Who do you belong to? Asked a voice. It was a gentleman from a South American country. Me? I belong to no one really, I answered bemused. Do you want to know, who I came here with? No, who do you belong to…who is your husband? Aaaah. I have been asked the question of where I hail from several times, but not in my 40 years have I been seen as property belonging to someone, especially my husband.
In the Ms Universe pagent this year, the winner had 2600 notes stitched into her National outfit from South African men written to women promising they would treat them as equals. The problem of violence against women and inequality is universal. In the UK and USA women got the right to vote and right to equal pay after decades of struggle. USA till date has not been able to elect a woman President.
In India, in the rural heartland women are killed,raped, burnt, hung to death with impunity. Unless the case is raised in the mainstream media, not even enough police action takes place. The woman who was raped by higher caste villagers in Rajasthan for creating awareness about the ills of child marriage, is still awaiting justice 28 years after the incident.
The mindset is not localised to rural households alone. A study in 8 cities of India recently declared that 42% respondents felt a woman should tolerate domestic abuse to keep the family together. Just imagine the children being raised in such families…the boys growing up with a sense of entitlement that they were not only superior, they were allowed violent behaviour towards their life partners. And the girls growing up with the belief that they must keep quiet and tolerate physical abuse as part of their marital life!
So much needs to change the world over regarding gender equality. The opposite of a patriarchal society is not a matriarchal society. It’s a gender neutral society. What my generation can strive for is raise gender neutral children. A generation raised without prejudice towards fellow human beings on the basis of gender, colour, class, caste, nationality, physical appearance and religion.
Our world has now shrunk and become a global village of 7 billion people.Fashion trends transcend continents and fads are picked up in a matter of days. Movements get echoed in various cities across the globe. Changing mindsets takes several generations but I’m hoping my generation of parents will take it upon them to raise boys and girls who respect each other, who don’t give lip service to the word “equality”, who value each member of their family, workplace and society.
I don’t want women to remain a piece of baggage belonging to someone, I want them to be asked who they are.How soon will that happen? Sometime in our lifetime?