Although in 1966, Indira Gandhi was one of the first women elected as Prime Minister, that the Cinema Industry (Bollywood) is flourishing with about 1000 films per year & today India would be the World’s fastest growing large economy, which would lead us to think it is a modern country, in many ways, India remains a backward country.
One of them is Women’s condition. A woman’s role is to be at home, preparing the food for the family, cleaning the house, and later taking care of the children. Her status is defined by their relatives’ relationship: sister, mother’s etc… Traditionally, she will be led and told what to do throughout her life, first by her father, later by her husband, who will, most of the time, be chosen by her parents.
For that reason, Indian Society, which is a masculine society, does not consider necessary Women to be educated, and does not send their Girls to school as much as they send their Boys.
As a result, in 2011, the literacy rate was, for the whole country 74% (compared to the World’s rate which was 84%), of which 82, 14 % were Men and 65.46 % Women.
Women are supposed to be unable to learn.
This is why, when I got started on the Project in Katputali Nagar (Slums in Jaipur), I was asked by Subhadra from IDEX to give more attention to the girls. The fact that a Woman (me) was teaching them was giving them hope in their future: I knew things, I could pass the knowledge onto them and they could identify themselves with me, a Girl who had received Education. They had a proof in front of their eyes it could happen. At least somewhere in this World.
I understood that from the very first day I worked there, and it was overwhelming to think all the hope they were putting on me. And the way they were looking at me, with some sort of admiration, reminded me of it every single day.
The sad reality of those Women is that killings of baby girls still happen in their country, parents marrying their daughter still need to give some money or property to the family of her future husband, more commonly referred to as “dowry”. Then she leaves her parents’ home to stay with her husband’s family (sometimes to never see her own again).
Sometimes, if the dowry is not satisfying from the in-law’s point of view, the girl might be the killed by the husband’s family: they usually throw kerosene on the poor girl and set fire on her. Indian people refer to the tragic event as “the kitchen accident” as the official story told to the girl’s parents is that their poor daughter killed herself while cooking… In 2008 when I was there, about 4000 cases were recorded (but I can well imagine those, being only the “official figures”).
Domestic Violence is not only common in India but also in Pakistan and Bangladesh.
A meaningful song by Asian Dub Foundation & Sinéad O’Connor called “A thousand mirrors” denouncing Domestic Violence, and more specifically, referring to the story of an illiterate Pakistani Woman called Tsoora Shah, who has endured her husband’s violence, but also many men in her community, and ended up killing him, with arsenic.
Indian statistics show that, when I was there, 195,856 cases of Domestic Violence were reported. Against 244,270 in 2012. Amongst those: Bride-burning (or “kitchen accident”), Honor killing (a member has brought dishonor upon the family or community), “Eve-teasing”…which means really: sexual harassment or rape, throwing acid, forcing abortion, mutilation…and so many sorts.
It seems we have not finished with tackling this issue as: 65% of Indian men believe women should tolerate violence in order to keep the family together, and women sometimes deserve to be beaten and 24% of Indian men have committed sexual violence at some point during their lives.