This past week has caused me to think about what it means to be a woman, specifically a woman born Indian. Until recently, I did not think that I was any different than anyone else. I thank my parents’ upbringing for that. They gave us a strong foundation by instilling cultural values, the ability to differentiate between right and wrong and confidence in making our decisions. We are a family of 3 girls (yes, brown people, THREE girls !) and from an early age were given freedom in making our choices. Sure, our parents guided us when they felt we may not be making the right decision but more often than not, they would give us their reasoning and let us decide. We were always involved in decisions that may affect our family, be it as trivial as buying a new appliance for the home or the next expat assignment that my dad should accept. I realized this week that my parents may have been an exception to the general parenting style in India.
Over the course of the last few days, horrible cases of infant and newborn girls being killed by their own family have surfaced in India. These are just a few of the ones that the Indian media has broadcast in the hundreds and thousands of infanticide cases that happen each day. Be it foeticide, infanticide, dowry killings, rape or murder, Indian women have learned to live with no rights. Those women that are lucky enough to not be subjected to any of the above, still have to endure other kinds of humiliation. Just a couple of days ago, a fairness cream ad was released which advertised the product’s power of skin lightning around the vagina. Come on! Do our vaginas now have to be white to have sex?! What kind of a message is being sent to the new generation; that you will only have a happy life if you are fair skinned? One more thing for society to ask of women…pile it on.
All this happens in a land where the majority of its people worship Devis or Goddesses and is widely known as a spiritual haven. It is a country where the literacy rate is 74%, roughly 3 times the population of US, is one of the fastest growing economies in the world, and one with a space program and nuclear energy. Yet, every day women are deprived of their basic rights.
Somewhere, I think Indian women are one of the causes for their own degradation. Had we raised our voices against physical, mental and emotional abuse to us and our children and not worried about the “shame” it would bring to the family, our situation would not have been this deplorable. As Mary Wollstonecraft said, ” I do not wish them to have power over men, but over themselves.” We forget that as women, WE are the ones giving birth to the sons AND daughters. This oppression has to be stopped and women have to unite and raise their voices together.
Illustration courtesy: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/indiahome/index.html