Throughout the course so far, we have heard from a variety of empowering and wonderful Indian women. One such woman was Geeta, a prominent female in the legal field. She discussed the structure of Indian law which was heavily influenced by the British colonization. Something that is very unique to Indian law is their personal code. This code pertains to marriage practices and other laws regarding personal rights. The code is divided by the major religions in India – Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam. Those who do not identify with one of these religions are grouped together. The British initially established this system in order to maintain control of the unique Indian population by not interfering with the religious practices and customs that already existed. Though the law has seen some changes, the basic system has remained.
This law has affected the everyday lives of women and minorities has they fight for increased rights. The pressure to marry and have children is extremely strong and is ingrained in religious practices and beliefs; thus, greater difficulty is created when seeking women’s ability to choose. Geeta is a great example of a woman who has become educated and actively works toward women’s rights in a society that constantly challenges her. My fellow students and I were clearly intrigued and impressed by Geeta’s strength, motivation, and action.
Another woman who is remarkable and was well revered by the students is Ranjani. Ranjani’s approach to social justice is all-encompassing and knowledge based. During her time with us, Ranjani shared some of her life story making it clear that she has chosen to defy social norms in some ways. She recognizes the needs of women, Dalits, scheduled tribes, minority religions, and basically any and every group that has suffered in some way in India. She emphasized the importance of considering the links between these groups of individuals and using these links to make progress. Though laws can be extremely helpful toward this progress, the social constructs, mindsets, and institutions must be changed to gain inclusive and expansive equality of rights.
Geeta, Ranjani, and all of the wonderful women who have spoken with us have truly contributed to the richness of this course in India. These powerful female figures have taught each of us both about the uniqueness of women’s position in India as well as the similarities in the struggles women encounter in the US. These women have been inspiring in ways that one cannot imagine until they witness the women in India and learn about life through their eyes. I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to speak with such empowering individuals and will certainly carry their messages with me through life. I look forward to the numerous other individuals and experiences that will contribute you the unbelievable experience that is this course.