Category Archives: social change

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.

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.

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.

India’s Anti Rape Bill

Wow, that was faster than I thought possible. Sexual offenders guilty of rape, stalking, voyeurism, acid attacks among others will in future have to reckon with up to 20 years imprisonment, and even life imprisonment or death sentence for repeat offenders. The law forsees that 18 years is the age of consent for sex. The Indian Lower House (Lok Sabha) has just passed an anti rape bill which de facto amounts to an amendment of diverse clauses in various penal laws and regulations. The bill is meant to be a clear deterrent signal that Indian society will not tolerate such crimes. The bill still needs to be passed by the Rajya Sabha (Upper House) which however is not considered problematic.

Well this is definitely a milestone worth registering. It looks like the steadfastness of the various demonstrators, the vehemence of many women’s rights activists, the public outrage and the international reaction to the sexual excesses of the recent past have apparently had their impact.

Now that the Indian legislative organs have amended laws so as to prevent sexual assault, it is now up to the executive and law implementing organs to start doing their job.

A Swiss tourist is gang raped

Such news is a sad testimony that proves the need for more urgent and fundamental action to prevent sexual assault in India. This time it is a Swiss tourist who is raped and tragically right in front of her husband. Apparently there are enough men in India who consider it necessary to show off their sexual prowess by resorting to gang rape. This is tragic to say the very least!!

This is a clear indication that the limited natural interaction between males and females as prevalent in bigger sections of Indian society is leading to suppressed sexual desire. A good part of this pent-up sexual energy seeks rape as an outlet. This could explain the high statistics of one rape every twenty minutes. All this really urgently calls for introducing social education to promote a natural interaction between males and females. After all India is economically not in the 19th century!!


International Womens Day 2013

Happy International Women’s Day everybody! On International Woman’s day I greet all the demonstrators of Delhi and all the many other cities of India. By protesting not just once but many many times you have made a hole in the fabric of silence that prevails over India on gender issues.

Woman of India have to stand up against the violence and brutality (be it physical, sexual or psychological in nature) that they are exposed to. They have to start talking, protesting, denying, exposing and decrying abuse. Breaking the culture of silence means making society aware of the imbalances that prevail and saying “I am a woman, a citizen of this country like every other man and i have rights too and I will not tolerate this any more”.

Let us hope that the Indian Presidents good wishes are taken more seriously by Indian authorities and society in future.