Tuesday, January 01, 2013

India’s patriarchal society & the dark fate of women

Saw English Vinglish (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2181931/) today. It was a great movie. I was moved by the theme & the strong performance by the cast.
This was a different story from a patriarchal society where women fear to go out after dark, where female infanticide is rampant. It was the story of many Indian families. I could see my mother. I could see many mothers in that.
Last year I wrote an article on this subject. I am re-posting this after few minor changes.

Indian culture is a patriarchy which thinks that men should dominate everywhere. We treat women as second class citizens who cannot think or act independently!!! Their ordeal starts even before they are born. We talk about awareness on this sensitive topic. But in a typical traditional Indian family where is the chance for such awareness? Which family gives priority to such ideals? We prefer high grades in exams but what about the awareness and sensitivity towards other lives around us? Which is the right place for such awareness? Is home the best place or at school? Schools will be more interested in securing prizes in so called cultural meets and reality shows but it’s very rare that we hear about any such cultural education being given to the younger generation.

 This discrimination is a very common sight in most of the Indian families. Even when a girl child is in mother’s womb the so called rules and regulations are created in the family. She can’t do this she can’t do that. It is against our tradition. No women in our family did that …… the list goes on. I can even compile a book bigger than the encyclopedias with such don’t do list.

A lot of ladies talk about liberation, equality etc. but do they practice this? I believe if a change has to happen around us, first of all we have to change. There is no meaning in complaining about the inequalities in society if we ourselves don’t act on the principles we are preaching. There are many instances when I argued with my mom when she tried to enforce such rules on my sister. It’s anyone guess who won the argument. I lost heavily. There was no constraint on the education, love or any such things in our family among us children. Even my sister got a lot of freedom which is rarely available to other girl child in our society. I appreciate my mom and dad for that. But was she free to do all the things I was allowed to do? Certainly my sister cannot complain but there was this slight difference. She had a second grooming in cooking and other such other small household jobs. This is certainly good but soon it became her duty to do such things when no one was around; I was never asked to do any such thing. Even when I volunteered, many times I was asked to do something suitable for boys; cooking and other such house hold jobs were for womenfolk. No one complained when I did cooking, washing and other such household jobs. But such occasions were very rare. (Life gave me another opportunity to learn cooking but that's another story)

I was very fortunate that I didn't see much discrimination in my family. But this is not the case in most of the other families. Girls are not allowed to study, they are not allowed to go out or mingle with others. In many parts of our country girls are kept like animals. They don’t have proper food, clothes, education. They are not even allowed to dream. Even when such basic things amenities are given she is under tremendous pressure. With 24x7 monitoring by family I don’t think most of them would even get a chance to breathe freely. With such pressure many don’t express their likes and dislikes. They are merely the puppets in the hands of their “strict” family. In my professional and personal life also I have seen many who fear expressing their likes and dislikes. With a heavy baggage of the big don’t do list we cannot expect them to fight the discrimination. They are always at disadvantage. From this perspective, men think that women are weak. They can do whatever they like and they are just another instrument to satisfy their wishes. I cannot complain because no one told them otherwise. From childhood they are fed this notion that they are superior and women are second class citizens with no voice to protest, complain or express their likes and dislikes.

We can find the equality in almost all spheres of our life. If we look in our modern families we will see many working super moms who manage the office work and house. How many men help them in their daily “jobs”? In a family the onus should be on both. Men should also take equal responsibility is raising children and doing other household jobs. Many “learned” people believe that women should only do the things allowed by our “culture”. They have to first take care of the children and house. True, I agree but what about the menfolk don’t they have any culture or dharma? When men stay late in parties drinking alcohol they are called sophisticated and when women do such things they are called immoral!!!! (Personally I don’t drink or smoke so usually I don’t get invitations for such parties but still I cannot stop comparing the different perspective.). There are many such examples. Such notions of using different yardstick for same actions should be eliminated from our minds.

Women take leave (or even resign) from their job to look after the children & family. How many appreciate this sacrifice? Didn't she study & work hard for her future? And why only she was asked to sacrifice her dreams? Many will say that it’s the duty of the women but isn't there any duty of men towards this? Have we even heard menfolk taking leave or resigning from job to look after children or family for a long duration?
Surprisingly many educated highly paid women also don’t object to any such discrimination. In many cases they are not even allowed to manage their own salary. I know a person whose wife is earning as much as he earns. He operates the salary account & all the debit cards of his wife. If she needs any money she will have to ask her husband!!! The accounts of many bachelorettes are managed by their father or someone else from their family.  I cannot understand this logic. When they can earn so much why are they not allowed to manage their own finances?  I don’t think fathers or wives or any other relatives will even dream to manage or operate the accounts of any man.

The attitude and approach of a gentleman who has seen equality at his home will be far different. If the parents teach with action that boy and girl has equal rights and should respect each other’s decisions, wishes then the world will be different place to live altogether. Many men are initially shocked when they see women expressing their ideas and wishes. In their family they never experienced this. So they take shelter in old Indian "culture" (but I wonder do they really know the meaning of culture.) and insult women with their words and actions.

My request

For young Mothers 

Please burn that old “don’t do list”. Treat your children equally. If you deny something to a girl child, justify and use the same logic with your son also. If your son can do it then surely your daughter can also do it. From the very first day teach the principles of respect, equality and love to all others without any discrimination.

For my sisters

  • Raise your voice/concern when you see the discrimination. You will face a lot of opposition but you will have to act. Once you raise your voice there will be many to help you.
  • Frown upon the lewd comments/jokes passed on you
  • Act /raise your voice when you see that your dignity is being questioned / threatened
  • Leave your friends/boy friends who have this patriarchal idea of male dominated society. This decision will only make your life better.

For all 

  • Give your voice to all those mothers and sisters who are suffering under this age old system. Help them to improve their life.
  • Respect everyone & treat them with courtesy. 
  • Don’t do (or say) anything which you don’t want to happen to your family member.
  • Spread awareness on this topic among you friends & family

N.B. – I am not part of any feminist movement. I just wrote what I believe to be true. Anyone reading this may have a different opinion. If you want to discuss I am open to any such discussions.


Priya said...

Awesome post!

Abhilash c said...