“Five minutes after your birth, they decide your name, nationality, religion and sect and you spend rest of your life defending something you didn’t choose.”
The above is true in almost everyone’s case. We are all advocates by birth who keep on defending the case which is not even our own. Let me talk about the lives of the girls in a village of Sitapur, Uttar Pradesh where I’m working: they can’t step out of their homes, don’t have any wishes, desires or aspirations. They can’t even decide their own life partners with whom they will spend the rest of their lives with. Whereas, a boy has all the rights. He can roam around, go to school, and marry on his own terms.
Since the fate of girls is pre-decided by their parents, they often ask me innocently, “Madamji! Agar papa hi sab faisle lete hain to sapne kyun dekhein?” (If father is the one taking all the decisions, why should we even dream). People can own a lot many things, but not someone else’s dreams. Dreams are the best part of one’s life wherein for once, one is his/her own angel in a fairyland.
How is it fair that our Constitution does not have a fundamental “Right to Dream” or a duty to “Let others dream”? Perhaps, it may turn out to be a successful approach like Right to Free and Compulsory Education, which has increased the willingness of parents to send their girls to school without it becoming a financial burden on them; although, after 14 years of age, the parents have to spend money to let their children remain a part of the system.
A girl child’s aspirations should ideally play a role in her education and higher education, but she knows that her parents have already decided something else for her. “Why?”, we may think, with a 3D vision and a digital soundtrack running inside our heads. It’s a multi-colored movie of gender discrimination, social stereotypes, a girl being imprisoned in her own home, and the scarcity of resources stopping her from getting higher education.
“Beti padh likh gayi to hath se nikal jayegi”, (if the girl is educated, she will go out of our control) is commonly heard here, usually from a teenage girl’s father. “She will not listen to her parents, will do whatever she wants, will have her own choice and freedom; and a woman is not born to be a free bird in the sky, but to remain a rat in the hole. If a girl has to do whatever she wants, then what is the need for men. What will they do, if not control her.” These words are generally uttered by any other man in the village here. It shocks me and slows me down for a while – the patriarchy or the male ego of an agitator who is trying to prove his existence by pulling women back. Here, I am not talking about Sigmund Freud’s concept of ego, but a layer formed around the attitude of men that doesn’t let women grow.
It’s easy to say that this layer is created by society; but individuals form a society, right? The problem is different for each girl and comes in several forms such as financial dependency, guidelines on behavior or their perceived safety. All parents have different causes to restrict their daughters. Sometimes, I wonder whether they are actual causes or just excuses. Girls are shown an invisible mirror that doesn’t exist in reality. They aren’t even aware that it is not the financial constraint that becomes a hindrance to their education, but their fathers’ mentality. The compromises girls make for their brothers’ education are a step towards promoting the male ego.
When a woman is repeatedly told that she is frail, weak, or silent, it becomes a norm for them. This gets followed up in the name of female incapability – like a minority community struggling for their existence.
“Am I really empowered and independent? Does anybody care about what I want to do?” Such questions often come up in the girls’ heads screaming, “What I will do with my education and exposure would be so small as compared to what my brother would be able to do with his. What can I possibly do to make my dream come true?”
A rat in the hole is constantly trying to come out, but the hole is covered with a thick piece of glass. The rat can only visualize that there is something brighter outside but it will not be able to step out because of the glass barrier.
Will the rat be able to fight back when it comes to know that the owner of that thick glass is someone from the hole itself?