Women’s prerogative
Dr. Tilak S. Fernando
Statistically or physiologically or even unwillingly 50 percent of the population in the world happen to be women. And of that over 30 percent is or has been statistically, physiologically or even unwillingly pregnant! The overall all image of being housewives or domestic helpers is fast vanishing as more women join their ranks.

The switch over to computers and high tech advances have taken over the muscle out of the jobs and is attracting more women, many of them university educated.

In the present day we see living examples of women at the top all over the world. Sri Lanka went on record having two women as both the Executive President and Prime Minster simultaneously.

The first woman Prime Minister to the world was introduced from Sri Lanka. The trend continued in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Iran. ‘Iron fist’ of Margaret Thatcher ruled Britain for eleven years, the Speaker of the House of Commons in the UK was also a woman once. British monarchy has a record of having Victoria and Elizabeth II as ceremonial Heads of Britain. A Raja Yogi would sermonize us that we are now in the Diamond Age, since 1939, and the Vedas have predicted this present era to be dominated by women till the dawn of the Golden age!

Women priests
One look at the Church of England what did we see? When the synod approved the ordination of women priests rejoicing took place in mass scale. Women’s Rights campaigners were jubilant, they felt an immense victory after a century’s long battle, but some men and priests vowed to leave the Church and join the Catholic faith!

Usually it is a women’s prerogative to be their own defence. In modern times, particularly in certain quarters, women have burnt their bras and come out fighting for equal rights with men! Women argue that it does not take any mental genius or gymnastics to make a woman pregnant and all it needs from a man is his sheer physical, primitive animal desire. From that point onwards, it is the ‘poor’ woman, they say, who has to go through the mental and the physical agony of bearing and rearing of children.

Looking at women from various religious view points, nothing else is so prominent like in the Hindu faith. The ancient scriptures such as the Vedas, the Upanishads and the great epics have always been derogatory to a woman’s development as an individual.

Virtuous living
If she has individuality, it is made out to be villainous. If she is submissive and subjugating like ‘Seeta’, she is hailed and praised and put on a pedestal. Thirty second Verse in the ninth chapter of The Bhagavad Gita, which is regarded as the ideal treatise of virtuous living, emphasises the fact that ‘a female foetus is inferior’. A woman’s birth is referred to as ‘papa yoni’ or inferior/imperfect birth. Some women critics maintain that the reason behind all this is very clear and these statements have been introduced into the scriptures by men to retain their superiority in society. They claim that all the authors have been men but not women and men whose intentions have always been to subordinate women, have played ‘this dirty trick’ on womankind.

Contemplation on the part of the Sri Lanka Government to increase women representation at the upcoming Local Government election is very much in discussion at present where it is hoped that it would help to increase the number of women politicians entering Parliament in the future. The arguments put forward in this direction are many.

Male dominance reflects in the Sri Lanka Parliament where out of 225 members only a handful of 13 are females. It is in thus backdrop strong arguments are put forward to enable women enter the political fray to be on a par with their male counterparts as the ‘ weaker sex’ has been deprived of, for seven decades since Sri Lanka was privileged to have universal adult franchise.

Major contributors
In a broad generalisation, 53 percent of the Sri Lankan population comprise of women. Especially those women who work abroad as housemaids are the major contributors to the foreign exchange earnings at present. By and large, the present day woman has ‘breached the male citadels in the professions, entrepreneurship, in sports and in a multitude of various other disciplines’ and so forth.

The Geneva-based World Economic Forum’s Corporate Gender Gap Report revealed that still less than five percent of women rise to senior management or Board positions. The survey has unearthed some reasons as to what forms the biggest barriers to leadership and advancement of women in their careers such as a masculine corporate culture and a lack of role models. Survey also highlighted that the female body language doesn’t express leadership behaviour; “Tilting the head or holding on to the back of a chair expresses insecurity and restraint”, it revealed. To counter such thoughts, recently Licia Ronsull, a member of the European Parliament took her one-month-old baby to a Parliament session in Strasbourg to highlight a point about the difficulties women are facing in trying to juggle careers and child care.

Do men see their women only as their daughters, wives, mothers, sisters, daughters-in law or as concubines and illegal mistresses in hiding? Women maintain that ‘man is not prepared to accept the latter category in public because it is not convenient for him’!

Over 4,000 years ago Aristotle said, “Woman made equal to man will always try to be the superior”, but it is reasonable to assume the modern woman’s fight to freedom and equal status is not because they are being made equal but perhaps so far down the line of history of mankind woman has been made unequal!