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About the Author

Ladislav Kudlacek
Education project manager (Czech Republic)

Political Scientist and Economist. I worked for human rights and humanitarian NGO in India and for international NGO People in Need based in the Czech Republic as a Programme Manager for Afghanistan. In present time I work as an Education Manager. I studied Economics in Tomas Bata University and Political Science in Masaryk University in the Czech Republic and in the University of Delhi in India and Humanitarian and International Law in Helsinki University in Finland.

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What it means to be an Indian woman

Published 26th June 2010 - 5 comments - 4177 views -

What it means to be an Indian woman

Every evening a ceremony of closing the border and hauling down flags is taking place on the border crossing between India and Pakistan near a little town Wagan. India compares itself with its Muslim rival Pakistan in many aspects. This place is a symbol of competing of these two countries, which is being watched by thousands of enthusiastic spectators.

People are showing their neighbour that they outdo it also in their approach to women. The women are ostentatiously running with a large Indian flag along the borderline. “You cannot see this in Pakistan. They are treating them awfully.  They force them to wear burka and they must sit on stands separately. But India values its women,” says Krishna, a young local man, who is observing the show, proudly.

However, the reality of everyday life is different and Indian women do not definitely have easy living in the traditional Hindu world. Successful independent women are still a rarity here. What is the social position of women in present-day and quickly transforming India? 

Rules of menstruation

Priya is a modern young woman. She is making her carrier in the organisation UNICEF and she considers herself to be independent. Her family is proud of her. But anyway she is confronted with presses to get married and found a family. For the meantime she is resisting. She is lucky, she comes from the educated middle class and her parents are tolerant and understanding. In spite of this she faces discrimination as well.

She sadly speaks about her parents’ decision to start from her brother’s coming of age the traditional custom that women must strictly adhere during menstruation to precisely set rules. “For instance, I mustn’t touch the food which my father or brother are going to eat. It would become unclean,” explains Priya. Her brother Vaibhav does not acknowledge this custom too, but both siblings respect the decision of their parents. “It humiliates me as well. It hurts me that my sister is stigmatized for such a natural thing. But the power of our cultures lies above all in respect to parents,” comments it Vaibhav sorrowfully.

Better abortion than dowry

“It is better to pay 500 rupees than 50,000 later,” is a slogan of one of many leaflets, which go around Mumbai. In gist it says that it is better to pay a little for determining the sex of a child during pregnancy and undergo abortion than to give dowry to a daughter in future.

The Indian government prohibited determining the sex of a foetus, but this law is not being adhered almost at all. Hindu society highly values the male offspring. “A son is after all the person who will light up the funereal woodpile burning my corpse,” says a rural farmer Mr. Patel. The reason must be looked for also in financial costs. The tradition of giving dowry, prohibited by the government already in 1960s, ruins the poor in the country and it has other latent consequences. Unfortunately this custom is deeply rooted and in India it results in preponderance of abortions of female foetuses.  It amounts up to 96 percent of all abortions.

Due to this India has one of the lowest proportions of girls in population. According to statistics there are born only 927 girls to 1000 boys. “For example in some districts in Gudjarat there are born even only 801 to 850 girls to 1000 boys. We are trying to provide an active explanatory campaign in the most afflicted areas, which should turn this negative trend. The traditions are deeply rooted though, so it is not easy at all,” says Mrs. Singh from one small Indian NGO. The campaign is focused on a dialogue with locals, on articles in media and other enlightenment.

 “India is changing and hopefully the status of local women is changing too. But anyway the changes of society regarding the attitude to women are slower than we would need,” thinks Priya. India is a country where women lead political parties, form governments or they are successful managers. Simultaneously traditions which humiliate them still function here. Women do not have, in spite of conviction of people watching the ‘show’ on borders with Pakistan, such social status as they deserve.


Category: Equality | Tags:


Comments

  • Hanna Clarys on 26th June 2010:

    “It is better to pay 500 rupees than 50,000 later,” is a slogan of one of many leaflets, which go around Mumbai. In gist it says that it is better to pay a little for determining the sex of a child during pregnancy and undergo abortion than to give dowry to a daughter in future.”


    And that’s why there are villages in India where there are no women, and where the men get frustated or buy women from human traffickers in neighbouring countries.


  • Radka Lankašová on 26th June 2010:

    India is a fascinating country, it is booming in many respectcs, it is very modern in some areas yet traditions still rule the country which puts women in a very humiliating role.

    As for abortions Chinese do the same, they prefer male offspring so abortions there have the same reason as in India.


  • Daniel Nylin Nilsson on 26th June 2010:

    The story about Indian dowries is scary, in deed :( Many young girls have come in trouble because their parents couldn’t pay it.


  • Giedre Steikunaite on 27th June 2010:

    We know that in many places, a woman’s life is worth half a man’s life. And this starts from the very beginning, as your example shows. I read about orphanages which only have little girls, left behind by their families who did not need them because they are girls and not boys; women who are forced to be pregnant every year until a son is born; baby girls killed in order to avoid the costs and shame and whatever else there might be. It is disgusting, and very sad. This is an issue of equality at its very basics.

    And menstruation… Oh god is this medieval Europe or what… By the way, there’s a theory that men started to go to war long, long time ago precisely because they could not bleed “out of nothing”. Blood was seen as something sacred in ancient communities, and women were respected because they could bring it out without any effort. Men couldn’t, and so they needed to produce blood artificially. The theory then expands into homo nonsapiens insecurity over being prey rather than predator in the early days… Very interesting. Barbara Ehrenreich, Blood Rites.


  • Andrea Arzaba on 28th June 2010:

    This traditions will dissapear certainly but it takes time…it is like the VOTE… two hundred years ago who could even think that a woman would be able to choose her representant??


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