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B.R. Ambedkar and Women Empowerment

Dr. B.R. Ambedkar is known as the father of the Indian Constitution. He was the first Indian to break down the laws against women's empowerment in India. Dr. Ambedkar believed in the strength of women and their role in the upliftment of society. He got his inspiration to empower women in society by listening to a bold speech of Radhabai Vadale while attending a press conference in 1931. Dr. Ambedkar realized that women are the victims of every evil in society and this has been carried on from one generation to another generation. From a very early age, they are taught to work under tremendous pressure, they have to face mental torture and stress. Women are forced to follow superstitions prevailing in society and are expected to carry them till their death. Dr. Ambedkar tried to break all these laws laid down by society. When he was the first Law Minister of India he introduced women's rights as the “Hindu Code Bill” which covered equal rights for men and women. The Bill meant that both movable and immovable property should be owned by women. The accession of property should be made by women before and after marriage and even during their widowhood from parents or husbands. Every unmarried daughter would get an equal share of the property as the son of the family. Even a married daughter would get a one-quarter share of the property to each son. The Hindu Bill Code focused basically on three most important points: a) right to property b) order of succession of property c) maintenance, marriage, divorce, adoption, minority, and guardianship. Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar exclaimed, “I strongly believe in the movements run by women. If they are truly taken into confidence, they may change society's present picture, which is very miserable. In past, they have played a significant role in improving the condition of weaker sections and classes.” Dr. Ambedkar even tried to include various articles in the constitution of India for the betterment of women in society. Some of the articles are: 1) Article 14- Equal rights and opportunities in political, economic, and social spheres, 2)Article 15- prohibits discrimination on the ground of sex, 3) Article 15(3)- enables affirmative discrimination in favor of women, 4)Article 39- Equal means of livelihood and equal pay for equal work, 5)Article 42- Human conditions of work and maternity relief, 6) Article 51(A)(C)- fundamental duties to renounce practices, derogatory to the dignity of women, 7) Article 46- The state to promote with special care, the educational and economic interests of weaker section of people and to protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation, 8) Article 47- The state to raise the level of nutrition and standard of living of its people and the improvement of public health and so on, 9) Article 243D(3),243T(3), 243R(4) provides for the allocation of seats in the Panchayati Raj System. Keeping given all the evil activities against women he amended the Hindu Code Bill which was also placed in the parliament. Many debates were done on this bill but finally, the Bill was dropped by the then Prime Minister. Dr. Ambedkar resigned from the post of Law Minister and he clearly stated the reason for his resignation from the post. He mentioned- “In the second place, I thought it necessary to stay on, for the sake of the Hindu Code. In the opinion of some, it may be wrong for me to have held on for the sake of the Hindu Code. I took a different view. The Hindu Code was the greatest social reform measure ever undertaken by the Legislature in this country. No law passed by the Indian Legislature in the past or likely to be passed in the future can be compared to it in point of its significance. To leave inequality between class and class, between sex and sex which is the soul of Hindu Society untouched, and to pass legislation relating to economic problems is to make a farce of our Constitution and build a palace on a dung heap. This is the significance I attached to the Hindu Code”. Even after the failure to pass the bill he carried on to fight for the equality and rights of women. Dr. Ambedkar indicated that women were refused the right to acquire education which is the birthright of every human being and the right to realize their spiritual potentiality, which he realized was a cruel ideology for women. The Maternity Benefit Bill was relevant to recognizing the dignity of women in society and supported the Maternity Bill. His argument was quoted as “It is in the interest of the nation that the mother ought to get a certain amount of rest during the pre-natal period and also subsequently, and the principle of the Bill is based entirely on that principle”.

“That being so Sir, I am bound to admit that the burden of this ought to be largely borne by the Government, I am prepared to admit this fact because the conservation of the people’s welfare is the primary concern of the Government. And in every country, you will find that the Government has been subjected to a certain amount of charge about maternity benefit.” He encouraged women to participate in various morchas and dharnas. In the Mahad Satyagraha, it was decided to burn the Manusmriti, which humiliated women, and Shudras. More than fifty Women participated in the demonstration after the bonfire of the Manusmriti. Ambedkar addressed the meeting by advising women to change their style of wearing sarees, wear lightweight ornaments, and not eat the meat of dead animals. The proper way of wearing sarees was taught by the Tipinis. While addressing a conference held in Nagpur he spoke-“I am a great believer in women’s organization I know what they can do to improve the condition of the society if they are convinced. They should educate their children and instill high ambition in them”. Dr. Ambedkar believed that education for women is the most powerful instrument for changing their position in society. Education reduces inequalities and improves their status within the family. To encourage the education of women and to dissolve gender bias, the provision of schools, colleges, and even universities was established exclusively for women in the country. Dr. Ambedkar dreamt of freeing every woman in the society from the burdens they are carrying from generation to generation by providing them proper education system. Towards all the women, irrespective of their religion, castes, and class, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar had a particular humanistic view. He raised his voice against all kinds of injustice toward women. His concerns and feelings for the development of women are expressed in his every sentence and in the word he spoke. It would be appropriate to call him a true feminist of Independent India.

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