By Priyanka Rath:
An onslaught of images, songs, advertisements and news bits on the television evoke a mixed bag of reactions, mostly of utter disbelief and dismay. The reactions may also sound rehashed as much as the causes do, yet, they bring to surface the blinding faults in us, as a people, who take pride in being civilized. Every society is as developed as its least empowered factor, empowerment being the financial and social stability of an individual. The parameters of every movement speaking of or advocating the equity and equality of women have changed, yet the perception of women has remained unchanged.
The latest promotional ad of a company that makes water heaters, “V-Guard”, shows a woman harassed by eve-teasing in the bus and on the road, who finds a miraculous solution to all of it, a hot bath. First, we intimidated women in the name of family honour and handed them silence, we then told them that equity could be granted, a permissive, evolving society is ready to ‘allow’ them certain freedoms, but, we had riders on it too, we allow you freedom, of movement, of space, of roaming the roads freely without supervision, do not abuse that privilege. Now, we reiterate, through debasing messages sent out through an approving media and all decision makers with the ability to think, analyse and set precedent. The choices these all-powerful people make are disturbing. They choose to flow with patriarchy, with the idea that women are meant to be loathed for being liabilities, to be condescendingly tolerated for their “demands” of “equality”, a concept marked as the bastion of coffee time analyses of the male intellectuals, when the women fail to “handle themselves” alone. The onus is still on a woman, to know and accept her limitations and function without complaints within the fences society graciously sets up for her.
The death of Savita in Ireland, because of the doctor chose to impose his personal, religious belief, neglecting the higher call of nature, logic and medicine alike, of life over death, of letting the family choose, when ethically, he was obliged to save the mother, having determined that the baby would be still-born and had become a threat to the mother’s life. The basic right to life, dignity and choice was taken away from a human being, because another got to play whimsical with hisÂ favoriteÂ fairy tale. The oldest tool used to subjugate women all over the world, which made them chattel, abhorred objects of temptation and ruin, has once again stood up to assert that a woman has no control over her body or her life. Religion, customs and families determine a woman’s basic, extremely personal right; that of her body. This is all over the media because it demands an international face-saving stance from India as an apparent progressive force, that it will protect its people irrespective of boundaries. There are thousands of women who die every day, because of the same forces, because of this very government which has deprived them of basic amenities like healthcare, water and a livelihood. They are not news worthy, they are not part of a travesty, they are relegated to statistics, because they are the results of policy makers and guardians shrugging their shoulders. They demand no stance because they don’t count.
Shifting paradigms and stagnant mindsets have now created two worlds, one replete with ‘mature’ women who understand the favours bestowed by society in giving them privileges and they never toe the line, the other, of those who have completely misconstrued this liberty and are too far gone, painted in the stereotypes of the ‘uncontrollable, unrepentant, unprincipled’ easy women. We protect rapists, we support and defend those who permeate ideas that women are meant to be objectified and unless, they can drape themselves in layers of shame and honour and walk around like pieces of walls, they are accountable for every depraved man misbehaving with them. Our society now begs a stance. For the lack of civilization and for the utter disregard for a half of the population that passes off for culture.