It is always convenient if the activism/rebelliousness comes from someone who we are not associated with. It is acceptable when women you do not know are promoting gender rights.
However, it becomes supremely questionable if someone you know does it. The perennial objections raise their heads:
I have been accused of talking for thousands of women who do not have the independence to voice their thoughts.
I’ve invited numerous abuses for saying women are no less capable than their counter parts. Because many of our generation still think gender discrimination is a myth in 2017.
So, I will not justify whether we need equality, but here is a brief account from my travel across India:
Surat (burden of poverty and gender): An urban slum inhabited by casual labourers and rickshaw drivers. By virtue of being bread winners of the family, they are entitled to marry any number of women they want.
It also gives them the right to practice unsafe sex with all of the women. Out of many households I visited, at least one woman in each family had some sort of STD. Women cannot stand up for their own health, let alone choice and rights.
Varahi (bearer of discriminatory custom and uselessness of wealth): In a certain tribe, daughters are exchanged between families to ensure skewed sex ratio does not affect transactional wedding. This wedding entitles their husbands to treat their women the way they want to. The brutality of this violence left me stunned when I met a woman whose husband had put stones into her anus. The reason was very simple: She was beautiful in a conventional sense making her a susceptible to infidelity.
Jaunpur and other villages of Uttar Pradesh: Daughters are not given names because ultimately they will be addressed as someone’s wife or someone’s daughter. If they are fortunate to get a chance to enrol in school, a name is decided.
They grow up accepting the norm that only sons have birthdays, and they can only join in the celebrations. Whatever they do, the ultimate aim of daughters’ lives is to please in-laws and parents have to make sure they are trained well to do so.
Telangana: I got to speak with a stellar woman who was pushed into commercial sex work by her husband. She was an orphan and was pregnant when she was forced to into a transaction her husband had made.
Stigmatised throughout her life by the mainstream (where her clients come from) , she opens our eyes with her words, “ Sex work is considered as a negative term, but we belong to the same community and it needs to be recognized”.
My travel diary is full of such ‘live’ struggles women face everyday. Many an existential crises to make herself fit for our society. Their thoughts are also policed by centuries old patriarchy.
My experience does not let me shut my eyes to this injustice and exempts me from needing to have a reason to advocate for women’s equality.