Pranay Prashar for BeyondHeadlines
Since ages woman have always been subjected to sanctions and dictums from more privileged male counterparts in every feudalistic society like ours and even the most optimistic prophet will stumble to foretell when it will come to an end. Her freedom had been curtailed accusing her of licentious and promiscuous behavior, prerogative to don what she wishes had forcefully been snatched voice & even in her own matters, has been muzzled.
Society is replete with prejudices that stink of anathema towards her socio-economic development and obstructs her progress as an equal human being. These prejudices manifest themselves in practices like female foeticides, denial of basic rights, partiality in providing education, good food or clothing and other accessories. Eve-teasing, harassment (physical, mental and sexual), rapes, marital rapes, women trafficking, prostitution are only few names out of horribly lengthy list of ignominious acts perpetrated against woman.
People like me who belong to middle or lower class, are witness to despicable act of wife beating in our neighborhoods. Women even sometimes fall victim to institutionalized apathy. The methods of sexual torture adopted, or the Finger Test conducted on rape victims are the most abominable acts that need to be condemned in harshest words.
The painstaking efforts of activists, reformers, rational and progressive thinkers, Government, NGO’s has met with some considerable success for the emancipation of women. But this success is restricted predominantly to metropolitans where woman are holding managerial, intellectual, political or other respectable positions. The goals are still elusive as far as rural landscape is concerned and only combined concerted effort of all the aforementioned will extend the contours of the bright daylight up to those women that still reel under the shadows of male dominance.
A cruel practice
Sorry, as I apprehend my social or anthropological incompetence to question or scorn the “millennium” old traditional practices, deeply entrenched and ossified by accumulating fears of indigenous culture being subjugated by western culture, however, horrendous or inhumane these practices might be. I enunciate the practice that offended me when I heard it from one of my friends. And then I launched my so called “investigation”. I elucidate what I found out as I heard, witnessed, discussed and deliberated with my friends, teachers, people and clerics belonging to divergent communities or strata of life. I wish to narrate two correspondences.
Women or young girls are still barred from entering kitchen, religious structures, or from touching utensils or anything that is considered holy or from reading sacred texts during their natural periods. Their access is restricted to a single room where they are rendered shabby treatment flagrantly abusing their sense of dignity and liberty. The practice is entrenched uniformly across the spectrum of society, only the modern societies have liberated themselves from this blot.
Out of the people that I “cross examined”, an educated female friend of mine was very critical of this traditional tract “We are degraded and treated like wretches, we are held in disdain as we might have committed some serious felony and are scorned as sinners”. Then commenting on rural and urban divide in the context of this practice she commented, “Belonging to metropolitan culture is boon to us while our rural sisters’ reel under scruffy treatment meted out to them by elderly women who sometimes connive with their male counterparts. You see how the girls in villages use dirty cotton clothes which sometimes cause serious bacterial and fungal infections that give rise to STDs (Sexually Transmitted Disease) and sometimes even cancer”. “Girls feel humiliated when they had to rush to toilets during their periods because of absence of proper stuff required and lack of knowledge. Non availability of toilets is one of the major reasons of high girl dropouts from school and consequently low women literacy”. When I entreated her to remonstrate and demur she lamented, “Pranay, we have accepted it as our preordained destiny. We are victims not only of amorous desires of man but also of religious and traditional structures”.
In another instance I landed a young cleric into an unusual discomfiture when I enquired, “Is it true”. Initially baffled at my question he calmed down and reluctantly replied in affirmative. “These practices have continued from million years, now we can’t change them”. When I further pressed him, he bulged, to my dismay “Don’t you see, during this time women are full of dirt and filth, aren’t they unholy”? I remained tightlipped, only reflected that how can a process in which lies the source of continuity of human life be unholy. I couldn’t get the answer. Do you have any answer for it????
(The writer is a B. Tech student at Jamia Millia Islamia. His email id is firstname.lastname@example.org and Facebook Profile https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000592636247.)
The views expressed in this article are writer’s own, and it does not necessarily reflect BH’s editorial policy.