Women of China

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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.

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What’s Ailing Our Patriarchal Society???

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Sad that it is, but reality bites and bites hard.  There is at least one news report of rape each day and each being more heinous than the other. While it is quite unfortunate, but even more unfortunate is the fact the varied comments and opinions that follows from all strata of society. The supremo of the ruling party in Uttar Pradesh, which was scene to the recent horror, retorts that ‘boys will be boys‘. His young-well educated-Chief Minister-assures a woman from media by asking back – “you’re safe here, arent you?”. A common-man from lower strata of the society after the Delhi rape aftermath, blames the higher class women for the kind of clothes they wear and their socializing, which gets them into trouble. People belonging to higher strata of society blame the ‘village boys’ and ‘village girls’ for not knowing how to behave in a society and that being illiterate gets them into trouble. And in between, the middle class reads the daily newspaper expresses its sadness for the woman in news, blames the administration, blames the police, blames everyone and then folds the paper back and forgets the story until one more breaks.

 

Pessimistic I may sound, but atrocities against women is here to stay in this Country. I am quite certain that if total published news about rape, molestation, eve teasing, bride torture are taken into account, it will not be even 10% of the actual occurrences of crime against women.

 

Most of the women, who are part of my family and friends circle, ranging from high class to middle class to rising class, have spoken of abuse in one form of another – from mild to sometimes disturbing. They form part of the remaining 90%, who chose silence over action. Well, while there may be a lot of reasons for that silence, but if broadly put, these may be clubbed as under:

 

i) Societal stigma of openly reporting abuse

ii) Fear of backlash from the perpetrator of crime

iii) Acceptance as part of woman’s life

 

Shocking it may seem, the first reason is prevalent not only outside the family but in many cases, inside the family as well. Instead of showing support, the first question that is likely to be put is ‘what were you doing with that boy?‘ ‘What Will People Say‘ is perhaps the biggest hindrance to effective reporting by women of the crime that takes place. Sadly, my understanding of our society/families of today is that it is more concerned more about their acceptance in the society rather than the individual interest of the family member. An abuse may ruin a life in family but still that abuse should not come out as it will tarnish the “family’s image and name”.

 

Second and third reasons are inter-linked to a large extent. Perhaps the most common reason for not reporting is the backlash by the man in question. While in most cases, women are blamed for falling in the trap in the first place, but the Man who puts the trap is seldom questioned. This is where Mulayam’s idiotic “boys will be boys” comes in. Trust me, this attitude is not restricted to that one man alone. It is not uncommon to find father’s going ga-ga over their son’s machoism and being proud of their son for having little mischief. While woman may indeed fall for a guy but there has to be a trap to fall on, which in most cases is laid down by men. This unfair treatment given to men by asking them to be carefree and expecting women to stay away from ‘trouble’ and imbibing this culture by families and society is what makes the most modern of women go many steps back and accept this as part of life.

 

This acceptance as part of life is as retrograde as sati system of 1700s and 1800s and child marriages of early 1900s. It is interesting to note that the sati system as well as child marriages were also looked down upon as integral part of our supposedly ‘rich’ culture until logic gave way to superstition. But these evil abuse ‘systems’ are distinct from ‘unorganized’ system of abuse of today since the entire society does not have to take part and observe but can be done by one freak from the society. Since society has given birth to so many freaks now, its hard to pass through the jungle and not be bitten by snakes.

 

So why not hold men responsible? Well, this brings me to few unsettling questions about our society and our family.

 

While we as society and family are upfront in blaming almost everyone – from administration to politics, when it comes to abuse, but have we ever introspected and checked if we have contributed to it. There is a billion plus population and hence blame can be easily be divided into billion and thus dilute it to an insignificant amount. How many of the families would have actually sat down with their son and gave them sex education? How many schools and teachers would have actually taken the pain of explaining the concept apart from a chapter in biology class and quickly turning to question and answers part in the last page? I am not expecting even a thousand hands here.

 

Sex is a part of life and everyone is bound to know about it at some point of time. Even animals are aware of it. But what really sets humans apart from animals is the ability to think. If the boy is not educated properly at right point of time and made aware about the process, then there is a very good possibility of boy growing up amongst massive sources of information, which in most cases leads to inaccurate and misleading knowledge about sex. This, coupled with bad company, is perhaps the most important reason for growing number of boys with incorrect information about themselves as well as women, which really starts the problem.

 

Teaching about our own rich culture and tradition is fine. Ya, makes me proud and all of our ancestry. But families do have to take the blame for perpetrating abuse of women by not teaching their sons about the basic facts of life. What amazes me is the fact that parents of today are so strict that they take decisions on what kind of food that they should eat, what dress they should wear and what TV serials they should watch. However, when it comes to telling them about birds and bees, they go silent and expect their young adolescent child to learn everything by himself.

 

Its ironical how saying the word ‘sex’ is looked on with disgust and with raging eyes, while it remains the fact of life. How hypocrite can it get? I am certain that unless there is a meaningful dialog between father and son, the son with all information around him will be lost in the amazon jungle and if he comes in touch with the animals in the jungle, it is certain that population of animals will grow and that of humans will decline.

 

Long story short, its the boys and their upbringing. Think over it and take the blame, Dads and Moms!!!