Saturday, July 14, 2012

No land for women

"No land for women", so went the headline in a news channel. Believing it to be a discussion on the mob molestation in Guwahati, I sat down to know the latest developments in the case. What I found was, the video clip was showing some sort of a gathering in a village(and from the caps I could make out a sizeable Muslim population) with headlines flashing 'No love marriage, cellphones for women', 'No evening walks for women', 'Women under 40 not to venture out alone' etc.
I was perplexed. Such diktats had been issued by the Taliban a number of years back. What was so new about it?
Then flashed the headline 'From UP to Guwahati, India still in dark ages'.
Slowly, a chill ran through my spine and I came to realise that the meeting being shown was not held by Taliban recruits rather the elderly of a village in UP, one of the now (in)famous khap panchayats. These regulations had been chalked out in order to supposedly prevent eve teasing of women.

So basically, instead of punishing the culprits and setting example, instead of working vociferously on instilling values in the young boys of the village, instead of figuring out ways to make the women of the village feel safer and self sufficient in self defense, what the wise elders of the village did was sort of give out the message that it is the victim who is responsible for being molested and hence women need to be kept hidden from the prying eyes of men, men who have the license of going all out to satisfy their sensual pleasures without any regard for the dignity of the other half of their species, women. To keep it simple, the prospective victims have been told to go in hiding and the prospective culprits have been given implicit encouragement.

To any rationally thinking person this must sound outrageous but reason has never been the ornament we Indians flaunt, specially when we start talking about our women. So steeped into our blood patriarchy is, that sometimes our men forget that they are humans first. A dehumanised person, no doubt, finds it very easy to frame laws that would reinforce his supremacy and keep women in 'their place'. It is not easy to argue with and convince a dehumanised person that a man is definitely different from a woman but nothing makes him superior to her for justice, equality and of course, humanity have no appeal for such people. Be it Manu or our present day Mukhias of Khap Panchayats, patriarchy is extolled as 'The Way' and the dissenters, both men and women alike, are made to pay for their rebellion. Things get worse when indirectly they are announced to be invincible, being 'traditional bodies', by none other than politicians on record. It is time we asked our politicians tough questions and did something instead of just talking about it. The least we can do is see to it that our younger brothers, our sons, our students do not get infected by male chauvinism and try to become good human beings before anything else. The next step could be to spread awareness among women on the importance of being financially independent and emotionally strong. One could start with talking to one's maid about the issue and mould her opinions if they are stereotypical. Too much is made of the virtues of being a nurturer and family person. One woman each, at the very least, could be made to understand, by each one of us privileged women, that she needs to take the responsibility of her life in her own hands. If we all worked to make a 'woman of substance' out of just one weak, emotionally and fiancially dependent woman each, we can proudly say that we have made a contribution to, as Amir Khan would say it, the health of our nation and society.

Adrienne Rich beautifully explains what responsibility to ourselves means:
“Responsibility to yourself means refusing to let others do your thinking, talking, and naming for means that you do not treat your body as a commodity with which to purchase superficial intimacy or economic security; for our bodies to be treated as objects, our minds are in mortal danger. It means insisting that those to whom you give your friendship and love are able to respect your mind. It means being able to say, with Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre: "I have an inward treasure born with me, which can keep me alive if all the extraneous delights should be withheld or offered only at a price I cannot afford to give.
Responsibility to yourself means that you don't fall for shallow and easy solutions--predigested books and ideas...marrying early as an escape from real decisions, getting pregnant as an evasion of already existing problems. It means that you refuse to sell your talents and aspirations short...and this, in turn, means resisting the forces in society which say that women should be nice, play safe, have low professional expectations, drown in love and forget about work, live through others, and stay in the places assigned to us. It means that we insist on a life of meaningful work, insist that work be as meaningful as love and friendship in our lives. It means, therefore, the courage to be "different"...The difference between a life lived actively, and a life of passive drifting and dispersal of energies, is an immense difference. Once we begin to feel committed to our lives, responsible to ourselves, we can never again be satisfied with the old, passive way.” 

An earnest plea to all women reading this: It is not sufficient to be empowered yourself; it is not sufficient to take responsibility of yourself; go out and empower as many women as you can, see to it that they know what responsibility to themselves means, for your fate is inextricably linked with those unfortunate women who have accepted patriarchy as God's will and are captive of sexist practices either due to lack of education and financial independence or in the name of traditions. If they are chained, you cannot be free for long.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Sudha,

    Here’s something I want to give you. You deserve it.

    Congrats !!! Here it lies


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