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Don't be born a girl: what women have to endure in modern India

'23.10.2018'

Source: RIA News

We usually learn about the life and status of women in Indian society from films from Bollywood classics in which cheerful beauties in bright saris (traditional women's clothing in India) sing and dance to the enthusiastic exultation of men. Meanwhile, the real picture does not inspire optimism - according to a recent survey conducted by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, India ranked first on the list of the most dangerous countries for women in the world, surpassing Afghanistan, Syria and Saudi Arabia.

Фото: Depositphotos

The study shows that every hour around the 40 crimes are committed against women in India. In a sense, this is a paradox, because in no other country in South Asia (and Asia in general) do women play such a prominent role in political and public life. At the same time, the deep patriarchal roots, the numerical superiority of the male population and a number of flaws in the judicial-legal system of India are the reasons that women here are daily victims of crimes, primarily rape.

What women in modern India have to face - in the material RIA News.

The Legend of Sati

Hindu mythology is replete with bright and strong female images, which for many years defined the canons of behavior for girls in this South Asian country. Created in ancient times, images of faithful wives, ready to sacrifice their lives for their husbands, are still honored in India.

One of such images, undoubtedly, is Sati - the avatara (reincarnation) of Shiva's wife, the goddess Parvati. As the ancient epic "Mahabharata" tells us, Sati threw herself into the fire and burned to death when she failed to become the wife of God so that her cherished dream would come true in her next life.

The same word later became the ancient Hindu custom of widows self-immolation on the funeral pyres of their husbands.

The emergence of the ritual "sati" (literally "virtuous" - ed.) Dates back to the beginning of the 1st millennium BC, and it became widespread already in the first centuries of the new era. In the late Middle Ages, there were even cases of mass self-immolation of women who preferred to die, but not be captured by enemies.

Voluntarily following a husband to a funeral pyre was considered a sign of the highest piety and marital fidelity Hindus, especially from the higher castes. Self-immolation, although not an indispensable obligation, "gives a woman as many years of heavenly bliss as there are (according to traditional beliefs - ed.) Hairs on the body - 35 million." The living widow faced an unenviable fate - according to some reports, she was obliged to wear mourning clothes for the rest of her days, sleep on the floor and eat once a day. To get married a second time - moreover, even to pronounce the name of another man - the woman could not.

Many ancient customs die in India with great difficulty, especially in the rural part of it. Therefore, despite the fact that the Sati legislation was banned in India by the British in the 19 century, incidents of this ritual still occur, leading to the construction of shrines at the site of burning and the emergence of corresponding cults.

One of the high-profile episodes on this topic took place in 2005, when in a village near Ajmer (Rajasthan) about 10 thousands of people gathered to see the self-immolation. When the police intervened in the case, they arrested both the woman and her relatives, disgruntled citizens began to beat law enforcement officers for the unacceptable, from their point of view, interference.

Фото: Depositphotos

Femicide and Dauri

Important factors that largely determined the appearance of modern India were female infanticide (killing female babies) and prenatal sex selection of the child, which have been practiced here for centuries and, despite the formal prohibition, continue to exist today. There are many reasons for these two phenomena: this is general poverty, and the need for hard physical labor, and the ancient custom of dauri, obliging the family of the bride to pay the groom's family, as well as to cover all costs associated with the wedding. A wedding, by the way, often turns into a heavy burden for the bride's parents, and in order to marry daughters, the head of the family has to incur unpaid debts.

It is noteworthy that this state of affairs became a characteristic feature of a later time. In ancient times in India, the custom was more widespread, in which the groom paid the marriage ransom to his beloved father. Often there were cases when the family of a young man had to pay this ransom piece by piece, and the debt obligation fell on the shoulders not of the groom himself, but of his father.

The dauri system in its present form supports the idea that men are more valuable members of society and have innate privileges.

In practice, it looks like this: even before the official engagement, two families make a list in which, in addition to the wedding expenses and the rituals accompanying it, there are usually real estate, cars, precious jewelry, household appliances, gifts for relatives and dear guests, and so on. Accordingly, if something from this list is not presented on time, the wedding can break at any time, including directly at the time of its holding. On this occasion, there are cases when the girls went straight from the upset wedding to the police, demanding that the groom's family return the dauri after the failed marriage.

The huge costs associated with the marriage of daughters are one of the main causes of female infanticide in India, mainly in agrarian areas. According to official data, only recently in the country 21 million girls appeared who were not needed by their parents.

The authorities tried to solve this problem in various ways by passing laws to protect children at both the federal and regional levels. Nevertheless, despite the efforts being made, femicide had a significant effect on the demographic situation, and today in 1,3-billion India, 110 girls account for 100 born boys. To eradicate selective abortions, the government banned doctors from telling their parents about the sex of their unborn child until birth, but it is still possible in many underground clinics. On average, such a procedure is now worth about 100 $ (6-7 thousand rupees).

Фото: Depositphotos

Talks about Equality and the Nirbai Case

Although the problem of imbalance in the social status of men and women has been relevant in India for many years, discussions about gender equality in the “world's largest democracy” are a relatively recent phenomenon. And, as in any country with deep patriarchal traditions, the idea of ​​gender equality meets with great resistance here. For example, India still has not adopted a separate law prohibiting domestic violence. But the vulnerable position of women is not limited to the family: they face harassment on public transport, obscene comments on the street and harassment at work on a daily basis.

In recent years, however, there have been positive shifts: politicians, among whom there are many women, pop stars, popular journalists and bloggers, are increasingly talking about sexism in India. This trend has been picked up by Bollywood, which, as you know, reigns supreme in the minds and hearts of Indians of all ages. A sensation in this regard was the film “Pink”, directed by Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury in 2016. It tells the story of three girls from New Delhi, who met at a concert with three young people who then tried to rape them, as well as the litigation that followed. This film raises such an acute problem for Indian society as victim blaming, and calls for respect for women's rights.

A significant contribution to the development of public discussion on this topic was made by the events of 2012, when India learned about the monstrous gang rape of student Jyoti Singh Pandey in New Delhi. Due to the fact that the girl's name was not disclosed for a long time, she received the pseudonym "Nirbaya" in the local press. Trained in an internship, 23-year-old Jyoti returned from the cinema with her friend on December 16. The young people boarded the bus, where, in addition to the driver, there were five other men, all in a state of alcoholic intoxication. They beat the girl and her companion with an iron bar, after which they raped Pandey with particular cruelty, and then threw both of them out of the car on the road at full speed. Jyoti was admitted to the hospital in critical condition. She underwent several operations and, despite severe injuries, testified to the police.

On December 26, the girl was sent to Singapore, where doctors had been fighting for her life for three more days. Save the student failed: December 29 she died.

The Nirbai case received a lot of publicity and provoked an unprecedented backlash both within India and beyond. A wave of demonstrations swept across New Delhi and other cities in the country, and the rapists themselves were arrested and, after a lengthy trial, sentenced to death. The world media covered in detail the protests and the course of the investigation of the crime, christening the deceased "Daughter of India". It is curious that the first name of the girl was named by a foreign publication, since in India itself there is a ban on disclosing information about victims of rape. In January 2013, the 53-year-old father of the deceased told the Sunday People what her name was. He stressed that revealing her name "will give courage to other women who have been victims of violence." Later, however, he denied that he had told the publication the name of his daughter.

In the 2012 year, under the pressure of the public in India, new legal norms were adopted, toughening the punishment for sex crimes. After the killing of Jyoti Singh Pandey and a number of other high-profile cases, the Indians began to openly demand the authorities' reaction. However, many politicians not only refused to recognize the seriousness of the existing problem, but, on the contrary, blamed the victims of the incident for what happened.

“Boys will always be boys ... They make mistakes. Is it really necessary to hang them for this? ”- said then the deputy of the Indian parliament Moulayam Singh Yadav, commenting on the demands to impose capital punishment on those responsible in the Nirbai case. His words, despite their wild meaning, were well received by a number of other politicians.

In the vast majority of cases, victims of violence in India do not go to the police. This is partly because, due to corruption, many cases do not go to court. In addition, victims themselves are often humiliated, as part of the population believes that in some cases violence against women “can be justified”.

Фото: Depositphotos

A foreigner does not mean “safe”

The tragic death of “Nirbai” gave impetus to the start of a serious discussion about the status of women in India, but the problem is still not resolved. Authorities are trying to combat violence in a variety of ways, including by isolating potential rapists from potential victims. For example, today every train in the Delhi Metro has a special carriage for women. In addition, there are some police stations (including those at the University of New Delhi) that are fully staffed with female police officers. Despite these steps, the number of crimes is not decreasing, and many of them are particularly brutal. For this reason, many residents of the country try not to go out on the streets alone after sunset.

One of the Russians, who worked for several years in the state of Rajasthan and wished to preserve anonymity, told RIA Novosti about her experience of living in India, as well as about how to avoid harassment by men in this country.

“Perhaps the first thing that should be warned about all compatriots arriving here is that it is absolutely impossible to avoid male attention here. Regardless of your upbringing and behavior, due to the stereotypes inherent in Indian society about "white" women, you will almost inevitably be considered frivolous and approachable. "

“You should, if possible, move around the country, especially in non-tourist areas, only accompanied by a man, your clothes should be extremely closed. Of course, there can be no question of any night walks in the company of unfamiliar or unfamiliar Indians - this is the easiest way to make trouble for yourself, ”the girl said.

According to her, the victims of rape in India are most often Indian women, not newcomers. The latter, says the interlocutor, even if they have lived here for a long time, feel more secure. “This does not mean that you are less likely to become a victim of harassment. On the contrary. When I first arrived in the country, every morning it looked about the same for me: I walked to work, and not a day passed without the Indians stopping me and asking the same questions. “Do you have a boyfriend? Can I be your boyfriend? ”- this is how the most innocent of them sounded. In the future, I just developed the habit of not reacting to their addresses on the street, because they always had the same subtext, ”the Russian woman shared.

“It should be understood that the stories in which the locals offer sex to European girls on the street or begin to touch them in public are far from the worst thing that can happen,” she added.

The interlocutor noted how at the beginning of the current year the police of the southern state of Kerala found the headless body of a woman who, as it turned out later, turned out to be a Latvian tourist who had disappeared a month earlier. 33-year-old League Skromene came to India to treat depression and was soon missing. According to the relatives of the deceased, the police laughed and said that the tourist would soon return without taking any action, and only after 10 days did they begin to search for the missing woman.

“In general, if you are planning to move to India for a long time, whether it is for your husband or for work, you should realize that you will have to give up many familiar things. Of course, India is very different: there are even areas where matriarchy prevails, but these are rather exceptions. For myself, I can say that by the end of my business trip I felt like “nailing down” everyone here from whom a greasy look emanated. You can reasonably argue, say that there are many examples of how Russian women moved to India and felt comfortable here. Yes, this is probably possible. But it will require a fair amount of patience from you, ”the girl summed up.

Фото: Depositphotos

Russian wives

62-year-old Irina Alexandrovna from Magnitogorsk says that she moved to India immediately after graduation: “I was in 25, in the last year I jumped in marriage to Raj. He is older on 10, he was beautifully caring, and I was a girl, not spoiled by attention. Love broke out like that, passion — all the friends were jealous. ”

The wedding was played in two countries in turn - both in the USSR and in India. Irina admits that at first she was shocked by the country.

“I thought it was like a movie. Well, beautiful princesses, temples, palaces, elephants, coconut palms, dancing on every corner. And to me on the first day the snake crawled into the bedroom - I squealed like that, I woke the whole house. Raj crushed her foot calmly. Dirt on the streets of the mountain, beggars crawling in scabs, heavy rains on the 3 month in a row ... Romance diminished. But Raj loved me madly, and I loved him, and this is the most important thing. ”

Five years ago, Irina Alexandrovna’s husband died, but she no longer wants to return to Russia. Read the story of Irina and other Russian women living in this country in our material. Russian wives in India: give birth to a boy and listen to the mother-in-law.

Many women who come to all sorts of spa and yoga tours, romanticize this country, but living in it is not as easy and joyful as a tourist can seem. Recall that India is included in the top five countries where the girl is born the worst.

There are those who immediately came to India to work and were able to achieve success. Kristina, a model from Siberia who flew to India to conquer Bollywood and the local modeling business, had the hardest time getting used to the heat. But with the food, everything was very good: various fruits and vegetables in unlimited quantities. In addition, accommodation and meals were at the expense of the employer - there was no need to spend money, although pocket money was regularly allocated. However, Christina prefers not to dwell on the topic of earned money, explaining this by the terms of the contract. I only noticed that they paid her in American dollars. Read Christina's story here - How Russian woman could become a Bollywood star.

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