Author Archives: shehasrights

About shehasrights

blogging about women, and women's rights, primarily relating to India.

Does violence against women in India have mythological roots?

In Indian mythology female Goddesses have ambivalent attributes. Some Goddesses like Devi or Shakti are depicted as equal to the male Gods. Some female Goddesses like Durga are often depicted as benevolent, protectors of moral order and as the consort of particular male Gods, Other depictions show certain Goddess as powerful and destructive as in the case of Kali.  This ambivalence influences men in India today and one sees the full array of male attitudes to women in India.

Indian mythology has deep roots in India and it does have an affect on the psyche of Indian men and their attitude to women in general. Hindu Goddesses do not serve as paradigms for present day social values, but they do reflect certain expectations and notions prevalent in large sections of Indian society.

Many men have idealized notions of what their wives and womenfolk should be – that is they expect their wives to be similar to the “morally upright, benevolent and mild consort”. The burden of upholding this ideal sadly rests on the women.

The reality however is that some Indian men and women are more forward thinking and are transitioning into the 21st century while a whole bunch of Indian men still live in the 19th and 20th century and have notions and expectations that are at best antiquated if not archaic.

The violence seen in India especially towards women arises due to a combination of patriarchal role models as well as unrealistic notions and expectations about women.



Was she denied the opportunity to talk because she is a woman or because she represents progressive views?


English: AMINA WADUD Español: AMINA WADUD (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

An American scholar of Islam “Dr. Amina Wadud” was recently scheduled to deliver a lecture on “Islam, Gender and Reform” at the Madras University in Chennai. Since a conservative Islamic group in Chennai (which has a Muslim population of 9%) saw their cause jeopardized, they threatened to protest outside the lecture hall which led to the police authorities sending a text message to the Vice Chancellor of the University to prevent the lecture from being held on the grounds of “law and order“.

I believe that India is a secular state and as such every citizen has the right to practice the religion of his choice and it is his personal and righteous choice to be a conservative believer or a progressive believer of that religion.

One fraction of the Indian Muslim community cannot deprive fellow citizens of the right to hear the lecture of Dr. Wadud because she represents a progressive approach to religion. The fact that the police authorities of Chennai have intervened under the argument of “law and order” means that they uphold “law and order ” as superior to the rights authorized by the Indian constitution.

This is not a tenable development and was not foreseen as such by the forefathers of this nation. It is the responsibility of law authorities in any democracy to uphold the rights guaranteed to all citizens of the country by the constitution AND to maintain law and order. It cannot be a choice of either law and order or individual rights.

It is time that the executive in India wakes up to its real responsibilities and the Indian executive authorities remand the concerned persons.

Feminism – Sex selective abortions deny female rights even before birth

A woman who decides to abort her child can be driven by political reasons, economic and financial reasons, social reasons, religious reasons, cultural reasons or even health issues. None of these reasons however can spare a woman the mental turmoil she goes through when she decides to abort her child.  The emotional pain and feeling of loss can linger for a long time perhaps even during her whole lifetime.

A woman who chooses to abort her own unborn child because it is going to be a female denies her own femininity.  So how desperate must her situation be that she even opts to do so?  How dire must her situation be, her material status, the social pressures she is subjected to? Her situation is tragic because she is subjected to outdated patriarchal notions that a male is more superior to a female or because a female is considered a bigger financial and moral burden to the family. These practices deny a females right to live even before she is born and tragically enough through her own mother, grandmother!!

Sex selective abortive practices in India have tragically developed from a technological advancement in medical sciences. This combined with morally unscrupulous medical practitioners who are driven by profit have led to the over 12 million female fetus that have been aborted over 30 years in India. None of the laws passed by the Indian legislative system have been effective in stopping this practice because Indian law enforcing authorities do not have effective checks and balances in place and are not doing their jobs.  It is time that the feminist movements in India address the social issues that lead to such oppressive practices. Professionals see the need for feminism in India to start “acknowledging sexism in daily life and attempting to challenge and eliminate it through deconstructing mutually exclusive notions of femininity and masculinity as biologically determined categories which opens the way towards an equitable society for both men and women”.

The Indian female is a victim of her own society’s elevation of males to a higher status than a female.  The necessary step forward should mean fighting to establish equal political, economic and social rights for women.

I am but five years old

I am a child and know no pains
I am just five and play but games
I laugh and hop and jump around
I am cheerful, happy and sound.

Along comes a man big and vile
He entices me with a lot of guile
He bruises and hurts me with his penis
He stuffs a candle into my anus

He tries to strangle me and tortures me too
I am bleeding and shocked to say the least
To the police my stunned father runs
The police shake their heads, take no guns

OH society I knew not the meaning of the words that I have used
My mind is a turmoil and I am internally bruised
Why or why can I not be a child!!
OH Society can’t you protect an innocent child?

How is a woman viewed in India?

The picture of women in India is a very ambivalent one.

People familiar with India are familiar with female leaders in the political, economic and social field. There are female leaders in India holding exceptionally high ranking posts both in politics and business, who are bold, daring and determined and have contributed in different ways to progress in Indian life. There are women who have learnt to assert themselves, who are emancipated, made careers or become professionals. But such developments have not benefited more than 25% of Indian women.

Neither at the national level nor at the state level are women’s rights accepted as self understood. In most sections of Indian society women are mostly relegated to the domestic field and hence their role is only seen as social in nature. The patriarchal mind set is so dominant that no space is allowed or given for women to establish their own identity. Society often sees a girl as somebody who in any case is going to be married, stay at home and hence does not need schooling, work or a job.

It is this patriarchal mind-set together with the deep-rooted thinking that women are inferior that is a huge big blockade in accepting that women are capable of playing an active role in society beyond the domestic sphere. It is this mind-set that prevents giving women a voice in their own lives. It is this mind-set which makes men think that they and only they can decide or are capable of making life decisions for their women folk. It is this mind-set which puts the burden of upholding the family reputation on the women. It is this mind-set that makes men prefer having boys rather than girls.  It is this mind-set why a rape culture can thrive and that too a gang rape culture. It is this mind-set that accepts child marriages in spite of many laws. It is this mind-set that is the underlying stumbling block in eradicating the dowry system. It is this mind-set why sex selective abortions prevail in India. It is this mind-set that limits women’s rights to education, to work and to a profession, to ownership of property, to a choice of when they get married and to whom, of what they do if their marriages are unhappy, to their pathetic position as a widow. It is this mind-set that is preventing women from playing their rightful role in Indian society, in Indian politics and in the Indian economy.

It is ultimately this mind-set that will limit the progress that India is capable of making in the future and in becoming a real global player.

Rape, the rapist, the raped, gang rapists, the society, Oh Society!

Rape is the violation of a woman’s rights.

Rape is the violation of a female’s body.

Rape only proves the male’s physical superiority.

Rape is nothing but the exercise of brute force.

Rape seeks a criminal outlet for pent up sexual desire.

Rape is a crime that needs to be punished.

A rapist does not realize that he has a right only to his own body.

A rapist ignores the rights of the female concerned.

A rapist lacks self esteem and self confidence.

A rapist has a false view of masculinity.

A rapist steals the freedom of a woman.

A rapist always commits a criminal act.

The raped is a poor innocent child, girl or woman.

The raped has the beauty of youth and is attractive.

The raped is physically abused and mentally traumatized.

The raped feels deserted from all the values of her life.

The raped feels the collapse of the world around her.

The raped feels the isolation and cold air around her.

Gang Rapists do not know how to court a girl.

Gang Rapists have a contorted view of masculinity.

Gang Rapists think its fun, but they are vile.

Gang Rapists seek recognition from their fellow rapists.

Gang Rapists stretch the despair and shock to the victim.

Gang Rapists need to be meted a more severe punishment than a rapist.

Society looks at the woman and points a finger at her.

Society sees not the man who has committed the crime.

Society turns a blind eye and ear to what has happened.

Society has many laws that guarantee her rights.

Society fails to fulfill its commitment to protect her rights.

Society has deserted her and the raped is forlorn.

Oh Society! Laws are useless, if she cannot be protected.

Oh Society! Your law enforcing authorities are full of prejudices.

Oh Society! You need to wake up to today’s reality.

Oh Society! Don’t be backward and archaic.

Oh Society! Don’t turn a blind eye and blame the women

Oh Society! Your laws guarantee her rights. Ensure it and deliver on your commitments.

The culture of violence against women

India is considered the worst place for women. Indian woman have a tough position in life. Right from birth they are subjugated to a subordinate position in life, in the family and in society and are denied women rights. How is this subordinate position documented?

  •  A cultural preference for male children together with a fear of dowry payments has led to sex selective abortions and abortion of over 12 million girls over the past 3 decades and a subsequently distorted male-female ratio of 1000 men to 940 females at the national level with some states having much more drastic ratios. These developments have been possible in spite of the Indian “Prenatal Diagnostic Techniques Act 1994.”
  • On the education front cultural prejudices in favor of males has meant that girls chances  of education is definitely less than for boys. Though good 97% of girls get primary education, almost 17.9% of females do not have Secondary or High school education.
  • Child marriage is still prevalent even though India has promulgated many laws that forbid the same, the latest legislation being “The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006”. According to the International Center for research on women 47% of girls are married before they are 18.
  • Dowry related harassment  of women who do not satisfy dowry demands and brutal assault partially through burning is still common in different parts of Indian society.
  • Widows even today are shunned in many parts of Indian society and once a woman becomes a widow she is often allocated a subordinate position within her family and by society at large.

The reasons for these developments are manifold but two fundamental patterns emerge as being the root cause of this situation:

  • Outdated customs are ingrained in the psyche of large sections of Indian society. So India urgently needs to start a “Social and Cultural Change Drive” so that many social practices are seen in the perspective of the 21st century.
  • India has an abundance of legal regulations protecting the rights of children and women in many issues. But India has weak records on law enforcement, so that de-facto women’s rights are not ensured.