Mahatma Gandhi was one of the few people of his generation who recognized the central role of women in Indian society at a time when there was no clear outline regarding women’s participation and issues within the Congress. Gandhiji tried to give women a new self-respect, a new confidence and a new self-image in public life. When visiting London during 1906–09 to advocate for the rights of Indian expatriates in South Africa, she witnessed street protests by what became known as women’s suffrage activists. In an article published in his magazine ‘Opinion’ in 1906, Gandhiji wrote – “Today the whole country is laughing at him and only a few people are in his favor. But these women work fearlessly towards their cause. They are sure to succeed and win the franchise, for the simple reason that actions speak better than words.
When women’s suffrage was supported
It is true that in India Gandhiji did not initially support women in getting the right to vote, he said – “They should help men to fight the colonial rulers, but during the preparation of the Salt Satyagraha resolution, a large number of Women’s involvement, struggle and even going to jail proved to be the starting point for the change in Gandhiji’s thoughts regarding women’s liberation. In 1929, Gandhiji strongly supported women’s rights, saying – “Women should be given the right to vote and equal rights.” Legal status must be provided, but the problem does not end here. This is the starting point from which women have to start to influence the political discourse of the nation.
Obviously he did not consider the suffrage of Indian women as the final victory of Swaraj in their social life. The goal of equality through legislature alone is impossible. According to Gandhiji, it is not possible to achieve the goal of equality through women’s political participation in legislatures, hence on one hand in the Round Table Conference, Gandhiji strongly advocates the participation of women in legislature, while on the other hand, on December 23, In the All India Women’s Conference in 1936, he says – “When women, whom we call weak, will become strong, then all those who are helpless will become powerful.” Empowerment will have to come not from the legislature or the help given by men, but from the strength of some more fortunate women who consider themselves weak and stand on their own. A woman should stop considering herself an object of man’s lust. Its cure lies more in their hands than in men.” It is clear that Gandhiji emphasizes on achieving the goal of women’s equality through the self-consciousness of women. Participation in legislature can only be helpful in that, it is not the final formula for women’s liberation.
Women must have equal rights to freedom and equality
In a speech at Bhagini Samaj, Bombay in February 1918, Gandhiji said – Women have the right to participate in all activities of life and have the right to freedom and equality like men. She deserves the same supreme position in her field of work as a man does in his own, but women will get equality only when the birth of a girl child is celebrated with as much joy as it is in the case of a boy child (The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi Volume-87, Page-229). Obviously, Mahatma Gandhi was a strong advocate of giving women a proper place in public life. At the same time, he considered the oppression of women within the four walls of the house as a rotten prejudiced thinking, which can be completely eradicated by the use of legal rights as well as moral values. Setting the goal of women’s freedom in an independent country, Gandhiji had written in Harijan in 1936 – “The day Indian women start walking freely on the streets at night, that day we can say that women in India have achieved freedom.” Did it.”
These thoughts of Gandhiji in the context of Indian women give the message that we have walked many miles in the progress of the country and building a civilized society, but the destination is still far away, which we can achieve only by walking with women. Are.
(Source: Book – ‘The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi’)