While on a business trip this time to China, I could not help marvel as to why China is so far ahead than us-Indians. I am not even going into economic and geo-political point of view but restricting myself to the attitude of Chinese society towards its women.
I do not wish to enter the murky waters of numerous human rights issues plaguing China at present, but I am only restricting myself purely to my observations of past one week in China as to how the Chinese society, be it in big cities like Qingdao or in small industrial towns like Zibo, treated its people, especially, women. I could not help feel sad for women in India when compared to the situation of women in China.
As I observed, women did all the work, that men would do. Over the course of one week, there was not a single place, where women were not employed and in many cases, did not outnumber. Lets compare both the countries:
Chinese women guard the airports, something that is confined to only security checks as far as women personnel in India is concerned. Chinese airports, in fact, do not have a separate enclosure for women security check and nor do women personnel confine themselves to checking women alone unlike India where separate screened enclosures have been created for women. This fact alone suggests that Chinese do not divide humans into men and women – gender egalitarianism indeed!
Chinese women drive cabs. Woah!!! That’s almost a cultural shock for an Indian. Driving taxi has generally been seen as a male bastion but China does not think so. Indian women, on the other hand, are not safe in their own private vehicles, let alone taxis, whether driving them or in the backseat. Indian society clearly has a lot of catching up to do.
Then as we went to catch a train, we witnessed women ticket checkers in train stations and people complying with checks without any fuss. Can we imagine a situation in India, where women can safely stand and ask people to show their tickets and can we expect the people to quietly abide by the instructions? I haven’t seen women ticket checkers so far in India for past 25 years and that really sums up the situation here as far as this profession is concerned.
There were women working in large factories. They were handling large machines and feeding raw material stock in production units. The proportion of men and women was almost equal. Indian society, sadly, still does not see women as strong enough to engage in factories and considers them, at best, suited for simpler “non-fussy” jobs. Even today, only a small percentage of women are encouraged to step out and compete with the world.
Work apart, women are not forced, either due to fear of reproach, unwanted attention or due to moral obligation, to wear a dress of their choice. It is still a distant dream in India for women to freely move about in public places with their own choice of dress. Yes, dress. Something people in developed societies will find it amusing. As many call it here in India – wearing a short dress is immoral and attracts unwanted attention. So, whose fault is it again. The one who is wearing or the one who is watching. Is it the dress or is it the eyes, which ogles at women and scans through their dresses, which is immoral. As one well known law-maker once said of rapes, Men will be Men and they will be naughty!! With a democratically elected law maker saying this in a public event, it says a lot about the twisted patriarchal mindset of the elected and the electors – together forming the society we live in. With this atmosphere, the women can never expect themselves to be safe even in a burqa. In China, on the other hand, I did not witness even a single incident of men ogling at women or women feeling uncomfortable at public place. Women in China wore the dress they felt comfortable in and not a single guy was found to be staring at them or making lewd remarks. Ask any woman here in India and she will recount numerous stories.
In sum and substance, problem lies in the mindset of the society at large, where men and women are still seen as two distinct species rather than one single specie. Indian society is unable to come out of this mirage. We Indians are still reluctant in allowing women to take up jobs, which “we” “feel” is unsafe for them and want to “protect” them. Firstly, the problem is “we” not the women. It is “we”, who have created this unsafe climate for them. Secondly, this “feeling” of the society is its own giving, largely due to the fact that the patriarchal society is deep-rooted with its twisted understanding about the role of women in society. We are so much in love with our past and male chauvinism that we want to hold on to our chest, without even applying our mind whether the tradition that was followed millenniums ago are still relevant today or not. I am not against the traditions that we have, which are based on sound logic and reasoning but blindly following a practice with seal of approval of a particular religion is only creating a bigger mess. Patriarchal society was required during the era of barbaric invasions, when society was on the lookout for strong men to fight, kill and die, with women handling families. That era ended thousands of years ago. Brains should have developed by now to understand the present times. Sadly, it has not. And lastly, as regards the duty to protect, the question is, protect from whom? the society? How will the society save the women from itself? Indian society has time and again failed to “protect” women in India, when frankly speaking, there should not have been a situation to protect someone.
China, on the other hand, due to its largely atheist population, is atleast saved from illogical religious commandments. They seem to have a concept of one society, one people. Though we may stand here on this side of the border and ridicule the Chinese for their language and their eating habits, but be as it may, their society in so far as governing itself, if not the world, seems to be pretty much developed. India, on the other hand, is not progressing but only regressing downhill on this aspect.
To conclude, I have a firm opinion that China is way ahead than India as far its understanding of the concept of society is concerned and it will take atleast two to three generations to realize and few more generations to correct the mistake.