Friday, 11 January 2013

Toughest place to be a feminist

Unless you’ve been on planet Zorg or self-absorbed in your own life dramas you might not know that thousands of women are protesting on the streets of New Delhi. This has been the strength of feelings of revulsion and outrage at the violation of one of the members of their Indian sisterhood.

A twenty three year old physiotherapy student was gang raped on a bus and her ravaged body dumped onto the street afterwards. I don’t wish to go into the gory and gruesome details which have been graphically documented in almost every global daily...but the unpalatable truth is that she died from her injuries.

Rape is a crime as old as the hills but this particularly bitter attack speaks volumes about India, patriarchy and feminism. Asian countries often adopt a superior cultural stance when it comes to the matter of women. Women, in these societies, are supposedly protected by male elders in their families and in wider society. Women are covered up, from head to toe, and are placed firmly in the kitchen…..that’s the safest place for them! 
Cooking, cleaning and making babies are the lot of many an Asian woman. 

Women follow rules that men have made; that’s the truth. Women are second class citizens in a country that is deemed to be “progressive” and a nuclear power. India has a powerful economy and an illustrious spiritual history but it has not elevated women on its journey to prosperity.

Indian orphanages are bursting at the seams with girls; abandoned by parents who see them as a problem. The caste system is so powerful that no government intervention has been able to dismantle it. God knows Gandhi tried when he fraternized with the “untouchables” and endeavoured to bring them into mainstream society. Gandhi failed and no one has yet succeeded to bring about meaningful reform.

Despite what you may hear from Indians who have travelled the world, embraced other cultures and settled in the Western hemisphere, India is poor. Of course, there’s grinding poverty and the slums live on but the poverty of India is not merely economic.

 India is poor in spirit; it is poor in morality and it is poor in its education of men. People bang on about education and its importance to development but there’s one vital ingredient missing: freedom. Once the balance of rights is corrected between male and female then we may see a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

In India women are low on the food chain; above a stray dog but below a sacred Hindu cow! A woman’s education rarely benefits her as she will first have to see to her wider family. Her needs come last and her self-esteem almost never blossoms as it is crushed under the weight of familial duty. An Indian woman’s life is rarely her own and, in the case of the recent rape victim, her life was as worthless as an old rag doll.

Think on
Some Indian women may believe that they are liberated but to be a feminist in India is dangerous. In an Asian man’s eyes, a woman is a lesser mortal; a burden, a responsibility and a object of pleasure when it suits. To look at the world through an Indian man’s eyes, all women are tainted though he reveres his mother, whom he puts on a pedestal, since she is no longer just a woman…. but a goddess; (and she achieved that status by simply giving birth to the chosen one: him!).

Indian society is messed up. Indira Gandhi knew it when she said that the education of women was crucial to the upliftment of its society. She was wrong. It is the education of men that needs a serious overhaul and we don’t need any more doctors, scientists, engineers or lawyers who’ve learnt their letters parrot fashion……what we need is men of substance and sensitivity.

A sensitive man does not rape. An intelligent man does not seek dominion over a physically weaker counterpart. A devout man respects any woman he meets. This is not how it is in many parts of the developed and less developed world. Bestiality prevails as long as men are free to give rein to their unchecked and unwholesome biological urges. I don't support the death penalty to keep rapists off the streets but I do support castration. If you abuse with it, then be prepared to lose it!

India's unloved daughter
Feminisn and freedom are ideal bedfellows and India (and its sub-continent) needs to allow them co-habitation rights. 

Of course, men will need to understand what those two qualities entail…..letting a woman choose they way she dresses, allowing a woman to choose her profession and husband in her own time… her the room to choose her destiny….especially if that means being alone and childless…..providing opportunities for her to aspire to high office….and, most of all, giving her human rights and freedom.

In 2013, India is still one of the toughest places to be a feminist.....let the revolution begin!



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