Why Does My Country Need a Gender and Who is Bharat Mata, Really?

What does saying ‘Mata’ prove if I can’t salvage the alarming scale of sexual abuse against women? (Photo: The Quint)

By Sreemoyee Piu Kundu

For the past few days there has been a shrill rhetoric about Bharat Mata by both the Baba and the Babu brigade.

This kind of narrow hate speech though, isn’t new in a country that espouses a slanted jingoism by turning a blind eye to the reality of women here.

I mean, who is Bharat Mata, really?

The chant of ‘Bharat Mata ki jai’ has become a shrill rhetoric. (Photo: The Quint)

The docile wife under a lengthy ghunghat getting abused in the darkness of her bedroom? The little girl in school getting molested by the attendant? The college going student in a sleeveless kurti getting eve-teased at a deserted bus stand as she tries to reach home on time, lest her father and brother suspect she’s out with boys? The woman hunted down by the regressive Khap Panchayat and murdered in broad daylight just because she followed her heart? The same sex couple who can’t adopt a child, as per the law, and must wed in complete secrecy? The single woman advised by the family astrologer to marry a tree since she’s manglik and will cause her prospective husband’s untimely demise?

Why does our nation need a fixed gender? What does saying Mata prove if I can’t protect and salvage the alarming scale of sexual and domestic violence against women and the girl child who still gets butchered in the womb?

What does saying Mata prove if I can’t protect and salvage the alarming scale of sexual and domestic violence against women and the girl child who still gets butchered in the foetus? (Photo: iStock)

What Does Saying ‘Mata’ Prove Amidst Sexual Violence?

What if Bharat Mata could actually see the way her daughters and sisters bleed — with justice perennially delayed against the perpetrators of these heinous crimes of male lust and hatred?

The Supreme Court hadn’t heard the Nirbhaya case for a year since March 2015. Despite there being fast track courts to deal with rape cases, trials of more than 93 per cent of them are pending for the last three years. Isn’t raping and shaming women a part of the whole ‘Bharat Mata dishonour’?

What kind of Mata can simply stand like a mute spectator and watch as crimes against women escalate over the past 10 years? The latest figures released by the National Crime Records Bureau testify to the same. And according to an IndiaSpend analysis based on the last decade’s data, as many as 2.24 million crimes against women have been reported in all that time. 26 crimes against women are reported every hour, or one complaint every two minutes.

26 crimes against women are reported every hour, or one complaint every two minutes. (Photo: iStock)

Perhaps Bharat Mata lacks a real voice — her feminine identity usurped by hefty male brand ambassadors like ministers and godmen who must speak up on her behalf. These are the men who outline the lakshman rekha of what constitutes my national pride — rather like the patriarchs in an unwieldy joint family who dictate one on how to live the rest of their lives.

These are the men who will vouch to ‘protect’ you — but as long as women cry out for suraksha and need any sort of male validation for the choices they make, how is it ever about them?

By chanting Bharat Mata as an emblem of pride are we ensuring respect to the girl child? Are we fixing the glaring loopholes that haunt us in the form of startling statistics? Nearly 1.2 million sex workers are below the age of 18 with about 40 underage girls forced into prostitution on a daily basis. With an 8 per cent increase in the flesh trade, India has become one of the prominent names in child prostitution globally.

What if Bharat Mata had a destiny that wasn’t pre-decided by someone not of her own sex? (Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)

What if Bharat Mata could shed tears? Speak up? Speak her mind? If she had a destiny that wasn’t pre-decided by someone not of her own sex? Someone from the outside…

(The writer is an ex lifestyle editor and PR vice president, and now a full-time novelist and columnist on sexuality and gender, based in Delhi. She is the author of ‘Faraway Music’ and ‘Sita’s Curse’. Her third book ‘You’ve Got The Wrong Girl’ is out next.)