Reproducing an old article by Shobha De from 2009. As relevant today as it was then.
“Gender apartheid exists – go deal with it.” Women are. Women will. The challenge lies in just two words – ‘how’ and ‘when’. But there is no getting away from the fact that successive governments have wickedly and deliberately ensured women remain inside ghettos, invisible and silent, obedient and pliant. More than 60 years after Independence, 10 women are burnt every hour in our great country, according to the Lancet, a reputed British Medical journal.
How mahaan does that make us? Should we not be hanging our heads in shame? Why does nobody intervene? Why does society remain mum? Is it because we actually believe women’s lives are worth nothing? That women are, in fact, dispensable? Burn one, get one free. Yes? The horrible answer may be just that. Despite these grisly statistics being available to us, we continue to pretend all is well in our society. Less than 9% of our women have a shot at higher education. Coincidence? Cultural bias? In this day and age?
It is astonishing what a depressingly low value we place on our women, after talking loftily about how Indian society reveres its womenfolk and worships them as devis! This is nothing but a smokescreen behind which we hide, deluding ourselves that beyond the beating and burning, lies a good heart that wants women to ‘improve’. Well, guess what? The ‘new’, ‘improved’ woman has arrived. The miracle detergent worked! But she isn’t what the client ordered.
This creature is a freak – she comes with a clever brain and she uses it to think! What’s more, she believes in direct action! Toba. What are we going to do with this monster – the same one we created. Hopefully, we’ll be able to subdue her – make her thanda. Teach her a lesson or two. It’s easy. Just take the Bangalore/Mangalore model and adapt it to fit any city. All it needs are able-bodied men ready to pounce on defenceless women in public places. Not to worry. Nobody will interfere, not even other able-bodied men present there. The cops will look the other way, and refuse to register an FIR. Besides, how many of these women will dare speak up? So, go right ahead – rip their clothes, tear their hair, punch them. That’s what they deserve. It’s the only thing that will teach them a lesson. Really?
Not so. Take the ‘Pink Chaddi’ campaign. It may not have stopped further assaults, but it sure got women (and a few good men) together. These are the same women society feels so threatened by. But hey, they aren’t going anywhere. If anything, their numbers are multiplying. One of the greatest heroes of our time, Ingrid Betancourt, stated during the Deauville Women’s Forum, “I want to do things with freedom, to be on the side of truth and justice, no matter how hard it is.” She was given a standing ovation by the other delegates, all 1,200 0f them from across the world. Another inspiring speaker, Irene Khan added, “If I were given a magic wand, I would replace our obsession with Dow Jones with an index of women’s development.” Imagine what the state of our Sensex would suggest about the status of our women at present! Tanking is too mild a term. But it is in precisely such a market that the best investment opportunities present themselves.
Disappointingly enough, with the elections round the corner, not a single political party has thought it important to address women’s issues, forget reservations. It is as if women don’t exist – not even as a vote bank. They are making a huge mistake. A society that marginalises its female population is a society in decline. Domestic violence remains India’s best kept dirty secret. Not a single politician has recognised its devastating effects on society at large. So long as our women continue to be traded, brutalised and ignored, India cannot call itself a great country, even less a great civilisation. Mayawatis and others like her, may come and go. But even she has ignored her own kind. As have Sonia Gandhi and Pratibha Patil. The ‘new’, ‘improved’ desi girl has decided she isn’t going to wait for any of them to help her. The change is here. And the change is her. Maa di laadli bigad gayi…! Mind it!
Oh, Happy Women’s Day!
~ Shobha De