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India – the land of diversity, the land where many societies live in harmony or perhaps the right phrasing would be “used to” live in harmony. As the days pass by, the number of people in India aren’t reducing, but instead increasing at a very high rate. For the country with the second largest population in the world, this shouldn’t come as much surprise.
It’s not only the population that seems to be rising; as the number of people in society increase, the issues that hound the nation seem to be increasing with them. Internal war is on the agenda these days with Naxalites being deemed by our honorable Prime Minister as the most potent threat to Internal Security. They proved their lethal capacities in the recent past by derailing the Gyaneshwari Express, or so claim the government. While these internal security threats are indeed a social problem that needs to be fought immediately, these are the terrors that are reported worldwide by the media each day. What about the issues that are hidden? They are every day events which may seem small in comparison, but when we look at it from a wider perspective, they are terrors too.
Every girl in the world, I’m sure, has dreamt of the day she gets married. I’ve a sister too who dreams or fantasizes of getting married to that “dream man”. Do all the women in India find that dream man? Unfortunately, the answer to this question is a big NO. When I was a child, I used to fight a lot with my grandmother. In playfulness, I’d once hit her hard. When I’d repented the move a moment later, she told me, “Vinu, no one in this world can be patient like a woman can.” Today, I realize what she said is true because most social issues that India has to deal with on a war note have the woman as its victim. Female infanticide, dowry deaths, honor killings, child abuse, rape
… the list is longer, but I stop here. Are these separate issues? No. They are all interrelated. They are all equally heinous. More importantly, most of the time, they are all hidden. Now because of the power of media
, it is all coming out in the open.
Today, India is reeling under these terrorisms. Many of you would have been to a Christian wedding. The couple makes a pledge or a vow which says that the groom shall love the bride in poverty or in wealth, in sickness or in health and they shall love and cherish each other for as long as they live. In every religion which exists in our diverse nation, a wedding does have these vows in some form or the other. Yet in a lot of cases, the greed for money overcomes that love that is there at one time. Perhaps it is the pressure from the parents that makes the man desirous of that wealth, but one does ponder, if the love for his wife changed instantly when a matter of wealth arose, was there love in his heart for her when the nuptials were solemnized? Taking dowry these days is against the law and punishable as per the Indian Penal Code, but in how many cases do the parents of the girl actually state that and refuse to give dowry? Very few indeed… Fearing for the well being of their darling daughter, the parents do give what they can to the groom and his family, expressing it as a “gift” rather than as dowry. These “gifts” can rise to vulgar proportions in certain communities. Abuse in any form is heinous, but a bride who is being harassed for dowry suffers both mental and physical abuse constantly as there is pressure on her not only from her parents but on her parents too, to ensure that society doesn’t cast malicious glances towards them.. The times may have changed but the ideals and traditions have not…for a girl, making a marriage successful is still very essential. So the girl bears it patiently, but when the abuse exceeds the limit she can take, rather than unload all her worries on her parents, she thinks of taking the “honorable” way out…she kills herself, or the husband kills her to punish her for “cheating” his family out of that wealth. Of course, this results again in another heinous practice, bride burning. The vow takes a new meaning now doesn’t it? The couple is together, yes, but the husband is happy only if the girl has enough wealth to satisfy the greed of the in-laws, and as for the love, well that goes extinct.
Well, I’m the eternal optimist. I like to see the glass half full even though the realistic world seems to be anything but positive. Let us assume that all goes well, the groom and his family are satisfied with the wealth that the girl’s family “gift” to them. The physical abuse will reduce to a great length and the love, which might have got extinguished if the fates hadn’t smiled on the couple, still continues to flourish at a decent level. The husband and wife unite in all respects and the news soon arrives that a new member is coming into the family. Now, the talks will revert to only one topic. No, not how the couple will love and cherish the little one when it arrives, but what sex is the baby. Modern age once again has put a nice high hurdle in this respect, but has it made sure that the hurdle is high enough that no one can jump over it? On the outside, yes…it seems to be working and the babies are born without knowledge whether it is a boy or a girl. Yet if one does examine closely, in rural India and sometimes even in urban India too, cases are there though hidden well beneath the inquisitive eyes of the world! The people of medical expertise are as vulnerable to bribes as the people who are put to make sure these practices don’t happen. Prior knowledge of the baby being a girl child and the decisions taken thereafter are no longer in the hands of the mother. “No, we want a male heir to continue the family genealogy” is the mantra. So rather than letting the girl live to see the light of dawn, the “honorable” way is opted for again and before her feet can touch the earth, she is back in heaven, in His arms wondering why she wasn’t wanted. If the girl is allowed to live, she is denied her father’s love and the rest of the family follows suit…the mother is ostrasized and she bears the brunt of this mental torture. The father’s role in this is conveiniently ignored. The girl grows up, with some love, and once she turns of a marriageable age and sometimes even earlier, the father starts looking for an “alliance” so he can off load his burden of responsibility. If a male child is born into the family subsequently, all love and affection is diverted towards him and perhaps it is just as well that the girl goes away into a family that “might” (and I use that word loosely) love her more. No heed is given to the girl’s legal age, and far away from straying glances, the under-aged girl is given to a man who is as old as her father. Organizations that fight for Woman and Child rights these days are helping in reducing such social evils, but the fact is, unless we approach it with relentless effort it shall remain, very much active.
Love… such a virtuous emotion. It is there in every heart, be it for a person or for property. In our nation however, love is governed; governed by laws of caste, creed, religion, color and even region. Girls are forbidden from falling in love and can cause an upheaval of sorts if she so does. Arranged marriages are still the norm and restricted to within the community or clan. Feelings don’t really matter here at all. However deep and true love may be. I opened the newspaper this evening, and on the national page, I found the headline “14 year old found dead”. On reading further, it was actually two girls, one fourteen years old and her younger step-sister aged twelve. No, it wasn’t suicide because of some wealth and health issues of the family, but it was a “death of honor”. Both were strangulated by their own relatives, having conned them into coming along with them, hence taking them away from their mother who would have prevented that sin. And what pray tell was their crime? Love! The elder girl was in love with a boy whose ethnic details were unacceptable to the relatives. Not to the mother or father, but to the relatives. Rather than let the love continue to blemish their “family name”, they sought to end it “honorably”. The elder was killed for love, the younger because she bore witness to the crime. If pure love had blemished the name of the family, cruel cold-blooded murder did little to make it any better. Honor killings are rampant around the country, be it for young ladies in love or married women who are “suspected” of loving another man. The community whose eyes look for a way to make the other life suffer will always point fingers accusing of betrayal of love. Has the purity of the husband’s love been lost on this accusation? In a lot of cases, the answer is yes. The husband requests the community to save his “honor” by giving the wife a death sentence that matches the pain he has been caused. The people of course have no issues. They cast the glance in the first place, they stone the “guilty” wife in public with the husband watching and rejoicing. Sadly, the decisions taken by such “judges” and their “verdicts” have no sense of reasoning. The people and family just mutely accept the verdict pronounced with no appeals.
If all these crimes are heinous, then rape is no less sinful. Going against the will of the girl to abuse her sexually, not taking into consideration what her age is, her muffled screams or her pleading eyes…that’s immoral! Love, trust and ethics are thrown into the wastebasket as hyperactive hormones and lust that can’t be satisfied overpowers them and the sin is committed. The man loses nothing but integrity here, the girl on the other hand loses her dreams, her integrity, her pride and most of all her honor! The man is usually careful, so unless the girl can identify her attacker, the sin remains hidden from the world. The girl doesn’t dare to reveal she has been vulnerable and tries to keep that secret. Once the emotions are overpowering, she takes that “honorable” way out yet again. Death… the ultimate escape! The times are changing and the girl doesn’t live past the sin itself, or rather she is not allowed to. The abuse continues relentlessly till death, and all evidence is mutilated by “scientific” methods, so even careless and forced attacks make the killer more deadly and when he knows he has gotten away with it once, the urge to satisfy lust becomes more and a rapist turns into a serial killer.
Whose “honor” is lost here? Is it the families’, the husband’s, the criminal’s or the victim’s? I received a message today. It goes thus:
People always pray for a boy
Not for the girl
Blessings of elders are for male
Not for the female
But when in need of wealth
People pray to Goddess Laxmi
For success in education
People pray to Goddess Saraswati
For removal of tension
People pray to Goddess Amba
And to escape from the devil
People pray to Goddess Kali
Now tell me, why do people hesitate to have a female in the family,
While those whom they pray to during trouble, are females?
Save the girl child!!!
Spread the beautiful message!!
Let’s give unconditional love to the girl child!!!
If the message doesn’t spread soon, if the girl child doesn’t get that unconditional love from her loved ones, and if the nation doesn’t unite in its efforts to stop the crimes against women, it will not be any of those “honors”
that are blemished. It’ll be the HONOR OF THE NATION
that will be turned to dust.