(content warning: rape mentions)
As a Feminist born, brought up and living in India, this seemed to be the most legitimate topic I could write about to mark the beginning of my relationship with Peace-Off. One of my favourite movies has a very interesting line: “No country is perfect. We have to make it perfect.” My India is far from perfect. There are things about it which make me feel happy and proud, while there are other things which get me frustrated, angry, or just plain sad.
Unlike most other countries, I can proudly say that the Feminist Movement of India was initiated by the men of our country. Women joined the movement much later and slowly took over the reins. Cruel practices like Sati came to an end. Reforms like Widow Remarriage brought with them a breath of relief for women.
In today’s India, women in cities are never denied their right to education, their right to vote and their right to own property. Whereas women in different countries are fighting for their right to choose whether or not to have an abortion, the Indian women already have that right. Strict action is taken against anyone who subjects a woman to domestic violence or harasses her for dowry. Hence as a woman living in an Indian metropolitan city, I do not have much to complain about except the frequent encounters with cat-callers and street harassers.
The problem however, is with the mentality of the people. India is a country where a lot of people have a low tolerance level. In spite of the fact that India is a country which mostly worships female deities, prejudice towards women still occurs:
- The ICC T20 World Cup was an eye opener. When Virat Kohli was not performing well in the previous year, people all over India didn’t bat an eyelid before blaming his then girlfriend and actress Anushka Sharma. This year, when he astonished the nation with his out of the world performance, people once again took to the internet to troll her. This proves the mentality of the people – always blame the women. When Kohli took a stand and shut down all these haters, my respect for him grew tenfold.
- Temples in the southern part of the country had been barring women from entering the premises and had thus been preventing them from offering their prayers for the past four centuries. In a very stubborn manner they continue to do the same and refuse to let women enter in spite of the mass protests and campaigns. Even though the Supreme Court has ordered otherwise, these religious men continue to confidently hold their own.
- The Women and Child Development Minister of India, who also happens to be an educated woman, stated that marital rape cannot be a crime in India. Where the minimum age for a girl to get married is 18, the Indian Penal Code states that “Sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under fifteen years of age, is not rape”. It is so terrifying that in spite of mass protests against it, marital rape is not even considered real in India.
- Even though rape victims and survivors do find a lot of support from some of the common people, most other people still believe in blaming them for the heinous crime that they were subjected to. Male and trans victims are not taken seriously and women are subjected to even more torment if they seek justice. Character assassination is inevitable, the fear of which causes most to not report these crimes at all.
- Marital rape isn’t a criminal offence in India, but homosexuality is. The Indian Penal Code states “Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal shall be punished…” and as a result sexual relationships between consenting adults of the same gender are considered a criminal offence and are either ridiculed or frowned upon by society in general.
These problems are only a tiny fraction of all the hardships that an Indian woman has to face on a daily basis. However, times are changing and so is the mentality of the people. More and more people are protesting against the illogical age-old practices and ushering in positive changes in their own lives as well as in the lives of the people living around them.
India doesn’t have an individual based culture. In India we exist as a part of the society upholding all our relationships. Hence, in order to bring about any change it takes time, as the change has to affect each and every one sharing the bond. Change is gradual but when it does come, it is going to stay for a long time.