Women have been a subject of injustice in India for decades. They had and have been suffering the violence against them silently. They are sold in the name of custom, they are mutilated in the name of honor, and they are raped in the name of marriage. Everything has an excuse, and every action has a cause- never explained nor justified. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, in 2011, there were greater than 228,650 reported incidents of crime against women, while in 2015, there were over 300,000 reported incidents, a 44% increase from the last recorded data. A crime against women happens every three minutes! And the irony is that even after knowing all these, we continue to live in silence.
Following are some of the customs again shedding a light on women’s exploitation.
There is a town Shivpura in Madhya Pradesh, where women are sold on contracts. Yes! Each year a market is held were women are arranged in the line. Whoever likes them, pay to her family and rent her as his wife for the next year. After the contract is over, the women are sold to another man, and the cycle continues. Although the value of women is not high in this market, if a person gives a double price, then the women are provided for more time to that man. The amount varies from rupees 500 to 1 lakh. This is actually done because of the sex ratio in the area. Women are less due to female infanticide maybe and thus to bear a family- men rent women. No complaints are filed because women themselves find this a part of a custom.
Perna community in Delhi:
In this community, a weird ritual is practiced. When a girl reaches puberty she is married to the other man of the same community. Once she bears her first child, the family expects her to work as a prostitute and earn living for the family. The men here are expected to stay at home whereas women are asked to work and feed the family. They all leave the house at midnight in a group and work all night as a sex worker. They earn rupees 100 to 300 per night and sometimes when lucky also rupees 1000. The girls of this community are made familiar to the practices so that once married, they know their role.
Bare-Chested Girls in Madurai Temple Ritual:
Young girls forced to live bare-chested at a temple in Tamil Nadu’s Madurai is part of a bizarre ritual. Young girls are kept topless for fifteen days and remain in the temple in the protection of male priest. What’s more shocking is that- parents willingly send their daughters in the name of custom. They are decked up like goddesses with only jewelry to cover their chests. More than 60 village participate in this annual ritual. On the last day of the festival, women from the village and the seven girls are asked to carry pots of liquor as an offering to the goddess. While doing so, women too are not allowed to wear blouses. At this time of child abuse, this ritual will surely haunt these young girls for the rest of their lives.
A man can marry more than one woman and is allowed to keep lovers even after his marriage. Whereas women, on the other hand, can marry only one. This one practice is exploiting hundreds of women. It is still practiced in many states of India even after it is outlawed. Be it because of sex ratio or just the crazy ritual, this one is extremely weird and unjustified.
Female Genital mutilation:
Again, this doesn’t happen everywhere. This cruel and painful practice is still prevalent in many parts of India, away from the eyes of the law. It includes slitting and stitching sexual organs of teenage girls. They are asked to do so because they want to preserve the virginity of the girl. Female genital mutilation is practiced in India by some Islamic groups. The procedure is generally performed when a girl is seven years old and involves the total or partial removal of the clitoral hood.
These are just a few of them, the list is actually endless and many are beyond our reach. Every day women are exploited, violated and harassed but the suffering of 650 million Indian women and girls goes unnoticed each time. They don’t a complaint, they don’t speak and they didn’t fight back.
Why? Because the women in India are bought up in a way that their families honor remains the sole priority. Unfortunately, this violence is buried in the training of women in some deadly habits that invite human rights violations, but that is considered the essence of good womanhood. India is literally today at a war with women and girls.
They are treated as slaves of male society, rarely a day passes by without hearing about any new rape cases. According to the National Crimes Records Bureau, in 2016 the rape of minor girls increased by 82% compared with the previous year. Bitterly, across all rape cases, 95% of rapists were not strangers but family, friends, and neighbors. And this is despite the fact that India has several laws criminalizing these activities. The condition of women is so degraded in the country that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had launched a “Beti Bachao” (save girls) campaign, which actually suggests that women today need a program to get saved.
Let’s explain to you from the start only then the struggles of girls can be finally understood. How many parents happily declare that they had been blessed with a baby girl? Few! Right? Who is asked to leave her studies so that the parents can afford her brother’s education? Who is married to serve manhood? Who is not allowed to wear what she wants? Who is restricted from stepping out of home? Who is sold in the name of dowry? Who was burned in the name of sati? And now one last question; who are the ones to bring you in this world? Guess what? Yes! It’s a woman. And then we say women are weak.
Are they? I doubt that. A survey conducted reveals a darker side of the society which suggests that 1.3 billion people think that women are the soulless whose presence or her body parts are useless and they pretend as if it doesn’t exist! And any case of sexual violence against women is immediately discarded or in many cases, the girls are to be blamed. No matter how much society develops, unless and until the condition of women gets better- no development can actually brighten India’s future. We need to understand first that women are not objects, they are living beings whose presence needs to be acknowledged and appreciated. To reclaim our humanity we need a national conversation about what it means to be a WOMAN.