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When I was first asked to write an article on sexuality and gender issues in the context of Indian relationships, I was in a dilemma. Whatever I read from books confused me. I could not start writing because I did not know where to start.
Anu, a woman in her late thirties, was brought up in an environment that showed her as a broad-minded, energetic girl bubbling with spirits, aspiring to achieve something in life. “I do not want my life to be shunted between kitchen and bedroom. I would rather die than taking up such a life”, Anu used to tell her friend always. But she got married into a family where she has to live among women who thought a women’s real-life existed around the kitchen and the bedroom. This slowly developed a hole in her confidence.Anu slowly descended into a hollow that darkened and suppressed her spirits. Her husband hesitated to support her as he thought it might label him as “henpecked” in his family. She had to give in silently to her husband’s sexual desire, because of her children.
At this juncture, the role of a male and a female in a society with the existing norms made me feel breathless and sigh with regret. Though we talk much about sexual issues in the wake of feminism in India, there exists the male dominance over a female that hinder and oppress them from coming up in life. Whether you are intelligent or dull headed, the role of male dominance could not be erased forever.
In places where it could not be shown directly, it moves forward stealthily to paralyze your efforts. Still, some women subtly obey to the dictation of male dominance and find things done according to their will. At this juncture, who could be blamed? In most of the Indian families, the dominant role played by a female or male still needs better understanding. Male dominance is always projected high, and everyone accepts it as a sign of a secured home.
In India, most women come to feminism through personal experience, which is one of the reasons why the core identity of feminism has to be elastic. In India, feminism is still to find true expression. Because common women rate their own fellow women by judging their ability to meet the sexual needs of men and give birth to children.
The so-called marriage market in India chooses their brides by looking at the personality and rates them accordingly. The existing dowry system in India thus fixes the rate of a bride and paves a way for gender injustice exercised by women on their own folk. In India, male chauvinism in its maximum degree has led to gender injustice. Oscar Wilde called women ‘a decorative sex’ following it up by saying “they never have anything to say, but they say it charmingly’. This very clearly reflects the attitude of the male in India, who believes even now that the first duty of a female is to fulfil the sexual needs of her partner.
Ram, a man in his late twenties with dreams about a happy married life. Intelligent, but submissive, he could not express his feelings to his wife when problems started in their life. He was pushed into doing a business that did not suit his mentality and whatever he did turn out into a failure.The entire harmony of the family got shattered with the growing financial problems and every day turned out to be a battle of words. Slowly, he slipped into a world of darkness and got shrunk inside a nutshell of vague dreams. He could only show his sexual domination and develop a bubble of misunderstanding, which disturbed the family harmony.
In India, the cultural emphasis on the family leads both men and women to be deprived of the power to determine the basis upon which their sexual relationship should take place. A women’s fertility and her relationship to her husband is often thought as a mark of her social identity. The women are not even allowed to decide when they could have their child and have to do according to her husband’s wish.
When a man’s fertility is questioned, the whole blame is put on the women only. Radha, a girl in her early twenties is eagerly expecting to have a baby. Though co-operative and willing in her sexual relationship with her husband, she could not succeed in it.
When their family doctor advised both of them to have the medical tests, her husband stubbornly refused to accompany her. The doctor expressed her inability to do anything without the report of her husband’s medical test. Radha failed in her attempts to persuade her husband to go for the test. She has to suffer in silence as she could not share with anyone her feelings towards her husband’s indifference.
Blamed entirely for being unable to have a child, the society refuses such women’s participation in traditional ceremonies celebrated for the welfare and progeny of the family. In India, the relationship between a husband and wife is judged by their success in having a child within one year of their married life.
The battle for gender justice has been a long-drawn struggle and much has to be changed because the traditional abuse of women and underestimation of their capacities still continues. It is not merely the poor or the illiterate but women from all strata of society experience bias in day-to-day life.
Giving higher education and economic independence to a girl is not the only criteria to solve the existing problem. Better handling of the social norms that draws a line in the midst of the family harmony is the need of the hour. We must know how to build up our life harmoniously in spite of all these social hindrance and rules that exist in society. By doing so we could wipe off this kind of injustice at least in the near future.
Image is a still from the movie Dabangg
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