Liberalism and Patriarchy: Women’s Rights in India
Our constitution guarantees every citizen, equally, a host of freedoms. There is a freedom to move, speak, live anywhere, work anywhere, and express whatever we want. But is every individual enjoying this freedom?
Freedom - Is it for everyone?
In the words of Swami Vivekananda, “There is no chance of the welfare of the world unless the condition of women is improved. It is not possible for a bird to fly on one wing.”
Women empowerment today is unimaginable; women are supporting each other through thick and thin. However, the question is - do women have a right to freedom? Women all over the world are still fighting for their basic rights. Feminism, that’s all they want.
The LGBT community, let alone its women, struggles to gain acceptance in society and their rights. We have come a long way since independence and things are better than before but still there is a long way to go. Human rights are to be treated equally, not as superiors or inferiors.
Freedom to Live - Female Infanticide & Foeticide
Throughout history, newborns have died for several reasons: if the child was deformed or premature, if it was illegitimate, if it was a girl child, or if the mother already had another child.
Female infanticide is practiced in some countries across the world. Even in countries with a larger population, sex ratio are alarming.
With the exceeding ratio of female infanticide, the question is simple, if there weren't enough girls around to get your son married, what would you do? Who would continue your family lineage?
Before your daughter, she is a human being. A girl is as precious as your boy. No one has the right to kill her!
Freedom to Love
Every LGBT member and their friends rejoiced and celebrated the victory of love. It did not matter what side of the street LGBT members were on when the court repealed section 377 in 2018.
With the amendment, they won’t be considered “criminals” anymore, in the eyes of the law. Nevertheless, our society tends to differ, and they still do not find it acceptable that their sexual preference choice isn't “normal.”
A heterosexual couple enjoys every right, respect, and legitimacy, while a same-gender couple fights for their basic rights.
It is considered auspicious to bestow blessings from transgender individuals in our country, but we still find it difficult to respect and accept transgender individuals as part of our society.
Being L, G, B, or T is not a “crime” or a “problem” that can be medicated with some medicines. They are just individuals whose sexual references differ from what would appear to be the “normal” to society.
Freedom to Education
Education is a luxury, and not everyone can afford it. Girls living in rural areas can vouch for it. But unfortunately, we don’t realize the value of something till we are robbed of it.
At the age they should be in school, some of them are engaged in housework. Even worse, they are married off at an early age in some of the states. In India, some parents would rather prefer to spend their daughter’s education money on their marriage or giving dowry to her in-laws.
Many people in rural areas are concerned/scared for their girl’s safety.
- Menstruation is an extreme taboo in rural areas. Due to a lack of knowledge and resources, many schools don’t provide decent toilets and some have common toilets with hygiene issues. As a result, the drop out rate of girls is higher in schools when they reach adolescence.
Freedom to Dress - Is a Women Dress Invitation to Men?
Women all over the world are subjected to limitations on what they can and should wear. Yet, a man who doesn’t seem to constrain his desire of lust is the one who controls a girl's wardrobe. Ironic, isn’t it.
While dressing for any occasion, the first thought that pops into her head - Is it too revealing? Is my bra strap visible? Maybe I should close my buttons all the way up. Oh, God! My cleavage is visible!
Not just someday, but every day!
Why is it that a woman is questioned about her clothes during the court trial for rape? So that it can be decided if she invited him or was she actually raped?
Now imagine, in a gay bar, you are a straight man. You feel like they're invading your space on the pretext of dancing or inappropriately touching you. Not comfortable.
They understand consent better than you, that's for sure.
How a woman dress does not mean she is trying to impress. If she is wearing a skirt, the answer is No. She’s wearing jeans, and the answer is No. No matter what she wears, the answer would still be NO!
Freedom to Work - Workplace & Female- Where Does She stand?
In this changing world, there is a combination of challenges and opportunities for women to realize their economic potential. Women empowerment today is unimaginable, but still, women are subjected to criticism if they choose to work over starting a family.
Society appreciates if a man is working hard since he is the family’s breadwinner, he is making his family proud. But if a working woman comes home late from work, she is a bad mother.
When a woman is working as well as a mother then she’s not responsible. The mother is out working instead of spending time with her children. She should consider getting married if she is single, otherwise who would marry her? In a few months, she will turn marriageable.
60% of women in urban areas are engaged in full-time housework. Moreover, 50% of women leave their jobs to take care of their babies, and only 27% return to work. While only a mere 28% of employed women worldwide have access to paid maternity leave.
No, she is not asking for it. Two alphabets, still some men find it difficult to understand.
Freedom to Express/Speech - Right to Express Yourself
Every individual part of society has the right to speak and express their opinions, regardless of their gender, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.
But, freedom of speech does not mean freedom to bully, abuse, harass, or dehumanize at will without repercussion. If used for others' development and self-improvement, it is precious.
The right to speak has the potential to make a difference to society if used correctly.
Freedom to Be - Who you are and want to be
As long as individuals dress, act, speak, groom according to their given gender, they are acceptable by society. And if one decides to break those social norms and live freely, they are condemned by the community. They are not acceptable in the eyes of society anymore.
Start by accepting yourself and others for who you are, no matter what your appearance is, whether you're thin or fat, dark or light skin, gay or straight, bisexual or otherwise.
Self-acceptance can be a difficult journey, but it's not impossible. We can only reach our destinations on roads that are difficult to walk on.
"It isn't what we say or think that defines us, but what we do." ― Jane Austen.
Life… is a tale. Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. But if we all each take a step for every other individual. An individualist nation wouldn't be far off then.
It would be better to embrace those imperfections rather than trying to fit in with society's expectations. Affirming someone's real self rather than what we want from them.
Saathi has been doing its bit, by supporting children's education, giving employment opportunities to women and ultimately improving women empowerment.
- Consent: No Means No
- Are women getting equal representation in the workplace?
- Is self-defense enough to ensure women’s safety?
- The diverse rainbows of the LGBTQIA+ community
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