Women in India

August 14, 2018 HUMAN RIGHTS , India , Opinion , OPINION/NEWS

Reuters photo

 

By

Rimli Bhattacharya

 

 

It was 16 October 2017, when the ‘Me Too’ campaign kicked off as a response to a tweet by American actress Alyssa Milano to the Harvey Weinstein ignominy, turning to a movement in solidarity with women and men sharing their personal stories on sexual assault and abuse. Social media was flooded with the hashtag #MeToo with facebook and Twitter getting inundated. Let’s take a look at us women in India and also if we have really gained true freedom? Is it only sexual assault or is there something else as well?

 

I am a woman, in a nutshell, let me describe myself as society will want to know about me and why I am writing this essay. My bio says I am a First Class Gold Medalist from one of the most prestigious Institutes, the National Institute of Technology in Mechanical Engineering, and I received that medal from erstwhile president Dr APJ Abdul Kalam. I need to mention also that I was the only girl among 60 boys and have faced harassment and ragging with each passing day. In addition, I am an MBA and national scholarship holder in classical dance; exponents Odissi and Kathak. My parents were academicians. I am a mother and I am divorced. Above all I am an Indian.

 

Time and again I have been abused both sexually and emotionally but no one will speak on my behalf as I am no celebrity, I am a very ordinary woman. So men have the right to press by breasts in public, they equally have the right to touch me wrongly and then label me that it was me and my body language which allowed them to do it. Not a single word mentioned in the above lines is wrong about me. I was groped in public as well as in private, as are many women out here in my country. I was almost raped as a teen and there lies the eternal question: how safe are we in today’s India? Why is feminism taking an upper hand? Is only the breast and vagina important to men? Aren’t we capable of having a cognitive mind? Didn’t we make a breakthrough in technology? I guess those are not noticed but we are noticed for our curves and features. Then it can go to the extent of rape or maybe consensual sex, but when a man leaves that woman pregnant it is always a woman who needs to be blamed.

 

Focusing on why India is so bad for women, stated The Guardian in their 23 July 2012 issue, it was an evening when a young student left a bar and was attacked by a gang of 18 men. She was dragged in the road; the goons tried to rip off her clothes and smiled at cameras filming the beastly act. All the spectators enjoyed the scene but they did not feel the need to call the cops. Their phones were instead used to make videos of the girl getting raped, and as I said, men are obsessed with breasts and vaginas, her case being no exception either. The abuse continued for 45 minutes when our police arrived and the verdict declared that only prostitutes visited a bar. What if I say I am a prostitute and will earn money trading my flesh but I will not allow rape? Does our society have an answer? Are we Nirbhayas (fearless) or are we mere commodities? Why do we need to fight time and again for our rights?

 

It is said women in the 21st century are slowly gaining equal rights for the first time since the Vedic period. It is also said that the status of women in India had been on the decline since the Islamic invasion of Babur, then Christianity, which further retrenched women’s freedom and rights. Jainism allowed women some religious orders and so is Buddhism. The first quantum of women empowerment happened in India during 1917, when Annie Besant became the first female president of the Indian National Congress. The appointment of Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit as the first woman president of the United Nations General Assembly in 1953 brought hope to Indian women, as did Indira Gandhi on becoming India’s first woman Prime Minister in 1966. Our Rajya Sabha also did us a favor by their bill passed in March 2010 that 33% of seats in state legislative assembly should be reserved for women. In June 2011, President Pratibha Patil called for gender sensitization at every stage in India which included protection of the female fetus to the security of working women, as well as outlining plans to introduce stringent laws against dowry, domestic violence and sexual harassment. Plans to focus on health, nutrition and childcare facilities, education and career counseling for women were also announced. Sadly nothing has happened.

 

The eternal question arises as to why are women suppressed? Why is a girl fetus still aborted? Why is rape on a girl child on the rise? By 2011, India’s female population numbered 364,000,000 aged between 15 and 64 years-old and 30,000,000 over age 65. The statistics are based on India’s traditions of caste, class and sex. Experts have attributed this to the country’s highly masculine sex ratio, which many believe is attributed to female infanticides and sex-selective abortions. The country’s 2011 census highlighted a serious decline in the number of girls under the age of seven, which left activists fearing as many as eight million female fetuses may have been aborted in the previous decade. Women in India also face difficulties in obtaining an education, with only 40% of women being literate as many girls are taken out of school to help in the home. A large percentage of women in India work, yet only 16% of rural women and 11% of urban women claim waged work as their primary activity. Even our marriage system is also very peculiar. In certain states women need to marry from their caste else they might fall under the category of honor killing. While the legal age of a woman to get married is 18, child marriage still exists, as does the ritual of celebrating when the girl bleeds for the first time, in better words when she menstruates. So we need to celebrate the fact our ovaries are now capable of fertilizing a sperm and bearing a baby though our pelvic bones may not be strong enough to carry the burden.

 

Domestic violence still continues and marital rape is not a crime. Women are susceptible to HIV/AIDS and also other ailments like osteoporosis, tuberculosis and uterine fibroids.

 

So we can see nothing has changed. Back in my college my professor molested me, no one believed me except my parents. My marriage did not sustain as I was abused both physically and mentally and I had tried to kill myself. In the month of November 2017 I was groped by a very famous personality standing in the middle of road avoiding public glare. I could not react as I was scared that the man was powerful while I came to know much later that he was just a moronic pervert with a strong fetish for women. I seek justice for myself as well as on behalf of all the other women that we need to be treated as equals and not be known only for our breasts and vaginas. The Almighty has not sent us with a rubber stamp that we should be considered only as a commodity and that our flesh is open for all. We speak of oppression of women in the rural areas, which even I agree with, but what about woman like me who are urban yet subjected to repeated tortures in several forms?

 

This is the current status quo of women in India. To conclude this essay I say that the mere speaking of feminism is not going to help unless we act. Men won’t spare us; they are capable of destroying us both mentally and physically. Time and again we have been hegemonized but to the whole world we are just doing brilliant as we in India had a woman prime minister and president, but it’s time people should know the darker side as well. My whole life is an open book and I am ready to share the list of men who wanted my flesh and am sure my stories will resonate with many females residing in my country. If that can make India a better place for women I am ready to do that as well.

 

 

 

 

Rimli Bhattacharya

Rimli Bhattacharya has a degree in Mechanical Engineering and an MBA in supply chain management. Her writing has appeared in several magazines, engineering journals, blogs, the Times of India, and in the anthology Book of Light. She is also a trained classical dancer to genres Kathak and Odissi and is based out of Mumbai, India. She tweets @rimli76.

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1 Comment

  1. Alem Hailu August 15, at 07:02

    There is a saying everyone remembers his best teacher.I remember Rupe and Singah Kumar,brilliant Indian women instructors.My high school chemistry teacher and my sophomore English instructor respectively.In both courses I scored A .There was another Indian chemistry teacher in a nearby High school.Students used to call her Mother of Chemistry given her brilliance.They were disciplined and considerate to students' feelings.Outside their territory, these smart ladies had managed to create influence. I believe Indian women have higher IQ. As I observed, almost all are beautiful.They are God's blessings to India. How come then that the government and society don't give these gems protection? The former instead of bragging " I am exploring the space!" it sure will be good if it focuses on these wealth of its.This is the 21 century,very far from a stone age.Atavism and barbarism are shameful. There is an Amharic saying "It is he who hates his mother that ill treats women."// An informative article.nicely penned. AlemHailu from Ethiopia alemhailu2007@gmail.com

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