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From shaming women for choosing to be child-free (as trolling of movie Sara's showed) to offering freebies for 5 or more kids, Kerala's Catholic Church doesn't care for women's choice!
From shaming women for choosing to be child-free (as trolling of movie Sara’s showed) to offering freebies for 5 or more kids, Kerala’s Catholic Church doesn’t care for women’s choice!
Catholic Church in Kerala recently offered couples many incentives to have more than 5 children. A case of religion and patriarchy wanting to control women’s bodies and choice!
What is the inherent value that women have for families, for societies, and for religions within a patriarchal framework? What does the value of a woman ultimately boil down to?
Because it is through the children born through her womb that the DNA, lineage, family name, wealth, caste, and religion of the men who sire her children will continue onto the next generation.
Men need women to continue their ‘name’.
‘Name’ is heavily loaded here, and means everything from religion to caste and family honor.
In a patriarchal world, it is impossible for a woman to have complete ownership of her body and sexual choices. She is not sovereign.
On the individual level, she is ‘owned’ first by the men in her birth family and then after marriage by her husband and his family.
On the collective level, she is ‘owned’ by the religious institutions of the religion that she is born into or the one that she marries into.
Which is why a woman’s body is always a battlefield fought by men.
The reason why a woman is the one to convert to the man’s religion in the majority of cases, and why the men from her religion will not stand for it.
The reason why women will be encouraged to have more and more children.
And in a world that is becoming increasingly polarized, where an ‘othering’ of anyone outside of your caste and religion is increasing, where there is an increasing insecurity about your identity, men will resort to find comfort in one of the most primal ways they know how – through numbers. ”The more people you have on your side, the safer you are” worldview.
Increase your population.
Which is why we have news like this from Kerala today, in the 21st century:
In a letter issued by a Catholic Bishop, Archbishop Mar Joseph Perumthottam, he says that, “During the formation of Kerala, Christians were the second largest community in the state. But now, the community is only 18.38% of the state’s total population. In recent years, the birth rate in the Christian community has decreased to 14%”.
So the Pala Catholic church is offering incentives to families who have more than FIVE children (married after 2000, so they are targeting the younger generation). This is in the form of:
The last paragraph in the NewsMinute article I’ve linked to is very telling:
”Back in 2011, proposals in the draft Kerala Women’s Code Bill, by the Kerala government to penalise families violating the two-child norm had prompted Hindu, Christian, and Muslim leaders to rise collectively in protest against it.”
We have had communal harmony for once!
Don’t remember reading that kind of line anywhere else, ”Hindu, Christian, and Muslim leaders rise collectively in protest against it”.
When it comes to ownership of women’s bodies and taking away women’s sexual autonomy and reproductive rights, we finally have an agreement here! Whew.
We’re all brothers when it comes to women, broooooooo…..
I studied in a famous Catholic-run women’s educational institution that has consistently produced rank-holders at the University level since its inception (I was a very distracted student, so you won’t find my name in the annals of history there). Recently it was in the news because FIVE women Olympians from Kerala are alumna of my college. Out of those five, one of them was my hostel-mate. She was also my ”secret Santa”.
But coming to the point.
This college, mind you, had a high cutoff for marks and so had girls who were bright or hardworking students, but by the time we got to the third year of our undergraduate degrees, when we were 18 or 19 years old, many girls started getting married off (all arranged), irrespective of religion.
I remember one of my classmates huffing and puffing up the stairs to our third floor hall to write the final exams being 7 or 8 months pregnant. She must have been just 19.
I remember one of my classmates coming back to class after her wedding and not being able to walk because, you know, lots of sex happened during the honeymoon, and we were all giggling along with her. But now I look back and I am aghast. My goodness, she was just a kid! She was just 19! (her husband was 25 or 26).
Mind you, all these girls were from wealthy, ‘high-caste’, prestigious ‘tharawad’ families.
I must say that those girls were a minority though, because most of my classmates are now professionally qualified in various fields and only married in their early to late 20s. Not all of us had families who were conservative assholes.
But one thing that I remember clearly is that in the final year, my Catholic friends had to compulsorily attend a class to learn how to have a successful marriage. Basically, be a ”good woman”. And this was conducted by celibate priests.
What do they know about the challenges of married life?
Where is the woman’s perspective here?
What better age to start indoctrinating girls than when they are young and impressionable?
So my hostel-mates used to come back and tell us what was taught to them about being a ‘good wife’. Some things that stuck with me:
Sex was always something you gave your husband, whenever he wanted. Something that was his right. Something that he was entitled to. Something that he took from you.
What was not taught to them:
I met one of my Catholic hostel-mates a couple of years ago in Kochi. She was a girl who, starting from our second year of college, had been subjected to the ‘pennu kaanal’ ceremonies of boys coming home to see her. She was from a wealthy, well known family. But her biggest worry in life was not her exams, or a career, but that no boy was liking her or would marry her because she had very thinning hair with no thickness or length.
But when I met her, she was beaming and radiant. Obviously happily married. A housewife and mother of 5 children. I was happy for her and not surprised at the number of kids she had.
I am not a person who judges a person’s life choices, as long as it is is a decision taken without any compulsion or indoctrination.
Which brings us to an interesting, philosophical question:
Who among us can say we are free from any kind of indoctrination?
Almost all of us are, but some of us start questioning the values and life goals handed over to us and start forming our own.
This is not easy to do and comes with a heavy price to pay. Could be formal or informal isolation/ boycott/ excommunication from the structures we as human beings turn to for comfort and security – family, religion, society.
Humans are social creatures and do need to be part of a tribe to thrive.
But if the tribal structures we are used to, whether families or religious institutions, refuse to evolve with the evolution of individuals, then there will be a clash. There must be.
Either they change with the times or we form our own tribes now or go it solo!
But these patriarchal structures, rules, and expectations set by old men to control women’s bodies needs to go, right now!
Image source: freestocks-photos on pixabay
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Karishma has been writing short stories since she was 8 and poetry since she was 12. She ended up studying Zoology, then Montessori, and then psychology, always feeling ‘’something was missing’. She worked in the read more...
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