Seventy-three years since the Constitution came into effect on January 26, 1950, how has it fared in advancing the radical transformations its writers envisioned for India, especially on women and gender rights?
Rohini Pande, Henry J Heinz II Professor of Economics and Director of the Economic Growth Center, along with historian Rohit De and journalist Barkha Dutt talk about the experience of women and girls in India through the lens of the Constitution.
The Indian Constitution took gender equality as a given, according to De, Associate Professor of History at Yale University, Independence was seen not just as mere political freedom but a radical transformation of society and economy, he notes. The challenge, he says, was after Independence while these goals were laid out.
According to Dutt, even if what the Constitution looked ahead to has not been executed, the Constitution is always a document of hope, of what India could be. There is a recognition that many things have not been achieved yet, or that many things are interpretative, says Dutt, but there is a constantly shifting sense of what is in Article 14 – the right to equality for all – and how is it interpreted or re-imagined.
Pande notes that India granted universal suffrage but this did not come as a result of the suffrage movement that helped link political empowerment to economic empowerment as well as women’s rights in other spheres. As a result, says Pande, there has been a lot of catching up of economic rights, bodily rights coming after the Constitution in India and in other countries.
Finally, they also discuss the hope and promise that the Constitution continues to offer and, significantly, how the other half of India can be made an important part of this conversation. As De asks, what happens in a society where women have heightened consciousness but the men still think like they did 20 years ago?
This conversation is a special edition of EGC Voices in Development, a podcast series from Yale’s Economic Growth Center exploring issues related to sustainable development and economic justice in low- and middle-income countries, with a group of inter-disciplinary experts coming together for the Yale Development Dialogues.