Let Her be "Herself"

“It is not gender which is destroying our culture.... it is our interpretations of culture which has destroyed gender equality.”

They are a zamindar-pandit family from rural Rajasthan: Three brothers with their wives and children. Grandparents visit often.
It’s a typical, what you’d call Balika Vadhu family (no…not for child marriage thing.)
They are wealthy but orthodox. They do not keep any domestic help, the jobs like cleaning, washing, cooking, etc are their women’s jobs.

These ladies are always clad in ghunghat in front of their ‘male’ elders: The youngest brother’s wife… or youngest devrani has to keep ghunghat infront of all men while the eldest jethani has to do so only in front of her father-in-law. Not just that, they even have to keep their voices down in front of these male elders!!! They, actually, whisper hidden behind their veil..!
You could tell what tradition and rules they follow by just this trait of their family.
However, even more intriguingly, the actual owners of the house, that is the names in whose the house is registered in, are these women themselves!
Where the women are the head of the house, they are, instead, the most suppressed ones!

But why am I telling you this? To expand your general perspective that in wealthier families, women are better off too… NOT!
In a country, where we think that women have progressed so much, we still happen to witness such patriarchal chauvinism- whether rich or poor…!

Recently, I came across my brother’s book of Democratic Politics (Civics) and I noticed this cartoon, on the page where the powers of President and Prime Minister of India are discussed. (The book was published at the time when Ms. Pratibha Patil wasn’t sworn in as the President.)
Most of you must have seen this, right? During my time, I couldn’t answer this question.
But this time, it suddenly clicked to me. Here, the logic is not who we’ve had in these posts, but what these posts refer to in our society.
The President (or SHE, as in the book) is considered the “supreme head” of the country, yet the ultimate powers lie in the hands of The Prime Minister (or HE, as in the book).
 
Women have advanced, they have been given power, rights and also privileges to counter-effect the suppression they have faced before and yet, they are, in many ways, dominated by men.
Consider it this way:
A woman has the power to sue her in-law family in case of harassment, but she’s dictated by social norms to not do so.
A woman has the right to vote whoever she wants, yet she votes for the ones who her husband/father asks her to do so.
A woman has the privilege to own property at lower interest rates, and thus, her husband avails the loan in her name but still rules the house. (This is why the family, I was talking about, registered the house in the women’s name!)

The book might have meant in some other way, but from my own logic, I could only infer this and believe that even this view is more or less the right too.  They keep claiming how they’ve made provisions for women advancements…and yes they have! But the men are making use of them in their own interests and not exactly for the women empowerment. Women still have not attained that right to “decision”.
In a novel survey conducted by students of IIM Bengaluru in Karnataka, they’ve argued how women lack assets which keep them backward. Even if they do own something, in majority of the cases, they do not have the power or the independence to decide about the use of their resources.
 The main reason, of course, is the ignorance of laws which is further because of illiteracy among such women.
Any policy or law seeking to correct this imbalance can work only if it understands the distinct nature of problems like gender-asset gap which shall also help in changing the mentality of people who ensure that girls are not born in their family.
Such surveys if conducted nation-wide can give broader outlook to how to frame such policies or laws…how to effectively implement the Women Empowerment programs and grant their benefits to the rightful owners.

"Woman must not accept; she must challenge.
She must not be awed by that which has been built up around her;
she must reverence that woman in her which struggles for expression.
"

~ Margaret Sanger ~

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