Crushed Dreams

As a little child, all she wanted was to go to school with her older brother, but she was sent to another school. Later she realised that it was the cheaper one.

As a ten yr old, she was told to come straight home from school and help out her mother.. while her brother got to play with his friends.

As a teenager, she was told to dream within ‘limits’. To just hope that she gets married quickly and does not remain a burden on her parents.

As a college going student, all she remembers is lots of people coming to ‘see’ her…

As a bride, all she remembers is her parents telling her to not let them down, to be a good bahu and not cause her in-laws any reason to complain..

As a wife, all she remembers is the violence, both mental and physical and not being able to even tell anybody.. she had no friends of her own, she had no money of her own.. her parents did not want trouble, her siblings did not want her to rock the boat… Did she have any choice but to go back to her marital home and live her life .. crushed dreams and all.. just the way she had been trained to do so from the time she was born..

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I keep wondering, what it is that makes it so difficult for women trapped in unhappy relationships. with or without domestic violence, to step out.

What makes them victims?

Why do they find it so difficult to walk out, even when they are educated and financially independent?

All I can blame is their upbringing.. the fact that they have never been allowed to speak up, that they have been drilled not to expect too much, that they have been told that once married off, that they cease to be their parent’s responsibility.. They have been told that their duty lies in their marital homes.. and that if they violate any of these ‘rules’, they can certainly not expect any support from any quarter.. This is her ‘fate’!

Even educated, independent women, find it difficult to stand up for themselves, for the fear that they will lose all ‘respect’ and support from society, forgetting the fact that they never had it in the first place..

It breaks my heart when I hear of accounts of women trapped in marriages like this..Read more at IHM’s and Gunmeen’s.  All I know, that I can do, is make sure that my daughter knows that she is never helpless, and she has to stand up against injustice and that we will always be there for her. She is never alone! If every parent did this – don’t you think it would make a difference, eventually.

Women bloggers face sexist atmosphere online

Just came across this article.. Apparently, women bloggers face ‘sexist atmosphere online’ .

What do you think? Do you agree? Do you think that as a woman, the way fellow bloggers treat you, is different? Or is this just a western phenomenon?

From my perspective, to be honest, I have not really faced anything like this. But that might be because my blogging circle so far, has been full extremely polite, well behaved individuals..

I would love to hear from all of you… Have you had such experiences? Men, bloggers – would love to hear your perspective too…

Edited to add : I just found this online.. Looks like this is not so uncommon a problem…

This is what Vimmuuu had to say ‘I have come across one blogger who was abused to the core. I had written a post on it last year, after another blogger Poonam had mentioned it. check it out, theres a link at the end of the post, you would be blown away reading all the abuses she had to go through : http://vimalsparadise.blogspot.com/2008/06/incident-of-web-abuse.html’

What’s in a name?

Sanjay Dutt’s , by now infamous, interview, got me started on this post. He had a message ‘to all girls who hang on to their parents’ surname’. I find it, very difficult to understand how people can give such statements – even more so when they are planning to stand for public office. Or may be it is all to show how deeply he and his ‘homemaker’ wife is steeped in ‘Bharatiya Sanskriti’!

Anyways, this reminded me of one of my close friend’s 6 year old daughter who came home from school one day and told her, ‘Mamma, you are not part of my family!’. On further questioning, it came out, that she was taught, in school, that everybody in a family, shares a common surname! And since her mother had a different surname – she must not be part of the family 🙂 I was a little surprised at that point in time, that in a London school, this was told to the kids and that no parent objected!

Either way, I feel this expectation of a woman having to change her surname to her husband’s very unfair. Isn’t is sad that a woman has to change her identity and assume a different one once she gets married? Then again, if the woman is working, there are so many documents involved, passports, email ids – why go through all that hassle? But again, there are communities, where even a girl’s first name is changed after marriage! So a surname is probably still a better option.

Again, it is a global phenomenon, isn’t it? Wasn’t Hillary Clinton and Cherie Blair given grief , because they held on to their maiden names?

I really do not know what to make of this whole issue – apart from one thing – I find it very objectionable when people condemn women for not changing their surnames or commend them for doing so. To me, it is a personal choice, and it should be a woman’s decision whether or not to take up her husband’s name. Beyond that – it’s nobody’s business!

Credit crisis sparks surge of domestic violence in the home

I just read an article about how the credit crisis has caused a surge in domestic violence. Apparently the National Centre for Domestic Violence(UK) saw a 40% increase in victims seeking support last month.

The statistics sounds very scary. 40% is after all a huge amount. This sudden increase is attributed to the credit crunch, which is making a lot of people stay at home in an effort to save money. The stress of the credit crunch, along with is being the holiday season, must also be taking a huge toll, for the figures to jump so much. One in four women, apparently, will experience domestic violence in their lifetime – and this may be more as a lot of cases are not disclosed.

That set me thinking about the statistics in India. If it is so bad in Britain – it must be much worse in India. In the UK – there has been a lot of campaign in an effort to reduce domestic violence. When I was pregnant – I was surprised on being asked by the midwife if I am being subjected to domestic violence. It was a routine question as apparently a lot of women report increased domestic violence when they are pregnant, so the government tries to take pro-active steps to curtail it.

Surprisingly, I could not find much updated data about statistics in India. Some of the information I found was surveys done in 2003! According to the UN , around two thirds of married women in India are subjected to domestic violence. The only countries with higher percentages are Egypt and Zambia. The UN report indicates that ‘ women with tangible economic assets were less likely to be victims of domestic violence than those who lack them, the report cited Kerala as an example.
“In Kerala, a survey found that 49 per cent women without property reported domestic violence compared with only seven per cent who owned property,” it said ‘. So it does look like financial freedom has helped in reducing domestic violence – according to this survey. However, I did read other reports, which indicate that violence has increased with women’s education! Alternatively, it might just mean that women are more aware, so they tend to report abuse than just accept it as their fate.

I was reading the other day about how, many women actually think they are to blame for the violence they are subject to and in India, especially where the a lot of women live with their in-laws, this is further compounded. Furthermore, they hardly have the freedom, to step outside their houses, leave alone report the abuse. I have even heard of instances where the police has refused to ‘interfere’ as it is a ‘domestic matter’ between the spouses..

According to studies done on the effect of domestic violence on children indicate that the damaging influences could lead to adjustment problems as well as undermining the mother-child relations. I had once read a true-life account of a woman who had been abused, she used to see her mother abused , so she grew up thinking that it was ‘normal’ and ‘to be expected’! Her expectations were based on what she saw and experienced as a child, making her a prime target for marital abuse. It took her a long time, before she came to realise that she was being abused and that she could stand up against it!

In this post, I have just touched upon physical domestic violence, mental domestic violence is also equally prevalent and equally damaging – but far more difficult to report and address, especially in nations like ours where men culturally have the upper hand.

Fair and Lovely?

Reading Indian Homemaker’s post, reminded me of how much our Indian society is still hung up on ‘fairness’!

The very term ‘ Fair and Lovely’ indicates that fairness and loveliness goes hand in hand! I remember, reading matrimonial ads for fun, with friends(long, long time ago) and coming across loads of adverts which stated very clearly ‘fair bride wanted’. And I do not recall any advertisement for a ‘fair groom’. Obviously, fair grooms are not necessary, just the ‘Y’ chromosome is enough, when it comes to the groom!

Going back to the main topic – why this fascination with ‘fairness’???? Is it as harmless as the fascination for ‘tanned’ skin abroad, as some people like to claim? I wish it were, but I would have to disagree.. Agreed, that a lot of people in the UK and the US( and I am sure in a lot of other countries), go for sunbeds and other tanning treatment to look good. So what is the difference with our people trying to be – ‘fair and lovely’? The main difference I would think is that in there is no discrimination within a society against people who are not tanned(in UK, US etc). Tanning is simply a beauty treatment, however, in India, a whole lot more depends of one’s skin colour! Brides are rejected based on ‘fairness’ of the skin! Some time back I remember seeing a ‘We, the people’ on NDTV, where a gentleman, very honestly said that, given a choice between 2 equally qualified people, he would select the fairer candidate, as that would be more beneficial to his business.. Unfortunately, this mindset remains! Somebody else, qualified the difference, saying that one would not mind having a dark girlfriend, but when it came to the woman, to take home to mummy – it would have to be a fair girl!

However, don’t you think, that if a woman tried to reject a prospective groom, on the basis that he is ‘not fair’, would be told not to be ‘frivolous’?

Even, in this age, people advise expectant mothers to eat certain foods to ensure that the unborn child is ‘fair’! And this is not just among the uneducated, unaware society either!

The silver lining? Well , from the look of it, today we have a market for ‘Fair and Handsome’ as well.. Well, at least we can no longer complain of inequality, I guess!

Liberated?

Nita’s post ‘Women at Work’, made me ponder on women working in India – how equal are we?

Women have been working for ages in India – as domestic helps or doing manual labour. How do we classify this? Are these women not forced to work in order to earn a living? When we talk about feminism – where do these women figure? Are they liberated or are they being used?
I used to have a maid servant who had a husband who used to turn up just once in a while to beat her up and take any money that he could lay his hands on.. It used to make my heart break to listen to her. Despite all that, she was determind to try and get her daughter and son educated – so that at least they have a chance at a better life!

Even in case, of educated working women, how many of us have husbands who help us out at home? Even if they do – the main responsibility seems to lie on the women. Why is it, that true equality is just not happening? It is assumed that everything related to ‘home’ is the women’s responsibility – so what if she has an equally , if not more challenging job outside! There was one time, when my own husband – who is extremely lazy, was lying in bed when I got back from work – and I had just sat down, to take a breather – when he said – ‘ You are sitting down? – can’t you see, I am hungry!’ That made me see RED!!! I was like, ‘oh really? Well I am certainly not cooking anymore- If you are hungry make something yourself!’ Anyways, that resulted in my husband getting hold of a cook the very next day- which certainly made our lives much easier – but the unfairness of it still irks me – and I have still not stopped reminding him:)

So is ‘working women’ in any form – a liberation? I would think so in a lot of ways , and again in a lot of ways, the true liberation is to be able to decide when you want to work and when you want to stay at home. To be fair to my husband – he has always been supportive of me in my decisions to work or not to work. When I was working – he was always supportive, and when after 8 yrs of working , when I wanted to be a stay at home mum to my 1.5 yr old – he was equally supportive. To think of it, I do feel liberated that I have the choice – unlike so many of our fellow women – who have to work, whether they like it or not.

The Girl Child

One of the things, high on my to-do list when I get back to India is to join a charity or an NGO to help improve the condition of the girl child in India. This is something very, very close to my heart and I want to do what I can, to help.

It is a sad statement, that in a time where we have everyone talking of minorities – there is one minority which is essentially ignored and treated badly almost across religious barriers – the womenfolk. Even in today’s modern world, where women contribute as much (if not more)- they are just not given their due place in society.

I have been brought up in a culture which values girls – we have a matrilineal society – so I have never felt this discrimination. The very first time, that I was aware of this distinction was when one of our neighbours in Jamshedpur, had a baby boy. Now, they had 4 daughters already and when the boy was born – they actually had a party which could rival any wedding! What was exceptionally shocking was, that for the 7 or 8 years that we lived there – never had we seen a single birthday being celebrated for those girls. I wonder what must have gone through those girls’ minds to see such blatant discrimination…. It was also a very common practice for families to send their sons to English medium schools and daughters to Hindi medium schools. And all this was among educated families – so I shudder to think what must happen in the less educated ones…

It pains me that even today, female foeticide is common , and totally acceptable in several parts of India. I guess, it might be more shocking for them to hear someone say that they would prefer to have a girl. What is most shocking is that this happens even among the educated people . This was something I always knew, but what shocked me more was that it was even prevalent among Indians(Asians as a whole) in the UK. When I was pregnant( I was in London, where they tell you the sex of the baby), and was told by the ultrasound technician that I was expecting a girl – my joy knew no bounds. I was however stunned when he asked – ‘ Are you guys OK with it? Your community prefers boys, don’t they?’ I was surprised that he ( he was not Asian) knew about this. This prompted me to look it up on the Internet only to find out that in several areas in the UK where the Asian population was high -they actually avoid telling people the sex of the baby, for fear that they would abort it!

The sad thing in India is, that despite the fact that it is not allowed by law to find the sex of a foetus, it is still done and foetuses aborted without a second thought. This mainly happens because the society is still fixated on boys being the harbinger of all things joyful and girls being a burden. The main difference being that for a girl, you need to give dowry. I have heard of families who start saving up from the time that they had a girl. That reminds me of a maid, who used to stay at our outhouse. This lady, apparently, did not feed her baby girl for 2 weeks after she was born, because she just did not want a girl. At the point when my mother first met her, she used to treat her son and daughter very differently. Her daughter was always asked to give everything first to her brother and the boy was never, ever asked to share. Slowly, in the 3 years that they stayed there, my mother managed to make her understand that she needs to treat both her son and daughter equally and to try and give both of them equal opportunities. The best part was that the daughter was much, much smarter than the son – I do hope she has not forgotten everything my mother had managed to drill into her!

I guess, such examples abound in our society and things will never change until each of us do our bit to fight this menace. I do believe that we can all do our bit to help remove this stigma. I would like to sponsor the education of a girl – so that at least one girl gets a better chance at life.. I do hope that by the time my 2 yr old daughter grows up – she will never have to be shocked that these kind of things still exist in our society.

Other interesting links on the subject

Stop female foeticide!

http://unwantedgirlchild.blogspot.com/

http://wordpress.com/tag/unchaahi/