Where Should We Look for the Roots of Indian Misogyny?
by Pubali R. Chaudhuri
So pervasive is India’s hatred for women that even watching an Indian film can be a painful experience for a feminist. You never know when the misogyny is going to pop up like a slap across your face, so casual, so unthinking, so normal, so everyday. The routine insults to women’s rights are so taken for granted.
I was watching a Bengali telefilm where the mother of a young woman was talking of how they had arranged a marriage for their daughter. “In the matter of marriage we are a bit traditional/conservative,” she said. “It was the perfect family, the boy has a good job and his own house, it’s a family just such as we desire.” Indians always refer to bridegrooms as “boys” and brides as “girls” thus indicating exactly how much under parental control they are, how little they are regarded as independent people with rights over their own bodies and futures.
One snag: The young woman does not want to marry into it. So what does one call it when parents insist on their daughter’s marriage without her consent? One calls it a forced, not an arranged, marriage.
What does one call it when sexual intercourse takes place within a forced marriage? That’s right. One calls it rape.
In this case, who are the aiders and abettors of the rape of a young woman? Are they scary deviant rapists off the streets? Or are they the young woman’s own parents who thus set their daughter up to be raped? There’s no way to sugarcoat this. These parents who marry off their daughters without their consent are aiding and abetting the rape of their daughters. They are committing a crime against humanity. Yet there is no outrage, no public protests, no calls for action, nada, against such crimes of rape in forced marriages that happen every day and to millions of women every year in India.
Such rapes are perfectly acceptable, socially sanctioned, legitimized, blessed-by-the woman’s-own-parents rapes.
So is rape the final fate of most Indian women? Rape by forced marriage or rape on the streets? Is not the first unit of violence against the Indian woman then her own home, her own family, and her own community? A culture where she has evidently no right to ask for economic independence first, then the right, as a responsible adult, to choose her own partner, with or without the advice of her parents?
Later, the daughter is shown discussing her impending forced marriage on the phone with a friend. Referring to what will happen if she disobeys her parents, she says, “My father has such a temper; perhaps he’ll even kill me.” Wow.
So the threat of violence comes not from the streets, not from criminal elements, but from the Indian family unit – from one’s own parent.
Tells us something about where to look for the roots of Indian misogyny, doesn’t it?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Pubali R. Chaudhuri is an Associate Editor at Intrepid Report www.intrepidreport.com