May 9, 2017
Mathura village has decided to penalise the girls in the village if they used their cell phones while walking on the road. This is to avoid elopement and reduce the crime rate against women. Group of girls in the Delhi government-run shelter home were sexually abused, forced to strip and injected with growth hormones.
Parents threatened to pull their girls out of school due to the wine shop near it. Indian Army’s recruitment policy keeps women out of its engineering and education corps. These were news we heard over a month. What do they all have in common? A blatant assault on human rights and particularly those of women.
One might ask why human rights and women’s rights differ. Feminists have protested for them, yelled about it on the streets so much so that it has become cliched to talk about women’s rights. Yet, almost every day we hear about a violation. Most of them are not even seen as violations. Take the example of parents threatening to pull girl children out of schools due to wine shop near it. While many claim that such a deed would come under the ‘Save the girl’ campaign, the blatant refusal to see it as a violation of a woman’s right to education is conveniently swept under the blanket.
One might ask if the woman’s education is more important than her safety and her life. But, the real but silent question stands in the way is `whose safety’. The male child could also be influenced by alcohol, he could also be harmed by the drunk. So, why is it that it is the girl child who is targeted? Probing deep into that silent question, we realize that it is the safety of patriarchal norms that are under trouble. This same issue rose in Malala’s case in Pakistan- To save the girl children from Taliban, let us stop her from going to school. She was indeed harmed but redeemed to say, “The Taliban could take our pens and books, but they couldn’t stop our minds from thinking.”.
She further added that, “Our men think earning money and ordering around others is where power lies. They don’t think power is in the hands of the woman who takes care of everyone all day long, and gives birth to their children.” Laws and schemes might provide basic rights but the ideology of patriarchy still dominates the minds of people. The Tamil Nadu Government even thought that providing the family with money and gold for a girl-child’s wedding would stop female foeticide which still continues to be a very grave problem. But we need to ask ourselves if that is the right way to approach it.
A girl child is either seen as a burden or a sex symbol. Rituals regularly patronise her but the threat of violence is a clear discrimination of every right. The Mathura case is a clear example. Elopement, a threat to patriarchy, is curbed by snatching cell-phones from them. Girls are forcibly injected with growth hormones from the very Government that is supposed to protect them. Reports and instances from the past have told us that such growth hormone is inserted inside women before they are sold for flesh trade so as to hide the fact that they are minors.
Patriarchy has seeped into everything – education, clothing, employment, healthcare, religion and even arts that is believed to embody a sense of equality. This raises the question of whether feminism is synonymous with equality or not. Sometimes the presence of patriarchy is not seen but it does rear its ugly head when we look at cold, hard facts of rates of education, death, crime and most importantly the population ratio of 2:1 between men and women.
This is not a rehash of the arguments that we hear every day in the world. It is a stand against sexism that is so transparent in the notion of equality and we fail to recognise it. We fail to educate not women but men about the importance of respecting basic human rights. If inequality and misconceptions in ideology are not curbed, there is no need for plagues of apocalypse, we might just bring in our own.
Disclaimer: The views expressed above are the author’s own.