Feb 8, 2010

A Man In India

I am a man. A man in India.

As a citizen of India, I have some rights - as do all other citizens of India. I may or may not exercise these rights, but I know that as a citizen of this country, no one can take these rights away from me.

I have the right to the highest quality of life in this nation. I have the right to the best food, the best clothes, the highest quality of education, the latest and most modern gadgets. I have the right to own the car with the best mileage. I have the right to live in a home with the best lawn and the biggest bath. I have the right to obtain a degree from the best university and grab the highest paying job in the fastest growing organisation.

I have the right to vote or not vote, to drink or not drink, to smoke or not smoke. I have the right to live and work wherever I wish to. I have the right to spend my time in whatever I find most worthwhile or most enjoyable. I have the right to entertain myself through whichever means are most pleasurable to me. I have the right to marry whoever I want to, whenever I want to, wherever I want to, in whichever manner I wish to. I also have the right to declare or not declare my love and my relationships to the world. I can choose to love whoever catches my fancy, to be friends with them whose company brings me the most joy, to love whoever is most compatible with me, to live with whoever brings me unending joy.

As a man in India, I also have some privileges. I may choose to exercise them, or choose to ignore them, but I know for sure that my gender alone is bestowed these privileges by the Indian society.

I have the privilege to molest a woman and get away with the slightest or no punishment, even harrass her to the extent that she ends her life and the associated torture. I have the privilege to throw acid on and disfigure any woman who refuses my overtures. I have the privilege to rape a woman and then become a magnanimous saviour and a celebrated hero by offering to marry her, since no one else will. I have the privilege to grope the breasts or genitals of any woman who passes by on the street. I have the privilege to feel up and/or press my body into any woman who travels in a bus/train with me. I have the privilege to forcibly drag a woman into my car and do with her whatever I please. I have the privilege to catcall, whistle at, pass lewd/rude remarks at, make derogatory references to, abuse, make fun of, belittle, demean and disrespect any random woman I wish to. I have the privilege to go 'see' as many women as I want to for selection of my bride, and then reject each one of them for being too dark or too tall or too fat or too slim or too short or too educated or too beautiful.

I have the privilege to label any woman who I molest or rape as 'characterless', and have the entire society in my support. I deem it under my privilege to consider asking a woman for 'permission' to touch her - it is my right. I have the privilege to rape a woman and then hold her responsible for not dressing right or being out late at night or talking to me or having been drunk or visiting a nightclub. I have the privilege to assault any random women who choose a lifestyle beyond my very limited comprehension or who dare to think for themselves or who dare to be happy in any place other than their husband's shadow. I can beat up girls who dare to have fun or believe in something I do not. I have the privilege to burn alive women who belong to a caste or sect or race or religion that is distinct from mine. I have the privilege to see 'gori chamdi' as easily available, to believe women who dress in jeans or skirts are wanting to be raped, to think that tourists who visit India are actually only looking for sex.

I have the privilege to harass women on social networking sites with demands for 'fraandship' and 'true relationship', regardless of whether they are interested. I have the privilege to superimpose pictures of random women and girls on those in 'objectionable' poses, and then harrass them for money or sex. I have the privilege to assault and abuse any woman that catches my fancy, and then be absolved of all responsibility since it is she who should have been careful enough while interacting with me. I have the privilege to assassin any woman's character merely by being seen with her.

I have the privilege to interfere in the life of my sister, control how she lives and who she talks to, decide what she wears and where she goes, plan (or not plan) her education and marriage as per my whims, beat her and/or confine her to my home if she does not listen to me, kill her for my 'honour' if she uses her own brain and makes her own choices. I have the privilege to have my wife wait upon my every command, to control her life and mind, to lord over her, to treat her as my personal possession, to ask to sever her relations with her kith and kin, to make unreasonable demands from her or her family, to question her every move, to force my wishes on hers, to smother her dreams and desires with my own, to strangulate her talents and reduce her to a monotron.

I have the privilege to be thought of fervently by my family, to be wished of, to be prayed for, to be conceived, to be nurtured in my mother's womb, to be allowed to be born, to be cherished at birth and for life, to receive the best from my home and my world. I have the privilege to choose the way I live, the way I dress, the way I behave, the way I think and act. I have the privilege to not be responsible for my behaviour and to pin the blame on the victim of my actions.

I have these privileges because I am a man in India - the nation that grants unconditional and unquestionable supremacy to the masculine gender right from when they are planned to be conceived. I am SP Rathore, Manu Sharma, Vikas Yadav, Mahendra Singh Tikait, Pramod Muthalik, Baitullah Mehsud, Ankit Dalal. I represent the Taliban, the Darul Uloom, the Ibtehad Council, the Fatwa Brigade, the Vatican, the Bajrang Dal, the Shri Ram Sene, the Shiv Sena, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the Hindu Jan Jagruti Samiti, the Sangh Parivar. I am the privileged one, not Ruchika Girhotra, not Jessica Lal, not Bharti Yadav, not Taslima Nasreen, not Mukhtaran Mai, not the 'Qatif Girl', not Neha Chhikara.

They are women. They are women in India.

I am a man. I am a man in India. I am privileged.

Jan 12, 2010

Not Woman Enough?

I could hardly believe my eyes when I read this today. I read and hear the absurdest of accounts in newspapers every day, but this one is something the wildest of my imaginations could never comprehend. It made me marvel at the nadirs our supposedly 'honorable' courts manage to sink in to, and how a human has ceased to be considered so, and how all this is so easily allowed to go on.

The 'case' goes such. A woman (let's call her W) worked as a housemaid in a home. One day in April 2006, a man accosted her on way to work, dragged her to a secluded spot, and raped her. The woman, once she came to and realised what had happened, wasted no time in lodging an FIR at the nearest police station. Subsequently, the police nabbed the accused Kashinath and booked him under Section 376 (rape). Not surprisingly, he was soon released on bail, even while the case was still pending in a sessions court.

During the trial, the public prosecutor (a woman) asked W to narrate the unfortunate incident in detail, and W revealed certain facts from her personal life. She told a stunned court and bench that she had never had a menstrual cycle. This was also probably why, according to her, she had never had a physical relationship with her husband of two years. On undergoing a battery of medical tests, it was discovered that the sexual/reproductive organs of W were not fully formed - a congenital condition.

If you think this was a shocking pronouncement, nothing can beat the astounding decision the bench (presumably having some kind of basic minimum educational qualification) conferred on the accused. The defence counsel stated that the medical tests that W was subjected to were proof that she had 'not been raped'! And in an apalling judicial verdict, the rapist was set free, acquitted of all possible charges - even those of 'outraging modesty' or assault!

Now come to think of it, what could have prompted such an absurdity from the 'learned' bench? And on a tangential (yet related) note, who is a woman? Or rather, what is a woman? Does a person being have to have the entire paraphernalia of breasts and vagina and uterus and ovaries to be a woman? Or do the qualifying criteria also include the presence of supposedly womanly behaviour traits - compassion, tolerance, maternal instinct? Is the menstrual cycle the defining characteristic of what makes a woman? Or can a woman not have fully-formed or fully-functioning ovaries and yet be a woman? What about a woman who has her fair share of 'feminine' personality traits but lacks a uterus? Or contrarily, what of a woman who has the required physical attributes but does not love children and cannot tolerate the colour pink? Who, then, is a woman?

And anyway, why does a woman need to have sexual organs in order to be sexually violated? A female infant of a few months may not have a fully-developed uterus, has no breasts at all, and has no menstruation. But she is still considered vulnerable to being raped by the Indian law, and granted protection under the Child Abuse Act. Similarly, a woman well past her menopause with ovaries that no longer function and a non-existent menstrual cycle is also protected from rape by the Indian law. Why, then, did the same law fail to protect W?

Is she not woman enough?