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Reflecting on the status of women – we didn't start 2021 well. Should we be ending it with more hope? A close look.
Reflecting on the status of women – we didn’t start 2021 well. Should we be ending it with more hope? A close look.
In roughly a day, a year that was brought in with more hope and prayer than ever is nearing its bittersweet end. 2021 was a devastatingly tough year with a pandemic still raging and worldwide developments mostly trending downwards – from dangerous and disastrous precedents set abroad to extreme reactions, divisions, and widescale protests troubling the home turf.
Yet, it was also, once again, a year of hope. We will end this pandemic. We will handle things better. We will get back on track for GDP growth, and so on. But what 2021 should be, I realize as I stare at the darkening skies of Kolkata – where I am writing this from – is a year of reflection. When things get shaken and we emerge out of it, we emerge stronger only through perspective and understanding.
Reflecting specifically on the status of women – we didn’t start the year well. Several reports noted the severe and disproportionate loss of women from the workforce thanks to the pandemic. Domestic violence rose worldwide – victims of which, again, were mostly women. And none of this was unexpected.
After all, systemic role segregation and cyclic blocks placed on the paths of socio-economic development have created an ecosystem in which when incomes need to be sacrificed, it’s more often than not the women’s income that is disposable. Without economic safety, there’s no social safety. And then there’s the circular cause and effect in that too.
However, as I sit here and reflect on women’s status in 2021 with a bit more granular of a lens, the happenings of 2021 don’t inspire. Take the decades-old Roe vs. Wade protection for abortion rights for women at risk in the US or the heated controversies on Bindi and Kanyadaan here for example. But they do provide food for thought. And my realization, looking at how things evolved this year, is that possibly the reason why our society continues to be on this self-sabotaging trajectory of bearing arms overwhelmingly for the wrong side in the women’s progress battle is that they don’t see the ‘women’ in the women’s issues. They see religion, race, identity, tradition. This includes women, who fail to see themselves afflicted by the swords they raise.
Allow me to explain. Quite naively, I believed for a long time that the natural behavior of a species couldn’t be to harm its own. So perpetration of abuse and destruction had to be stemming from desperation or deprivation. However, one look at the history of the human race and that wishful loving thought of virtue will disappear.
From the massacre of native populations to colonization and slavery to modern-day diplomacy – the human race is good at dehumanizing. And it takes evolution for us to see those who are our own race but different, as equals. Not the other way round. For example, in Latin America, even until recently, native populations – subjected to centuries of oppression and extinction – were considered sub-human. Unfortunately, we know that to be true within a race for gender just like it is for a race within a gender. Men of colour are seen as lesser than white men, women lesser than men. However, lesser and greater aside – there is also the matter of complete abolition. A concept, an identity, a value, even a mere opinion, becoming so pervasive and prime, that the woman in it disappears.
In the abortion debate in the US, a women’s right becomes irrelevant not because people are against women’s rights. It is because they fail (or deliberately refuse) to see the impact of not having a route to not carry an unwanted pregnancy to be of any inconvenience to a woman. And even if it is inconvenient – they view it as mere such. Not an imposition on free will. For clarification – we are talking only pre-term termination here, not the actual killing of a life. The arguments for pro-life, as it is well known, are more religion than science – but I am not trying to get into that debate here. I am merely wondering why the fact that living, adult, functioning humans will be forced into an unnecessary situation doesn’t cause concern to a significant portion of a ‘developed’ nation’s population.
Now let’s come home and we will see a similar problem. For example, in the Kanyadaan debate –in which many women chose to fight for ‘tradition’ – the fact that the tradition classifies one gender of the same race as lesser gets lost or minimized. It becomes a matter of identity and heritage for even those who are lessened by it. Or consider the bindi debate. We are fine with it because we don’t see it doing any harm to women. We don’t see it as a dictation, a definition – an ultimate limiting definition. The face of the woman and her identity disappears, the familiarity of a bindi, shining bright in defense of a tradition survives.
Almost every issue, every step we take today in our lives, is limiting women’s progress in one way or another as they are all – in the name of tradition, heritage, religion, family sanctity, or mere familiarity, defining a restricting normal. But we don’t see these as women’s issues – after all, if we do, we are ‘feminazis’ set to destroy families and traditions.
So where am I going with this as I wrap up my year-end reflection? Hopefully into a year in which we start seeing how our debates, actions, and stances, affect our race – the one human race that is. Hopefully, we recognize signals in 2022 in which one gender is curbed, confined, or made to bear the onus of preservation more than the other. Hopefully, we see women and how women are affected, in everything we do – until we don’t need to anymore. It is not wrong to do so.
Image credits Gayatri Malhotra on Unsplash
Manages supply chain teams in Intel Corp. Blogger, writer and poet. Founder and Director Her Rights (www.herrights.website). Contributor Huffington Post US, The Logical Indian. Poetry and fiction published in several US, UK and read more...
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"I chose to go out into the remote, wild, unknown, and make it home," says entrepreneur Kiranjeet Ahluwalia Chaturvedi, who owns Birdsong & Beyond.
The story of my mountain home Birdsong & Beyond started taking shape in 2009, on the internet, the way many stories do these days.
My childhood fascination for a life in the Himalayas led to an internship with a central Himalayan NGO instead of a much prized corporate assignment. But when they offered me a full-time job, I refused. I was overcome by fear and a lack of confidence.
My other longings pulled me away – the longing to fit in, to earn validation from others. By my mid-30s, with all the trappings of a middle-class urban life in place, the call of the snows couldn’t be ignored anymore. So I got to work on it with clearer intentions and a stronger sense of what I needed for myself, and why.
Many Indian elderly are firm believers in enslaving a daughter-in-law in the name of tradition which is actually a tradition of oppression and not of religious faith.
Albeit, the popular culture has interpreted scriptures as suggesting that Kanyadaan is the supreme form of donation given to someone, the connotation that the word donation alludes to definitely objectifies the girl.
Even when the exegesis justify the act of giving away the daughter, considering it a ritual to mark the initiation of the daughter into her husband’s gotra and her becoming the part of his family tree.
There is no denial of the fact that this initiation is not required on the part of the groom thereby formally denoting the end of the filial ties with the daughter as it was popularly instructed to the bride during the Vidai ceremonies:
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