The deep-rooted gender inequality
I am fantastic at imagining stuff. When I was a kid, around seven years old, our pet dog Maxi got a maggot infested wound. We noticed the wound rather late when it really got swollen and when we took him to a vet, his condition was quite severe. The vet, as he operated on him, wasn’t very positive.
“If only you had noticed earlier, something could’ve been done. The maggots are now so deep-rooted in his intestines, it’s really hard to do anything to help him.”
A seven year old kid probably would’ve heard the word a lot of times before too I’m sure, but some why, on the word being used by the vet, I had a flash of an imagination of a tree with really long roots. You know, like they show in cartoons, a small tree above and a huge cluster of roots going beneath the soil.
Probably that vision gave me an idea of the acuteness of the dog’s health.
About the time I went to my hometown on Holi this year, I laid my hands on a sweet little booklet kept on the table. It had this pretty design illustrating the stages of life of a human. From birth through death. The Hindi booklet said ‘Vitteeya Diary’ (which roughly translates to ‘Financial Diary’) in bold at the top. It was clearly aimed at giving the country’s rural populace an idea on how to save money, use banks for their financial needs and go about living a comfortable life. Few pages inside, and I stumbled upon this:
So this is a breakup of the necessities a family, probably a farmer’s, would require. For example, they’d need a cycle costing fifteen hundred after three months of having a family, so they should save about seventeen rupees a day to get a cycle. They’d need cattle costing about ten thousand bucks, so they should save twenty seven rupees a day for one year.
And then, I saw this (circled):
Massive amount required for ‘Beti Ka Vivaah’ (translating to ‘Daughter’s wedding’). Why was such a huge quantity needed for a daughter’s wedding? For celebrations, some may claim, but then it would’ve been an equal expenditure for a son’s wedding too. Was this booklet considering dowry payment while guiding the farmers in finances? That could be the only explanation. I quickly looked for a publishers name on the booklet’s back. Probably an irresponsible publisher/organization was behind this.
My heart sank when I saw this:
Dowry is illegal. The Dowry Prohibition Act 1961 of the Indian Penal Code clearly states that any person involved in receiving or giving of dowry shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than five years, and with fine which shall not be less than fifteen thousand rupees or the amount of the value of such dowry, whichever is more.
The term ‘Beti Ka Vivaah’, in the context of saving money, very evidently smelt of the rampant malpractice of dowry. Even a governmental organization — the Reserve Bank of India — had chosen to overlook it. Not even overlook probably, our country’s culture has grown so accustomed to it that it’s just become a part of our everyday lexicon.
And this is a serious problem. Accepting and snubbing discrimination, however negligible, will amount to a culture fixated with gender inequality.
What is sadder is that the very people who stand-up against bribery and black money — the youth of the country — turn a blind eye or even support dowry. They have pretexts ranging from what this appalling blog post here has to offer to this one here.
Of course they’re twisting facts, using pseudo-science, pseudo-sociology or just plain bullshitting when they endorse dowry. Notice how a majority of the dowry advocates are men — young, college going men — and it’ll make you sick if you’re sane.
I was driving mom to her office through heavy traffic. Road rage was in the air, people were rushing, and nobody had time to let other vehicles pass. And so I was amazed when a car driver actually waited for me to go ahead. I thanked him from behind my rolled up window and then said to mum, lightheartedly, “God bless this man. May he get two lovely daughters.”
To which my mum was like, “Arre, why are you saying that!”
“Why, what wrong did I say?”
“Nobody wishes like that.”
Few sentences later mum admitted that she found that wish odd because nobody wants or prays for a daughter. Even though, ideally, there was nothing wrong about it.
The implication being that people might not indulge in female feticide if they do get a daughter, but almost certainly they don’t wish for one.
A friend of mine and I were having a silly conversation on the petty things we used to worry about and long for as kids. I told her how I hated dirty and wet toilets and how I’d sometimes pee out in the open among the trees. To which, she revealed how she’d want to pee like boys, when she was little, and how she’d become upset when she wasn’t able to.
I later asked her exactly why she had that desire. Initially she just responded in lame ‘it would’ve had been fun’ variations until I coaxed her to finally reveal that it made her feel more ‘powerful’.
I contemplated on this a bit more and I could recall a similar scenario. Little girls — I could very well recollect my cousin speak like that when we were kids — use the verb declension used for male noun or pronoun while speaking in Hindi. For example, they’d say, ‘main karun-ga’ instead of ‘karun-gi’. I’ve seen many young girls do it and they might just be doing it for fun, but the insinuation is grave.
Somewhere it makes them feel ‘powerful’.
What these anecdotes offered wasn’t really a hardcore, downright scary insight into the oppression of women. However, it indicated to what level our culture, our everyday lives are imbibed with this inequality. Individual cases like these might not be harmful, but the mindset that all of this reflects and is further nurturing is quite dangerous.
We’ve got to strive and begin scything the roots.
Maxi had died of his wounds. We took him to a local pet cemetery to bury him. As we poured bags of salt and sugar along with his dead body, I couldn’t hold back my tears.