Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Sundari Ravishankar, If gender violence is the symptom, what is the cause?

If Gender Violence is the symptom, what is the cause? 

Karma, Fate, Destiny……….. These are words that have been grilled into our psyche from the day that we are born. These are the main reasons that instill and condone gender violence.

The inequality of gender has been instilled into us from our childhood. Take for instance, breast feeding, Education, Household chores etc. etc A male child is breast fed, sent to school whereas a female child knows her place, i.e. she has to help her mother in the household chores. The choicest morsels are given to the man of the house and the male child while whatever is left over is shared by the females. This was brought into vogue when the man was the bread winner of the family and the woman the home maker. But is that true? In the urban scenario every other woman works to augment the family income and also in the rural scenario too the women go and work in the fields. We see women knitting, weaving, buying, selling and also nowadays we see women in the high end industries. On the one side we find pride that women can fly airplanes and also are astronauts and on the other side we find dowry deaths, sexual abuse, rampant in our society.

The causes for this are many, but the main culprit is “Karma, Fate, Destiny” We say that the arranged marriage system is the best as it does not break up marriages, but in an arranged marriage the woman who brings in the dowry, car/two wheeler, jewellery does not have any right over the property that she has brought into the marriage. This may be used to marry off the husband’s sister and she cannot even cry foul because it is her karma. She is ill treated by her husband, her in-laws but she cannot go and complain because it is her fate. Her parents do not want her back because she is a burden now- a married burden and the “ society” will not approve. It becomes worse if she has children. For the sake of the children she stays on, being abused, physically, emotionally and sexually.

Acceptance to me is a word to abhor. Do not accept anything blindly, fight for your rights. But, do women know their rights? Our system of education does not teach us our rights. Do we object if someone touches us when we are young, do we complain and are we taken seriously if we do complain against maybe our grandfather or a close family relative? Gender abuse starts at a very early age and women do not know their rights to stand up to. If a mother knew the rights of a girl child then she would take action and not hide behind family honour and society backlash.

The so called arranged marriage, the greatest boon that even the Western countries are trying to emulate now- we find great pride in telling this: But, in an arranged marriage who gets to spend/ the groom or the bride? Is it not an equal partnership? Forget arranged marriage. We find the so called love cum arranged marriage nowadays, meaning fall in love and the parents agree and perform the marriage. In this too the bride’s parents shell out money for the marriage. The boy who knows to run around with the girl and who works in the US( the so called “educated elite”) keeps mum and the girl too remains mum and lets her parents spend their hard earned money on a marriage fiasco where inequality is the forte. Though the wife earns the same salary she has to do all the cooking, cleaning, taking care of the children sans sleep.

We women accept our roles and put the blame on karma, fate, destiny. If the husband is an alcoholic, if he traipses behind another woman, we accept it and to add fuel to the fire we blame ourselves that it is our fault that the husband is going behind another woman or that he is drinking. We think that we have created a bad atmosphere in the house which has made him seek other pleasures. And god forbid if he dies, then too it is because of our bad stars that one is a widow. We have this function called “ sumangali prarthanai” where we invoke the blessings of all the ladies who died before their husbands and this is enforced by none other than the women themselves. It does not matter if the husband married another promptly.

Apart from the above three causes there is the most important culprit of all. Chastity, morality. This fuels honour killings, this makes even a judge ask the victim to marry the rapist to clear the stain, this makes men rape and abuse women to make them feel small. If chastity is insignificant then rape becomes meaningless. Morality is to be applied to both men and women.

Women need to be educated on several things instead of the text book curriculum. Some are as follows

¨     Right to food: Demand equal food between siblings

¨     Right to clothes and footwear:

¨     Right to Education: You are not just a commodity to be married off

¨     Right to Family property: Women are entitled to equal shares

¨     Right to your own body: Say no to an abusive marriage

More than all these learn to love yourself- you are not an extension of your husband or his family. Learn to question “Why” and “Why not”. Learn that beauty is only skin deep and that jewellery, submissiveness and acceptance is just an escapist attitude.

Society should laud women who question injustice and not brand them as troublemakers.

Do not believe in “Karma”. Make your own karma and path your destiny

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