I'll start off this post by mentioning that its not at all intended to be feminist in nature. Being a male, there's no way I'd support outright feminism. But, there is this wrong impression that every male is male chauvinist. This is not true. I want to set straight the record here. I am sure there are guys out there who echo the opinion that I am going to put forward in this post.
I only want to push the concept of universal equality - equality of religion, caste, gender and a host of other factors. In fact, I also believe in equality in nature - meaning animals, birds, insects, trees - they all have as much right to live on this Earth as we humans do. But all these topics will be covered some other time. This post is dedicated to equality between the sexes.
There are quite a few inequalities going on there,and a few downright atrocities. Some of them are inter-related. Unlike a few of my previous posts, there is no uncertainty in my mind regarding this one. These "practices" MUST stop. There's no two ways about it.
This is the biggest of the social evils; atleast in India. I dont have the statistics to support it, but its obvious that dowry is directly or indirectly responsible for an overwhelming majority of discrimination against women, most notable among them is domestic crime like wife-beating etc. Many of the practices that are listed below are ultimately attributable to dowry.
The most scary aspect of dowry is that, it is not restricted to rural, illiterate, orthodox or backward sections of society. The practice is prevalent in affluent sections too; its the educated, modern, middle class India which is acting as a barrier to its abolishment. People take shelter behind the "system". Its the same old story: "Its the system which has to change you know. How is it going to help if I alone forego my 'right' to dowry?"
This is unacceptable. The educated class HAS to wake up and do something about this. Someone has to take an initiative and the educated middle class is in the best position to do so. If anyone reading this is in a position to take corrective action (you know what I mean by that); and if you care, I appeal to you to do so before its too late.
Sex Determination and Infanticide/Foeticide
This is linked to dowry. People just dont want to have daughters. I remember seeing the promos of some TV serial on Zee; I think its called "Betiyaan". A couple go to the temple with their little daughter; and in front of the daughter, they pray for a son! This "scene" is not at all uncommon in India. Just imagine what would go through the mind of a, say 6 year old girl if she come across such a situation. The feeling of being unwanted will leave a deep gash on her young and impressionable mind.
But I fail to even comprehend how "normal" people would be so cruel as to kill the baby girl as soon as; or even before she is born! This takes meaninglessness, cruelty and insanity to new levels altogether. Even mothers, who were once daughters themselves, are actively involved in such shameful practices.
The other extremely dangerous side effect of this trend is the shockingly skewed sex ratio in some states. Everyone wants sons, no daughters, so who's going to marry the sons and bring in the next generation? At this rate, I sometimes feel we are never going to enter the 22nd century!
Sati/Inhuman treatment of Widows
Another example of totally senseless, illogical following. Although this is more or less restricted to rural India (or so I hope), it still is menace enough. The recent movie Dor, has touched upon this topic. Widows are either forced to jump into their husbands' funeral pyre; or forced to live the rest of their lives as half-dead anyways. Re-marriage is looked down upon as if it were a crime. Why not give the woman a chance to live a decent life? Why make the widow aware time and again about her dead husband, and make her live her life as a sorrowful lady who serves no purpose in the family or society at all?
India must be the only country in the world where Sati is practiced. This is a shame on us. We force the daughters of the nation to die a shameful death because her husband is dead. In many cases, the husband's death is blamed on the wife! Unacceptable again.
Favouring the Son
Again related to dowry. Probably if dowry system diminishes, so will this. Well, this is not as serious as the previous practices. But I have witnessed such incidents from close proximity. In 50% of the families which have a son and a daughter, the daughter is the "black sheep" of the family. The son gets all the encouragement, all the love and is spoilt to the hilt. While the daughter spends most of her childhood trying to impress her parents and trying to get her share of the family love. And this is again middle class, educated India that I am talking about.
Come on! Atleast give the girl a chance. This is the 21st century. Girls have shown they are capable of earning well and caring for their parents in old age. Take proper care of her, educate her well; and there is every reason that she'll take care of you in your old age. What's happening is that the son is given proper education and all; while the daughter will just complete basic education and then stay at home or get married. She's given no chance to prove her mettle. Again, I appeal to the educated, middle class out there to smoothen out this imbalance; else its the society which is going to suffer in the long run.
I have written about something similar before. God has made women susceptible to this form of harassment. That in no way justifies men resorting to it. And to think people actually try to justify such horrific crimes. "She was wearing a provocative dress"! Shame on such people who cant respect the women of the society. Having sexual feelings towards someone is one thing; actually outraging the modesty of a woman is quite another.
There are all kinds of atrocities going on against women in rural, tribal India. Women being made to undergo "Agnipareeksha" to prove their loyalty to their husbands; to women being gang-raped under orders from the Panchayat or whatever, and that too because her brother had a extra-marital affair! These are absolutely blasphemous and opprobrious. I dont even have words to describe how cheap these incidents are. Its upto us to stop such recurring at any cost.
What we can do about it
First of all, let me point out that if you are a girl, and reading this; you should consider yourself extremely lucky. You belong to modern society, which is atleast less prejudiced against women. You are probably well-educated and have made a mark on society. Which is wonderful. At the same time, you (and the men out there too) have a social responsibility to erase the oppressions of the past many generations.
I dont claim to be some kind of preacher who has solutions to all problems. I am just doing my bit by spreading the word. Hopefully, someone who reads this is moved by the plight of the fair sex; and decides to take "corrective action". Again I wont elaborate on the corrective action part. Its a hint I hope was picked up by one and all.
If someone has any ideas or had formed some kind of organization for such causes, please dont hesitate to mention them here. Or link us to the site or blog or whatever. That's what I mean by "spreading awareness". More the number of people who are aware of whats going on, better are the chances of collaboration and really getting something done.
Looking forward to a society which measures its sons and daughters with the same yardstick.