Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Understanding Hindu Culture

It is useful to examine Hindu attitudes to women to understand Hindu culture and society. Mainstream scripture in India stipulates similar societal status to household animals and women.

The following report by Geeta Pandey gives some illustrative details:

"Domestic violence is particularly acute in South Asia where traditionally women have been treated as the inferior sex. Talk of domestic violence usually conjures up images of poor, illiterate women, unaware of their rights and economically dependent on their husbands for survival. But with more and more educated women coming forward with their experiences, that view is changing.

Shruti's problems began three and a half years ago when she married Kumar. The beatings and torture started soon after. "He would literally beat me up, abuse me, abuse my parents. He would get drunk and there would be scenes the whole night. My neighbours knew about it, but I never informed my parents. I had a bad fracture [but] I told them I had slipped from the stairs." Shruti is educated, speaks English and belongs to the upper middle-class. She works for a well-known private firm in Delhi and makes enough money to live independently. But she says she put up with all the abuse believing it was hers to bear for being born as a girl.

It was only after Kumar sent her off to her parents' house and refused to take her back that she sought help. Now, she has been doing the rounds of the Crime Against Women Cell, a special police unit to deal with cases faced by women. Vimla Mehra is the police officer in-charge of the unit. She says of the 1,000 complaints they receive each month, about a quarter are from women with backgrounds similar to Shruti's. "Earlier, women from very high classes were not complaining, but now they are aware and do not fear the social stigma as strongly as they did earlier," she says. The social stigma may be diminishing, but the number of cases is not. And the provocation for abuse can be anything from suspicion about an extra-marital affair to a badly cooked meal. "There are people who beat their wives only because she has not prepared the food they wanted or at the time they wanted or she has not spoken well to or behaved well with her mother or father-in-law or some other relative of her husband," says Ms Mehra.

Some say the biggest problem is convincing the women that they do not deserve abuse. "Most women who face domestic violence think it's a normal part of their life, it's a part of being a wife, daughter or a sister in law," says Manjima Bhattacharya, who works for Jagori, a group that uses music and theatre to spread awareness about domestic violence. "So to convince them that it's not something that they have done that provokes such a response [is] quite a challenge. "We get cases all the time of educated women who face domestic violence, who are in abusive relationships but it's just that their walls are much higher and much thicker and you often can't hear them speak about it. It's difficult for them to come to terms with it. "You consider yourself to be an empowered woman. You consider yourself to be independent, strong and yet it still happens to you. So how do you come to terms with it?" That is a challenge the government and society has to deal with. While the government is debating legislation to reduce the level of domestic violence, activists say real improvement will come only if women themselves confront their abusers."

Note: It is important to note here that misogyny is by no means unique to India and is in fact found codified, albeit in diverse ways [with unusual and diverse resultants in female characteristics], in all non-afric cultures and merits a more detailed meta-theoretic examination.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for this perspective. So many women i know talk about India in such a romanticized way and we don't hear about the truth of what it is like to be there as a citizen. I will read your blog regularly as I like your poetry very much!

9:02 AM


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