Monday, 31 December 2012

Sweet Nothings

Guest Post by Dr. Anonymous.

Yet another woman brutalized, and now dead.

We sit, we watch, we listen, drink our collective chai, heave a sigh of relief that it wasn’t someone we knew and pass a few words of commiserations.

Our inner voice of outrage rises and falls.

We return to our daily lives, counting our blessings, and buying extra coconuts for the next religious ritual to protect ourselves from a world that grows more evil and indifferent day by day.

As a recent song by a famous western singer goes, “I am living on such sweet nothing”.

India is a country that has had privilege and misfortune of multiple rulers and invaders, a rich ancient history and proud cultural traditions, that despite the upheavals of time has managed to absorb and march on with the beat of modernity.

Long renowned as being the biggest democracy and the largest country of secular governing, Indians till this day swell with pride and wipe a tear at the memories of their homeland. It has been a bittersweet journey however, for in its quest to reach the highest academic and technological feats India has forgotten its girls.

As a Australian of Indian origins I was surprised on a recent visit to India to see the same TV slogans and advertisements still playing, the same scenes from the intermissions of childhood cartoons. The two poor farmers meeting on a dusty road, one taking his girl child to school, the other to his farm, the time old misogynist of an ancient land making dialogue with the wisdom of a young father who hopes his daughter will learn and live in a better world.

More than twenty years have passed since. That one little girl from that rural area has now attended school, she has now grown up, finished her secondary education, she is now studying in a local tertiary University, graduating and then moving to a larger metropolis where she begins working as a young professional.

Perfect isn’t it?

Look a little closer; she is scarred physically and mentally by over a decade of abuse. It has been inflicted at the hands of peers, family friends, seniors, and those in positions of authority. They range from the time of her education beginning in primary school in the playgrounds to the after hours tuitions with the local ascetic academic who deploys his carnal desires on innocent bodies.

She is uncomfortable, ashamed, and naïve. She learns early these are things she cannot discuss with those close to her, as she has seen what happened to those that did.

As she matures her resolve increases, she meets peers in similar situations who have taken to defensive measures such as carrying sharp pins whilst travelling on public transport, to turning around and walking away as a strange male masturbates in front of her in public.

At University she has a greater sense of achievement, she has overcome many adversities and has become the first in her family to attend tertiary education, her family are proud and anxious for her future as she makes her way in the new world. She graduates with good marks, she begins to work in a respectable institution.

Her days however are not free of harassment, whether buying her groceries, or applying for a driving license, she is heckled, groped, and openly propositioned at every turn. She tells herself she is strong and shows unbelievable focus, after all she tells herself, all the girls are in the same boat and are making it through somehow.

One day however this girl will stand up, she will go from being defensive onto the offensive, she may stand up to an abusive partner, she may even bite a sexual predator, because she knows that these acts are wrong and she can tolerate it no more.

The tragedy is, she will most likely pay for it with her life.

This is but a small snap shot of the lives of millions of women in India, a scenario knitted together but not unique from the lives of many women I know. Despite the advent of democracy, secularism, and free education, the struggle to empower and improve the life of a female foetus is, if anything, disappearing.

Foeticide, sexual assaults, domestic violence, mutilations, torture, revenge and honour killings are still occurring at embarrassing rates. Embarrassing to the citizens of a country who despite nuclear reactors and seats on the UN, cannot guarantee that the next girl child on a dusty rural road will not suffer an avoidable disability or worse death, at the hands of a society that does not value her.

These issues however, should not just be an embarrassment to India, but to our global collective conscience. To all of us who participate within a globalised economy, and particularly to those who operate in the jurisdictions of global law enforcement and legislation that were created to police human rights.

The Geneva Convention and bill of human rights exists in India, as does the rule of the law. However the justice system has evolved into a monstrous glacier that crushes the victims as it grows larger fed by the rivers of corruption that are flowing in every layer of its foundation.

Cases of brutal sexual assaults that have been awaiting hearings for over two decades are no longer anomaly, but a common theme that is repeated in every state of the country. A country where women, be they child or adult, are promptly dumped on the outskirts of society as soon as it is revealed they have been assaulted. A society that worships the lotus feet of the virgin like goddess who are betrothed to virile and often violent gods, whose arbitrary actions often leave the female forms on earth to suffer penance.

Where is the justice for these women? They have not only endured the torture of assaults but also have the ongoing brutalization that the legal and social masses inflict on them. Is it any wonder that so many families believe that foeticide to be a kinder alternative? Better to have lost a girl infant early then to nourish her with your love only to lose her body and soul to the hands of a violent beast?

Feminists scholars and academics in developed nations have failed to comprehend the extent of the tragedy that is unfolding in not only India, but also the entire Asian diaspora. This is especially in the cases where women’s rights in third world and developing countries is concerned.

The rise and rise of political correctness has created a defensive shield within which many academics are herded, as they focus on the minute details and fine tuning of women’s issues, literally within their own backyard. Furthermore there is also a notorious increase in conscious ignorance of the significant chasm that now exists between the basic human rights enjoyed by women in the developed world in comparison to their more oppressed sisters.

The very fact that there is such discomfort within academic circles to even discuss issues such as clothing restrictions as a form of oppression and policing of women’s bodies is a point in itself. By self censoring to such a significant degree that even free speech and discussion is curtailed, feminism has returned to its turtle shell, back to its own roots, and is now busy analyzing its own difficulties.

These difficulties are surprising to discover in their banality, and at the same time shocking. Feminism in the west is facing a significant backlash from younger generations who are embracing“sexual freedom” and “freedom of expression and lifestyle” as an anti-feminist stance. There is not only gross misinformation within the current popular culture of what feminism stands for, but also a significant disenchantment within its own ranks.

There is talk of stagnation, of irrerelevance, of extremism, and of course of disempowerment. As western feminist routinely take stock of their achievements with analysis of countless statistics they have begun to lose sight of the looming tsunami crashing on the shores of their global sisters.



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