strength, men were regarded as superior to women in such societies
- This situation has drastically changed in modern industrial society, which is not based on physical strength but technical skills. To operate a computer does not require physical strength, and even a woman can do it.
No doubt women still have to have babies, which men do not, but since physical strength is not so much required in industrial society, women can keep working almost till the end of their pregnancy, and they have less children due to contraceptives. Industrial society gives them maternity leave ( American women are entitled by law to full pay for 3 months after childbirth ). There is also a system of creches, where a working woman ( and almost all women are working women in America and Europe ) can leave a 2 year old child ( who is looked after by professionally trained people ) in the morning before going to work, and pick him/her up after finishing work.
In modern times wars are fought with machines, which are often computerised. To fire a missive from an F-15 jet aircraft, or to operate a modern tank requires only the touch of a button, which can even be done by a woman. That is why there are many women in the US army.
In industrial society the old division of labour of the feudal age ( men doing the outdoor work which required hard labour, and the women doing the household work ) has been destroyed, and now both husband and wife ( both of whom work ) share the household chores. Of course this has become easier due to gadgets like washing machines, vacuum cleaners, pressure cookers etc. If the husband returns from work earlier than his wife he cooks for her as well.
- I.Q. ( intelligence quotient ) tests in psychology have proved that the intelligence of an average woman is the same as that of an average man, both being 100 ( though there are exceptions in both categories ).
- Since women have the same intelligence as men, and since industrial society is based on mental ability not physical strength, it logically follows that women should have equality with men.
- However, even after the creation of industrial societies, women were denied equality with men for a long period, and this was because remnants of feudal thinking persisted for some time, and women had to wage a struggle ( suffragette movements etc ) for getting equality. In USA although industrial society had been created in the 19th century, women got the right to vote only in 1919 by a Constitutional Amendment.
See my article ‘On Women’s Emancipation’ on my blog Satyam Bruyat