Now, we arrive to the topic which has been a lot in debate lately: Women’s autonomy and personal rights.
This post is briefly in reference to my earlier post: India’s Daughter: A much needed reality check.
We have all heard people talking about women’s rights. But there seems to be few misunderstandings and confusion which we all need to go in depth and talk about it.
It seems to me that a lot of people seem to confuse between understanding women’s autonomy and putting them on a pedestal.
Lets get to the roots first: What does autonomy mean? What does empowerment mean? What does leading a free life mean? What does personal choice and rights mean?
Autonomy and personal choice means leading your life the way you want to. Even if others disapprove of it, even if others get scandalized by it. It also means taking responsibility along with the immense freedom it provides. It also means having the rights to make mistakes and learning from it. It means being treated as a human being, rather than a dispensable sub human which women in India are treated as.
No matter, how “uncultured” a woman is for having a partner(s), how “arrogant” she is for working, how “pitiable” she is considered for not being married, how “selfish” she is for not having a baby, she has a right to live the way she wants and make personal choices without the society bombarding her with questions and harassing her.
Now, some of the most problematic sentences, which people use to whitewash women’s oppression in India are like “Women are like Gods to us. We worship them” and “Respect women because they are a mother, a daughter, a sister and a wife”
These are rather patronizing sentences I have seen people make. The problem with such statements is that it implies that a women should be given “respect” only if the society deems her for “respect”. She should be made to sit on a throne as a reward to conform to the social norms. She should be given “respect” only if she is a wife, a mother, a sister and a daughter. Otherwise, she is not worthy of living.
What if the woman is not a conformist? What if she refuses to blindly obey her parents and decides to take charge of her life the way she wants to? What if she doesn’t want to get married or produce children ever? What if she is making choices that the society deems inappropriate?
Will the society will harass her by saying that “she was not worthy of respect”?
Keeping our Indian society in mind, sadly, the answer is a yes!
In a patriarchal system, like India, what parents and society fear the most, is a women having autonomy over her life. Parents fear that their daughter will end up making choices which will make them embarrassed in society. Which is why parents are very worried about giving daughters any freedom (even to talk to other boys, use of internet or leave the house for education or a job) to ensure that their daughter’s marriage prospects are not ruined.
Since birth, she is considered a paraayaa dhan or someone else’s commodity.
In many families, we see that their daughters are “married off” during their teen years, by their own parents in the fear that these girls should not develop a voice of their own.
A lot of girls who are getting married in such an arranged (rather abusive) marriage system, don’t even have a clue that they are being married off to someone until the day of their wedding. Once they are married, they are forced to leave their parental home and forced to move in with her husband and his gigantic family to an unknown land.
It is almost like women are blindfolded by parents and society and thrown in the swap filled with crocodiles hoping their fate will save them. If not, their fate was bad.
To make things worse, her parents don’t even give a shit if their daughters are abused in her husband’s home as their “responsibility” (of getting her married) is over. Even if she is working, she is forced to leave her job because of her in laws and their demanding nature, thereby, leaving her completely dependent on her husband and his family.
Then comes the baby, and she is stuck for life!
Now, the society will consider such a woman a Goddess, a woman worthy of respect, a women worthy to be put on a pedestal and the rest who are not conforming to the society, will be questioned, harassed and even assaulted in some cases.
Basically, my main message here is that to recognize the real meaning of women’s rights. Women need to be treated as a human being who should have the freedom to make personal choices (even if they embarrass their parents, relatives and society) and not be harassed and questioned by the everyone if they don’t conform to their values of a stereotypical “cultured woman”.