Rakhee Ghelani

Business Consultant, Writer and Traveller

How India Turned Me Into a Feminist

I have a confession to make, I am a feminist. Nine months travelling through India has turned me into a feminist and this is me coming out of the closet.

I have always considered myself to be egalitarian, striving for equality rather than subjugation of one gender over another. Then I spent 9 months backpacking across India and I now believe equality is not possible nor something that women should strive for here.  To be equal to a man here is asking too little, and the women of India deserve so much more.

In my observations here in India, rapists, murderers, paedophiles and child traffickers are quietly (and sometimes not so quietly) condoned to ensure that women are kept in their place and made to feel guilty for trying to say or do otherwise. It is not the same as it is in the comfort of a western country like Australia (yes there are rapists, murderers and misogynists there too though), but the scale and indifference here in India is at a level that has made me sometimes feel physically ill. I can no longer fight for equality, women need to fight for so much more here because the cultural change required needs to permeate through over 1.2 billion people. This is no easy task.

I am not a man-hater, quite to the contrary I enjoy and seek out the company of men. However I do find the Indian man a peculiar one to understand as I have discussed in my rather contentious blog post Decoding the Indian Man. So now I think its time to say what I have observed of the Indian woman.

She is in danger.

She is in grave danger, because behaviour that puts her at risk is practised everyday and readily accepted in the name of culture.

I picked up the paper the other day. On one page was a story of a woman who had been gang raped but the police didn’t accept her statement because she was in a pub and somehow that means she “asked for it”. The next page had a story about a woman who had died from burns to her body but the court wasn’t sure whether to accept her police statement that alleged her husband had inflicted the burns. She had previously told them (whilst her husband was in the room) that the burns were a result of her spilling a cup of tea on herself, she died from these wounds so I want to know just how big that cup of tea was. Then the next page had another story about a woman who was brain damaged because her husband had allegedly rammed a screwdriver up her nose because he didn’t think the dowry he received from her family was big enough (dowries are outlawed in India).  This a normal day in India. I now think twice before even picking up a newspaper because it is just too upsetting.

Women of the Village (taken near Jaisalmer, Rajasthan)

The violence and maltreatment of women begins long before they are even born.  Female foeticide is  believed to be rife despite pre-natal sex determination being a criminal offence here.  According to the 2011 Census there are 940 females for every 1000 males in India, up from 933 in 2001, however this number was 972 in 1901. When you consider it is well below in some populous states like Uttar Pradesh (908) and Delhi (866) and a horrifying 618 in Daman and Diu, only two states buck the trend; Kerala (1084) and Pondicherry (1038). More disturbing, the overall gender ratio of 940 is actually lower at 914 when you look at children between 0-6 years of age.  The girls are being murdered early in life and whilst pre-natal sex determination is illegal in India it is believed to still be heavily practised.

Why are the girls being killed? Because they are considered to be a burden  in the form of dowries and potential shame on the family. It is apparently less shameful to murder a girl before she is born than to have one who may possibly grow up and disappoint your morals sometime in the future.

Unfortunately, the murder of women doesn’t stop in their youth, women are still killed in the name of “honour” (where it is believed they have bought shame on their family) or for providing insufficient dowries (once again something that is banned). The statistics are mind-boggling, quoting a Reuters article :

“According to the U.N. Population Fund, around 5,000 women are victims of “honour” killings worldwide every year, while India’s National Crimes Record Bureau says 8,391 brides – one every hour – were murdered over dowry-related issues in 2010.”

So about 13 women a day are killed in the name of “honour” and one an hour because her family did not provide enough money and gifts to take her “off their hands” in marriage.  It is believed that in many of these cases they are sanctioned by the police, and not generally considered as murders or serious crimes.  This is how little a woman’s life is valued in the heartland of India.

Even if the girl is “taken” in marriage and survives, what kind of life is there for her in many parts of India?

For many they are “married off” long before they are ready, for those women between the age of 20-24, 43% were married before they were 18 years of age.   It is estimated that 40% of all child brides in the world are in India, that is 4,000,000 girls married before the age of 18 this year. These are just statistics but I have seen it first hand whilst visiting a small village outside of Jaisalmer only a few weeks ago.  A young girl was working with her father making carpets, she couldn’t have been older than 15 years yet she had the customary bindi and nose rings to indicate marriage.  As we were leaving our guide told us that she had given birth to a child only 20 days earlier.

So why are girls married so young, Put simplistically it seems to be partly due to cultural norms and partly due to education.  Changing cultural norms is very difficult in any culture or environment, but education is something that could be improved upon.  However in a country so wide and dispersed as India, reaching the population to be educated is a challenge, and encouraging them to actually send their girls to school is another cultural norm to be overcome.

According to the 2011 Census in India, 74% of the population is literate but only 65% of women are. At its best, in Kerala nearly 92% of women are literate. At its worst in Rajasthan less than 53% of women are literate (yet over 80% of men are).  There is a clear disparity between valuing the education of men above women.  Where education is concerned I don’t believe equality is enough to seek out, the entire population needs to be educated for there to be a chance of anything changing quickly for the girls and women.

Whilst much of these issues are more prevalent in rural areas, there are still dangers for women in the more progressive urban areas.  Sexual harassment and abuse is also rife something that is not always taken seriously.  The media has developed language that belittles the crimes to minor issues and essentially removes the victim from the crime.  There is no sexual harassment, molestation or other assaults in India, it is simply “Eve Teasing”.  It is not harmless teasing, it is condescending, degrading and illegal harassment.

Some efforts have been made to alleviate the harassment, for example women’s only carriages in trains, but that is just masking the problem.  When men are not made accountable for their actions and the crimes are not viewed and reported seriously, I can’t see how the harassment will end.  Whilst I have fortunately not encountered any serious physical harassment in my travels, I have certainly experienced very uncomfortable staring and I am always covered from neck to ankle, particularly in smaller towns.

To make matters worse, in many cases it is the women who are blamed not the perpetrators of the crimes. In a recent case in Gurgaon (near Delhi), a woman was abducted on her way home from work and gang-raped by 7 men.  The police reaction was to announce that all women in Gurgaon should not leave their house after 8pm at night.  I think it would be much safer for the women to require all men to be locked indoors by nightfall instead, but somehow the victim has become the one to blame and be punished.

Once again the media also denies its responsibility in reporting these cases accurately and with the seriousness they deserve, as the Times of India notes in its article on this rape case:

“In recent times, TOI has tried to avoid carrying disturbing reports of rape and suicide, especially of minors, on front page (even today we have put one such report inside). While our primary duty is to report news without attaching any value judgment, we also believe it is our responsibility to spare our readers the trauma such reports cause (to the extent possible).”

A widely read newspaper wouldn’t want to disturb its readers with the truth!

In another recent case in Kolkata police actively tried to avoid registering a complaint of gang rape because the victim had been in a pub when she was abducted and raped by 6 men, and then delayed making a complaint for four days because she was so traumatised by the event.  It is alleged that the police actually mocked her. I would like to see how they would feel immediately after 6 men had abducted them at gunpoint and raped them.

The cases go on and on, apparently in India rape is not rape if she wore a skirt, bared her arms, had a bra strap showing, was not a virgin, had been married, attended a bar, was out after dark…the list goes on and on. In my opinion, and from what I remember of law school, if a man (or multiple men) penetrate a woman with any part of their body against her will then they have raped her. If they can’t “control” themselves then this is their problem that requires psychiatric treatment and not the “fault” of the person they have harmed. Yet in India, this concept seems just too difficult for those in authority to understand or take seriously.

Even in Parliament nothing is sacred.  Three ministers in Karnataka (the state that includes Bangalore) were allegedly seen to be watching pornography on a mobile phone during a sitting. They did all resign and were considered to be “responsible’ for doing so. More disturbingly, one of the ministers was responsible for the portfolio of Women and Child Development. With this level of responsibility allocated to them, may God help the women and children of Karnataka.

I don’t offer any solutions, once again here I am sitting in India wondering where on earth one can begin to help or make a change for the women.  The women of India certainly look miserable. In most of my travels I have seen women from villages or poorer backgrounds, and it was so rare to see one with a smile on her face. The reasons above are probably only scratching the surface as to why, but this is what I have observed and read.

In my opinion, the women of India deserve so much more then the lot they have been given, they work hard and are beautiful.  If only they were valued, appreciated and taken seriously.

So for these reasons I am now a feminist, loud and proud for the beautiful women of India.

There are many resources covering the issues I have touched on here.  If you would like to read some more information on women in India, some of the sites I follow and find useful include:

Maps 4 Aid : Statistics, blogs, cases and up to date information

Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker : Very interesting blogger covering a range of feminist issues in India

Women’s Web : Online magazine that covers a range of issues pertaining to the women of India (Yes I do work with them, but its because I love their publication)

Follow the #VAW on Twitter

66 comments on “How India Turned Me Into a Feminist

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  12. Sig
    December 30, 2012

    Great post!

    Sigh. I do hate though how the word ‘feminist’ has become synonymous with ‘man-hating’. It really isn’t. I wish people (especially women) wouldn’t shy away from the word under the guise of being a “humanitarian” because they don’t want to offend or don’t feel comfortable with the projections of what that means. (Actually – what Chloe said above :P)

    I feel incredibly helpless when I hear this…not just because of this one woman because it’s over and over again and constant. I see the frustration and anger of the women there and wish I could more than just sit here and say “India is fucked”.

    It’s such a myriad of issues so closely intertwined together that it has become the “culture” or the norm for India – corrupt politicians and police force, the stigma of rape, the gap between progressive and traditional India, the constant subtle and not-so-subtle discrimination of women in everyday life – but most importantly the mindest of men who have no qualms in worshiping goddesses fervently but treat the women in their lives and round them like second-class citizens.

    I hoping for the day when the message of “Don’t rape” rather than “Don’t get raped” actually goes through.

    • Rakhee Ghelani
      December 30, 2012

      Yes I agree with you. It would be much more impactful if men learnt that they shouldn’t rape rather than teaching woman how to avoid being raped.

      • rasanaatreya
        October 8, 2013

        This a very powerful statement, Rakhee, and powerful post. Thank you for writing it. I wrote about the myths and facts regarding rape on GenderLog.Should you care to look at it, it is at http://genderlog.com/2013/01/06/rape-myths-and-reality

        • Rakhee Ghelani
          October 9, 2013

          Thanks so much Rasana. I do follow Gender Log, you write some great things there. I will make sure to share this article.

    • Sandhya Rao
      October 11, 2013

      Thanks for articulating that Sig. It’s very annoying when women themselves buy into the concept of feminist=man-hater..

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  15. Jenny
    July 5, 2012

    Wow- thank you for writing this. I really had no idea it was that bad.
    Jenny

  16. Dhara
    June 28, 2012

    Very interesting observations. Liked your style.

  17. Chloe
    June 15, 2012

    ***Stop trying to change men – it’s easier to reach out to women and change them first. The nation’s thinking will sooner or later be reflected by what the Indian woman thinks. ***

    Stop trying to tell women what to think or what they should be doing.

    *** The worst part, Rakhee, is that other women are almost as responsible for a woman’s mistreatment as men – it’s not rare to see a mother-in-law abusing her daughter-in-law rather than trying to support her – this tips the balance completely against younger women just starting out with their life. ***

    That is because women grow up in the same sexist culture as men. Feminism is not about men vs women or women having more of a responsibility to do something about it. Feminism is about the ridiculousness of gender roles and gender stereotypes and how they harm BOTH men and women. If I witnessed sexist behaviour, I don’t accept the idea that I as a woman should be more outraged than a man who witnessed the same thing. It makes no sense, and it’s just an excuse. Feminism is about being an ethical person; male or female.

    Also, it’s really sad the way women always feel like they need to preface their feminism with “but I’m not a man-hater!”. Really shows how we’ve been shamed into thinking it’s something to be embarrassed about some way. Thanks, misogynist media, political and religious leaders!

  18. Pankaj Sanganeria
    May 10, 2012

    There are a lot of problems which are society is going through, and it seems that you have selectively picked up issues to justify your basic feminist attitude. The problem of FIR not being accepted is actually problem with people in power and administration and not feminism. Why woman of the culprits family take him to task even if he is able to manage the people in power ? What is happening in Arushi murder case , where a woman is divided between her loyalty to her husband and justice to her daugher (views are as per news report, Matter is sub-juice and I not no personal views). Root cause of problem is education, and our lack of confidence in our own culture and tradition. There has been no Woman US President till now, whereas we had many woman leaders since ages. Who is aceeding to dowry demand, is it not made by women, is women foetus being aborted without consent of women ? We are dead today as intellectual society leaving the task of running the nation to leaders who don’t even have basic education, so how can they have vision ?

  19. Usha Pisharody
    May 10, 2012

    This is one of those as-it-is simply stated articles, without frills – and that makes it all the more effective. Sharing it. I loved that suggestion about keeping men in, after 8pm instead of the other way around. Sigh.

  20. Sona
    May 9, 2012

    You know what’s the fun part is, Fun part is, your educated male colleagues refuse to accept these things, even after seeing statistics. They boast about women have given equal status. why we need to be chivalrousness to them, they want equality so we will treat them like any other male. How convenient! When you have to do something for women, they become suddenly equal.

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  22. chokkathangam
    May 8, 2012

    Hi,

    I am an Indian guy born and brought up in India. I have been outside India for the past 6 years.

    Regarding this post, I agree. Situation is really bad for women in large parts of India. But in equally large parts (south and west), while still skewed in favor of men, is not nearly half as bad as many other parts of the world. It is probably very similar to 1950-1960s in the US. In the south, where I grew up, women actually take academic and intellectual achievement very seriously. And because there is hardly any pressure to find a mate (as it is a given), they don’t focus on trivial things like dressing up, body image and so on. Also, the families are really caring and work much better than the western world.

    Also, in my opinion, in western countries today, the situation is skewed the other way. Marriage laws, marital rights ridiculously favoring women and women using the laws meant to protect them as tools of blackmail/threat (these are based on what I have read, and in some cases, seen with my own eyes). And socially (IMO), guys have to work a lot harder than girls to find mates. I’m not saying all this is wrong, but am just offering a new perspective to look at your own culture. If you want some vague corroboration, you can try to look up posts on this forum on Reddit. http://www.reddit.com/r/mensrights .

    Also, I read your posts on Indian men that linked. I found it myopic to be honest. Just because they are not like you or the men you are used to, does not mean they are people who do not deserve respect (which you clearly don’t give them). Many of these shy awkward people are actually really nice and make great family men. They may be a bit shy because Indian guys simply don’t talk to women the same way as westerners do. The relations are much more formal and flirting is not that common for instance. Also, if people scratch balls/ass or dig noses, why would you hate on them for it? They are not harming anyone. If they feel it is appropriate behavior, well then it is. I think if you heard some Indian say that westerners are shameless for wearing skimpy outfits in public, you would be offended. But you have a right to wear it if you think thats what you want to do and if you think that is appropriate. I think nose-picking and ball-scratching is pretty analogous. Basically, just because Indians don’t live to your expectation that people be suave and smooth and cosmopolitan, doesn’t mean you should hate on them.

    kthxbai

    • Rakhee Ghelani
      May 9, 2012

      Thanks for your comments.

      I won’t address your comments about whether the west has gone too far as that is not the topic of this post.

      As for your thoughts that I don’t respect the men I meet or that I hate them, that is incorrect. I merely said I find it unattractive to watch a man itch his balls and pick his nose. That is my opinion and I stand by it.

  23. Janani
    May 8, 2012

    Just a thought. Have thought about maybe starting a school, or becoming a teacher in one? Maybe in a rural area where you could educate the girls to be independent and the boys to respect women, and also the value of educated women to the society? I understand this is a huge task, but its a place to start?

    • Rakhee Ghelani
      May 8, 2012

      Thanks for your idea, it is good one but I am not sure I am well equipped to start a school. I am aware there are some great people doing work in this area, and I will definitely take it on board as something to consider.

  24. Shivya
    May 7, 2012

    Read it again today and the same sinking feeling came back. Couldn’t help but share this article with all my blog’s readers. It’s featured on my weekly travel reads section as a stirring read on travelling in India – http://the-shooting-star.com/2012/05/08/travel-writing-picks-blogosphere-1/

    • Rakhee Ghelani
      May 7, 2012

      Thanks Shivya. I wish there was more positive things to say, hopefully there will be in the future.

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  27. angelacorrias
    April 30, 2012

    Very thought-provoking post. I’ve been to India a couple of times and each time for never more than two weeks, so I could hardly notice any wrong behavior, but I kept being asked by everybody, especially men, what I thought about women’s conditions in India, so I somehow developed the idea the issue is very sensitive also among men.

    To be honest, I do think there is a deep, well-rooted sense of inequality between men and women, especially in backward families and regions. I don’t think I met women who face violence from their husband/brothers/fathers or other family members, of course I can’t be sure about it, but although there are many women covering important jobs and leading an independent life in India, there are also many who were prevented from studying and working because of family/marriage pressures, probably more so in poor and rural areas. But what struck me the most is the injustice both men and women have to face every single day in the name of culture.

    I absolutely adore Indian cultural, historical and artistic heritage, it’s a never-ending source of article ideas for writers and photographers, but living this culture must be way less pleasant than describing it.

    Violence against women is never justified, no matter what women say and do, as is never justified violence against anybody else, let alone paedophilia, murder and child trafficking, so any kind of public exposure on this is to be encouraged.

  28. Kunal Kumar
    April 25, 2012

    I am an Indian man. This article left me thinking. Not that there is something new here. We all know the truth. But to improve all this, we all need to act. If we see some wrongdoing, we need to speak up. What is acceptable today need not be always…

  29. Chris
    April 24, 2012

    wow, just read this heart wrenching article. I am an Indian man, and i first of all would like to apologize for all Indian men. I have been lucky enough to be brought up in a family where my father and grandfathers have all been very respectful towards women and that has been my upbringing. I have seen abuse against women in my immediate family and I simply can’t understand it. I honestly love being Indian, but things like this make me feel down right ashamed. I am so sorry.

  30. Sana Khuraishi
    April 24, 2012

    This country is split between three types of people, one who you just wrote about those who oppress, the second are those who try to fight for the rights of women and children but are forced to refrain and retire from their purpose and the third who just look upon the society’s misgivings and do nothing about it. We are all losers here in one way or the other only because the lack of the education to a majority of the masses along with the lack of pro social intentions of the so called educated class.
    I just read an article a woman has written about the Delhi police and why they said that women deserve to be raped. This my friends is our country’s jurisdiction. Everyone here is a sell out or they are just too cowardly to act. Heck even i might chicken out in the end which is the saddest part. The idea that women and the men who fight for them are weak and can’t do anything about it has been so deeply engraved in our minds that we are led to believe in it. Especially when it comes to our elders who have been brought up this way and have been given such values ever since they were children. The problem here comes from culture and tradition. The children don’t want to or rather cannot break this tradition because they are too scared to live a life they truly desire. They are threatened to be thrown out of the house, the family and the society. They are brain washed, manipulated and are welded into those people their parents want them to be.
    Then comes religion. Our country looks like anything but a secular state. We might live together but not in peace. You can see this everywhere, even in educational institutions.
    So you see everything in interconnected and i do have a feeling that we won’t see a change once the generation gap is greatly reduced and the women realize that they do have a choice and that nothing in the world has to go the way somebody else would like it to.

    Thank you so much for this post, it is seriously time people got out of their lives and gave these things a thought.

  31. nimmychacko
    April 24, 2012

    People really do have this annoying tendency to go off-point, don’t they? I’m really glad that more and more people are at least writing and actively addressing the issues that plague Indian women, but every article I read seems to have at least two or three nails-on-chalkboard-esque comments.

    I went to England to do my Masters and I have no hesitation in saying that it was the most liberating year of my life. It took me a couple of months to realise that it was all right to walk back home from the University at 10 in the night. It took me sometime to realise that it was all right to wear a short skirt because it was not an open invitation to predators. It took me a long time to get rid of all the fears and apprehensions that just seem to be a part of the Indian woman’s psyche. I

    Of course, when I got back to India it was very difficult to get used to the staring and the groping and the whistling all over again. When I tried to talk to one of my close friends about it, all I got was an irritated “Please, I’m sure even England has rapists and molesters’.

    What really irritates me is how defensive we all get the moment some amount of comparison with the West happens. It’s honestly, bloody understood that no country is perfect, and that there are cultural problems everywhere. We are not here to calculate which side of the world has more problems. This article raises a genuine question about the plight of Indian women without sounding condescending and I think it’s downright obnoxious and juvenile for someone to respond with a ‘how dare you judge us when the Western standards of beauty are so warped’ or ‘come on, look at the bright side, we had a WOMAN Prime Minister’.
    That’s like saying it doesn’t matter that half the country’s below the poverty line because hey, we have the Ambanis.
    The least we can all do is accept the realities of our country and FOCUS on making them better.

    • Rakhee Ghelani
      April 24, 2012

      Thanks for your comment and I am glad you enjoyed the article in the spirit for which it was intended. I do like your comment about the link between poverty and the Ambani’s, I may borrow it sometime.

  32. Very well written article. You hit home. I was raised liberally by my parents. They taught me ambition and career, yet the cultural stereotypes are so deep rooted in India that once I hit 20’s talk of my marriage were all so common. What dichotomy and imagine the plight of a young girl who suddenly heard a different music from her parents. And that point on I realized I have to fight my own battles.
    But Rakhee, female subjugation to males around the globe is far too common than what we think. The crimes and attitudes may not be as heinous bit the fact is we still live in an essentially male dominated society. Check any statistics eg women ceo’s; women representation in board rooms, women representation in politics and we have a sad affair of things. Women here in America (I immigrated about 4 years back) are not subjugated physically but there is intense psychological subjugation. The fact that a woman can not walk out without make-up? Isn’t it a form of giving in? We need to have a certain kind of a figure, look and walk a certain way? What’s all this? All our expressions, desires are molded by a male dominated society.
    Of course, I am not absolving my Indian counterparts here of double standards but somewhere its a cultural problem everywhere.

    • Rakhee Ghelani
      April 19, 2012

      Yes Shilpi, I agree it does exist in most cultures, however it is the level of violence and social acceptability here that I find quite disturbing and isn’t as prevalent in the west.

  33. Anphy
    April 8, 2012

    Very well said.
    I remember reading an article that talked about the messed up attitude we(I am from India)
    have towards this problem – we tell women not to get raped instead of telling men not to rape.
    Education is what is needed to bring about a change in this attitude.

  34. Subramanian
    April 7, 2012

    India has a rich culture and heritage of several thousand years. You can possiby say that … at this point in time… there are serious issues plaguing the society like casteism, gender inequality, corruption, etc. Like how Australia was a land of convicts, it no longer is today (correct me if I am wrong!). There are issues of racism in Oz too. If I spend 9 months in Australia and write a blog stating that Oz made me a racist, no matter how well I substantiate my views with stats, I would believe that it is seriously wrong. We need to exhibit the same control that the people who hurt women lack. I see the anger in your tone as something justifiable, but India was the world’s richest country with 25% GDP of world in 1600. Then we paid taxes to British for 300 years. I dont think that whole of Britain are thieves who looted our wealth. In 1947 we were a poor country. I guess our GDP today reflects a growth story. What we have to address here is the problems faced by most of the poor countries and developing nations and not see it isolation no matter how many hard truths are stated. Things change in history and we are experiencing them first hand.

    There are lot many more women who are excellent managers in Corporations. More women Chief Ministers. The change is happening. It is painfully slow. Crime reporting is always growing at a faster pace than a country with 1.3 billion needs to know. We need to also highlight the fact that women are excelling in spite of the discrimination at work which exists in many places here. They need a support system, not feministic provocations. Everyone needs to participate. I call working women as gods in human form. Wake up, cook, take your bus at 8 in the morning. Leave your workplace at 7 (if you are lucky), come home, cook, take care of your kids education and then your family needs …. phew!. Unbelievable. It is this ability to time slice that makes them successful managers. Highlight the positives while reporting. This will inspire women to face the challenges. Do not bring only the negatives. It is like writing a blog telling the freedom fighters in 1910 that this country can never change. Forget freedom. Just be happy with the colonial rule. It takes time, leadership, perseverance, sacrifices (that many women make), optimism to bring about change.

    The landscape of this wonderful planet has changed for the worst in the last 100 years, thanks to capitialism. The world is no longer the same as it was in 1900. Pollution, nuclear wastes, terrorism, loose morals, porn, binge drinking, divorces, corporate monopolies, inability to do any action without expecting financial gains – all these were certainly not the goals of the champions of capitalism. So these do not mean I become a communist (anyway, I do not know much about communism).

    I have a confession to make. I am not a male chauvenist. Neither an anti-brit, nor a casteist, nor a racist. Just love to look at things the way they are and see how we can play a role in effecting the change. It starts with positive thoughts (control the anger…. it has never helped anyone if we go by history as proof). These positive thoughts do not trigger action. But they keep increasing as we nurture them. Eventually leads to actions in small doses. And then it is leadership, selflessness, unbiased action, ability to energize people. Pessimism or anger or blame games have not helped humanity. Neither quoting facts like we worship women as gods helps. Both are extremes. While we worship gods which are conveniently hung on walls, we need to realize that it not good enough. We need to create a system to empower women. Women empowerment itself needs to be well-conceived (and women need to participate here). Freedom to visit pubs, or showing skin, or cuddling up in public places, sexual preferences are too often snubbed by traditionalists and too often cited by feminists taking the aam Indian woman nowhere. None these help the villager in Rajasthan.

    If we have the time to invest in bringing about the change, which we can, let us try. Blogging frustration is not bad. It is a way to vent the frustration that we had to live with. It is the freedom to express our frustrations. But do not brand a country due to what is shown in media.

    • Rakhee Ghelani
      April 7, 2012

      Thanks for your comments.

      You make some very interesting comments, like comparing me becoming a feminist to becoming a racist.I find that comparison quite offensive, and also a complete red herring.

      My choice to state facts has clearly upset you, which means it has achieved an aim, by getting these facts out there. If we don’t discuss the issues then there will never even be the opportunity for change. I agree with you, we need action, and this is my first step.

      I find your comments about how well women are doing in spite of the misogynistic nature of Indian society a bit ill contrived. We shouldn’t celebrate women because they are able to both hold down a job, maintain a house and keep a family, we should question why the men are taking no responsibility for maintaining their house and caring for their family.

      I personally don’t believe fast growth and british rule are to blame for the way women are treated in India, as I stated in my blog it is a deep seated part of the culture that yes will take a long time to change, but we need to start somewhere.

      • K
        April 8, 2012

        You make excellent points both in the article and in your reply to the commenter. “We shouldn’t celebrate women because they are able to both hold down a job, maintain a house and keep a family, we should question why the men are taking no responsibility for maintaining their house and caring for their family” – THIS.

        I was having a conversation earlier today with a group of like-minded friends…all of us in our mid-20s..married couples. It so happens that, the gem of a man that my husband is, takes care of all the cooking, cleaning on weekdays because I travel very far to work. I don the hat over the weekends. Every guy in the group, looks at my husband and goes like..”dude…wtf man”…it was supposed to be funny, but somewhere deep within, the fact that my husband does more household chores than I do, is unacceptable..not like I wouldn’t love to share those responsibilities with him. We chose what suits our situation. Why is it for “culture” to decide what works or not for us? Why does everyone “sympathize” with my husband cuz he takes up most of the household responsibilities over the work-week? Sometimes I live in the belief that our generation will move away from these Indian-man stereotypes, but it breaks my heart to see how ingrained these “values” are..

        • Rakhee Ghelani
          April 8, 2012

          It is such a pity that your husband is ridiculed. In Australia, the trend towards fathers staying at home to look after their children is growing and many of my friends are enjoying the opportunity to raise their children and be involved. You are a very lucky woman.

      • Nick
        April 13, 2012

        In India men are in just as much danger as women – as they do mining, military, shipbuilding and other dangerous work. The real problem in India is poverty. Just how is a man who has to work for 12-14 hours a day 7 days a week for a meager sum of rupees supposed to spend time at home? And I think the previous poster hit this on the head. India is poor because of Imperialism. Foreign countries looted India for centuries. Once the 600 million poor people in India start moving up the scales the situation for everyone will improve. Why don’t you start helping some poor people instead of just complaining?

        And why does Indian culture need to change. It is India, not Britain, not Australia. if you like Australia and its culture, you are free to move there. Don’t force Indians to adopt your ideas!

        • Rakhee Ghelani
          April 15, 2012

          Nick, I agree with you that there are a lot of dangers for Indian men as well due to poverty and related issues. However that was no the topic of this post, perhaps it will be in another future post.

  35. venkat
    April 7, 2012

    Very disturbing post and extremely true.
    I guess the only solution to eradicate this is education.

  36. Philip
    April 7, 2012

    Wow.. Thanks for ur grt insight. Now can u go back to ur country and clean racism. Pls..

    • Rakhee Ghelani
      April 7, 2012

      Thanks Philip.

      I wasn’t talking about racism in Australia but yes it is an issue there as it is here in India too. However I don’t believe it is of anywhere near the misogynist and violent behavior that occurs against Indian women.

  37. Vineeth Loganathan
    April 7, 2012

    Absolutely loved it. The “oh, it’s not sexism, it’s culture” veil that a lot of Indians are living under. It’s not culture to beat up girls who visit pubs/bars (which, by the way happened and a lot of groups actually supported it saying women have no business in pubs).

    It all starts at home, it’s okay for a guy to loiter around at nights but not okay for a girl to do it because it’s “unsafe”. They are always taught that it’s not safe for them to venture out without the protection of a man and it becomes so engrained that it’s treated as the victim’s fault if she decides to venture out at night alone. Prohibiting someone from going out because it’s “unsafe” would count as a human rights violation in most of the western countries.

    I read this on a street graffiti where I live – it says “Don’t tell the women what to wear, tell the men not to rape”. It’s a woman’s right to decide what she wears not a man’s right to decide whom he rapes.

    I don’t know what the solution to this is. At a very fundamental level – the solution is “men should change” which is as practical as saying “the World has to be Utopian”. Maybe stricter laws, stronger (maybe even women friendly?) law-enforcement could help. We will never know.

  38. Roopesh Shenoy
    April 7, 2012

    The worst part, Rakhee, is that other women are almost as responsible for a woman’s mistreatment as men – it’s not rare to see a mother-in-law abusing her daughter-in-law rather than trying to support her – this tips the balance completely against younger women just starting out with their life.

    I think its similar to the problem of ragging where seniors rag juniors just because they were ragged earlier – rather than learning from that experience and preventing mistreatment of other women. Unless women everywhere in India start standing up for one-another, this is not going to change.

    Stop trying to change men – it’s easier to reach out to women and change them first. The nation’s thinking will sooner or later be reflected by what the Indian woman thinks.

  39. Chevalier
    April 7, 2012

    Very nice article. I’m not Indian but i’ve dated an Indian woman now for 3 years and I must admit i’ve seen traces of this all to often here in the US. Certainly not on the criminal and despicable level that the article describes in India (because of course US laws are better than that) but enough to realize that not only do too many Indian men have these hangups (which reminds me of when I was in Iraq honestly with the 2nd class citizen mentality to women) but the women seemed to go to great lengths to tolerate it. The women would be in these what I deem horribly abusive relationships but they wouldnt even consider divorce because that was somehow more shameful than being a prisoner in their own house. I tell my gf all the time that these guys have Indian Man Syndrome and I just can’t understand it and couldn’t condone it. I think in the US at least that will change as each generation becomes more removed from the old country but it doesn’t help those in India.

    • Nick
      April 13, 2012

      Again, this is what the western man – white and black want. They want to turn Indians into Asian men – I.E. feminine so they get free reign to ridicule Indian culture and then date/sleep with Indian women.

      • Rakhee Ghelani
        April 15, 2012

        I am really not sure I agree or fully understand your point here.

  40. Nisha
    April 6, 2012

    Very thoughtful post, Rakhee. The situation here is quite grave. There are deep rooted problems which don’t look problems to the society. The girls are brain-washed and the rest is history.
    I am born, & brought up in India and I travel solo most of the times.. It was difficult to convince people around me. After so many years, my mother still thinks I am insane to leave my family behind just to wander aimlessly in an unknown place. :-)

    • Rakhee Ghelani
      April 7, 2012

      You don’t need to explain your love of solo travel to me Nisha. But seeing those women around The Indian countryside reminds me how lucky I am to have that freedom.

  41. BhavanaDiary
    April 6, 2012

    Yes, it is living in India, that made me feminist as well!
    I partly blame women for getting treated like that! I was working for night shifts and many people made fun of it and blamed my parents why they are letting me to do it. But I had these useless people very clear that its my life and I am independent, unlike their daughters who were educated better than I was but sitting at their husband’s like “baby making machines”. Women should start to put their voice out and I understand it is not that easy in India, but people who can raise their voice should do so and become role models for others!
    I despise the paradox of Indian culture!

  42. Sapna
    April 6, 2012

    Thanks for this post.

    Everybody knows the truth but few acknowledge it. When put in words with those statistics and links the perspective gains more credibility.

    I was an egalitarian too while growing up. Only as I started seeing the world around me more closely did I became a feminist.

    Things have changed in the past few years in India but we still have a long long way to go.

  43. Jane Williamson
    April 4, 2012

    I love this post.

    I recently read a great book called Unnatural Selection by Mara Hvistendahl which catalogues the issue of selective abortion in several countries – India and China primarily but several others as well and the horrifying long term consequences of gender imbalance. A very good read on this topic.

  44. Anarya Andir
    April 4, 2012

    Being an Indian, and a woman myself, I am really happy you wrote this. There are so many gender related problems for women in India, and yet a lot of them are just shrugged off.

    If I had read this a few years ago, I might have said that the situation is not that bad in India (because I basically grew up abroad my whole life), but since I returned to India, I have noticed how differently women are viewed here. There is gender discrimination everywhere.

    What’s worse is how some Indian men (of my age. I’m 25) just think that the suppression of Indian women is a problem that happened around the 18th century. They start blaming ‘liberal women’ for making life difficult for ‘liberal men’ now. Such comments seriously disgust me as they are sooo close minded. If a lot of Indian men think they are ‘liberal’ but still have such perceptions, you can imagine how delusional they are.

    I’m a Hindu and I know how certain ‘traditions’ are misused and twisted to fit the likes of men. Women are told from an early age that they will get married and go to their husband’s home. Women are treated like they are a burden. It’s almost like someone has a bomb in their home that’s about to explode, and they have to find a place to dispose of it. I wrote about these things just recently on my blog because I’m so sick and tired of this nonsense.

    Very few Indian women see the real problem because they are told that they must never dishonour their traditions. Thankfully I have liberal parents, so I’ve never ever had that kind of mindset. It also helped not growing up in India.

    India is a beautiful country and I’m proud of its cultural heritage, but if it did something for its women, I would respect it wholeheartedly.

    Thanks for your post.

    • Rakhee Ghelani
      April 5, 2012

      Thank you for your thoughts. There is so much cultural change required at all levels before Indian women will see a real change in the quality of their lives. It is heartbreaking to watch, but important that we keep up the dialogue on this issue.

  45. savedaughters19
    April 3, 2012

    Beginning of December, a program aired on ABC 20/20 about India’s deadly secret. It was about 40 million girls who have vanished. All aborted before they could take their first breath. Their crime was that they were girls. As you know the gender ratios is India are terribly skewed about 914 girls per 1,000 boys.

    In Punjab it is about 833 girls per1,000 boys. Unfortunately this happens amongst the privileged and the educated also. The only woman who has brought cases against her in-laws and husband is Dr Mitu Khurana. Please watch her story and sign her petition for justice. Please give those 40 million girls silenced forever, a voice.

    Please forward this to as many friends as possible.

    http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/a-mothers-fight-to-save-her-daughters/

    http://gendercide.epetitions.net/

    and here is the link to her website-
    http://www.mitukhurana.wordpress.com/

    After you sign the petition, there will be a request from the site for a donation. This donation is totally discretionary and does not in any way or form affect or benefit Dr Mitu Khurana. All she is asking for is your support (signing this petition) so that pressure can be put on the Indian authorities that the whole world is watching them in total disbelief as they make a young mother run around in vain for four years in search of justice

    Sign the following petition to end the GENDERCIDE in India

    http://www.change.org/petitions/minister-of-health-and-family-welfare-end-the-gendercide-in-india-stop-female-foeticide

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