If you possess a vagina, you're fucked anyway. The vagina can never win over a penis. This is the perception of a majority in a patriarchal world that we live in. At birth or before death, you will be harassed, discriminated, beaten up and will have to go through all sorts of torture that will kill you anyway, if not physically, then mentally.
At birth and even before!
Before you even enter the world, parents want to know if it is a girl or a boy instead of waiting to be surprised, happily and otherwise too. Some, who do not want a girl, make their wives/ partners abort. Some, who are happy about the girl, welcome her into this world. And, some are happy to be surprised about the fact that it is a girl.
Either ways the birth of a girl is a curse. If not at her birth, she will be discriminated at other stages of life. Gender bias/discrimination can never be erased from India or say, Indians for a matter of fact. Why? We have religious customs/traditions/rituals where a girl child/ infant is killed after reciting rituals. So religion comes in way. And, we're all gungho about our religions and customs that we will not stop practising them even if it's a social evil or happens at the cost of taking someone's life.
Sex determination of a baby is a crime according to Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques Act, 1994 which says:
"The Act prohibits the medical personnel from conducting or helping anyone conduct sex-selection. All medical equipment regarding pregnancies shall be sold only to registered clinics. All pre-natal diagnostic techniques are banned except for the detection of chromosomal abnormalities, genetic metabolic diseases, haemoglobinopathies, sex-linked genetic diseases, congenital anomalies, any other abnormalities or diseases as may be specified by the Central Supervisory Board; only as long as there is a potential threat to the child. No person is allowed to divulge the sex of a child in any form of communication, no clinic or person is allowed to conduct sex determination tests, and no person shall commit the act or sex selection or aid in doing so."
The government of India, in 1994, introduced this Act to prevent female foeticide.But, even today it is practised. Adding to this, doctors and medical practitioners are facilitating foetus destruction. Horrific as it sounds, the reason for aborting a female baby is because of shame that stems from the fact that the girl will not carry the family name further or because the girl is a "burden" to the family. The above reasons are well known to one and all.
Now, even if the baby is born, she is not spared. Those who are poor, try to kill the baby (female infanticide), in the name of poverty and unable to take care of the child. Some again, try to sell her off for as low as Rs64. Read this. We have come across plenty of instances where a girl has been sold off.
Even after the baby (girl) is born, she is subjected to discrimination. A girl is looked at as a symbol of weakness at her birth. Power does not belong to her. Parents also accept it and treat the girl delicately. Sometimes, her marriage is fixed as soon as she is born. The "guy's" parents are apparently "happy" at the birth of the girl only to harass her later. And phrases like "don't cry like a girl" only increase the bias and make gender inequality thrive in a patriarchal society like ours.
We also marry them off early. This is happening in the other parts of the world too, apart from India. You can check a photo story on child marriages by the Washington Post here.
Irrespective of whether the girl is physically and mentally mature, she is married off at the age of 4, 5 ,6 and so on. In such cases of child marriage, the man is almost and certainly elder than the girl. Even the age gap between the two is huge. In these cases, parents wait for the girl to "come of age" (menstruate) and then send her off to her in-laws place.
Before of after she begins menstruating
Our so called "Indian" customs make this a celebration. It is an indication of the girl becoming ready to bear a child. The onset of menstrual cycle is another natural curse. Parents begin fearing for the girl if she is with male friends from this age. What they don't understand is that the more you prevent, the more your child is attracted to something. This is also an age where there is a lot of mental disturbance, anxiety and the opposite sex becomes the opposite and not equal.
Amid this, the girl has to go through even teasing (by men/boys) for her appearance whether she is thin or fat (because of the weight-conscious world we live in). Then comes the colour compelxion, which, if the girl is dark, is frowned upon, is called names. Though all this is acceptable and makes the girl stronger in dealing with different problems at puberty, on the other side, it highlights the male control over her.
While we know that is the age when the girl begins experimenting with her likes/dislikes and starts discovering herself, parents begin imposing restrictions. If the girl has too many male friends, it is a problem, if she doesn't, she is a good girl. But, the same parents, would leave the child alone with her male cousin or her brother at home and not believe their could sexually assault her.
At a later stage, she begins getting attracted to men/women, which is but natural and begins exploring her sexuality. Though she doesn't realise it is infatuation, she'd like to explore it. Here, again, she is restricted. There are restrictions on timings. Why? Parents fear that the girl might be unsafe walking on the roads in the night. These are the same parents who cannot accept the fact that their daughter has been raped by the grandfather or the brother or any other male member.
And once she is in college, she gets in/out of relationships. Even then, she is not supposed to. It is a taboo. But at the same time, if there's a son who has fallen for a girl, his relationship is accepted. Why? Because he is a boy, he possesses penis, he has more power and cannot win over a vagina.
Then comes sex. Sex, in India, is still a taboo. We're never ready to talk about it openly or even pronounce the word out in the open but want to watch porn and experiment under the sheets and RAPE women. Sex before marriage is still a blunder. It is still seen as the biggest mistake a woman can make in a country where a woman (Sita) walked into fire to prove her chastity/purity or that she was a virgin. Here also, if a girl has sex before marriage, she is a slut. If a boy has sex before marriage, he is a stud. He becomes "the MAN" for nailing the girl. But, the girl is seen as a slut, of lose character, one who sleeps with any man, etc.
Before and After marriage
Like sex, even love marriage is a big problem. With so many castes, sub-castes, religions, cultures etc, India is a democracy. But Indians can never be democractic. Love in India is gender-specific. If it is a boy who falls in love and wants to get married to the girl of his choice, he is given permission. If it is a girl, she is not allowed to.Why? The guys carry the family name, the caste they belong to, and more importantly, because he is a guy, he can do anything. And why not the girl? Because she cannot decide for herself, she gets manipulated easily and might end up in a bad marriage. What these parents forget is that, the girl, too, has a mind. She also can think.
Another issue is that of caste or religion. If the guy (who the girl loves) belongs to a lower caste according to the caste system's rankings, she is not allowed to. Why? The society will talk badly about the parents, their image goes for a toss and they can never live proudly. Sometimes, the boy and the girl are killed for belonging to two different castes and falling in love/ getting married (Khap Panchayat). Yes, these khap panchayats decide what your husband and you should do in our bedroom. And we happily allow that.
So where is the point of gender equality when the girl is compelled to marry the one she is not interested in? And, even if the parents want to listen to the girl about her choice of the groom, they can come up with a 1000 reasons to prove that she should leave him. What they forget is that, the man of their choice might, in future, have sex with their daughter which would be "marital rape" because it was forced and not consensual. They also forget that caste doesn't play any role in the birth and death of a person but comes in between the two.
In India, caste matters. Yes, it does. But till when? Until we give importance to it. Until we want to keep it alive. What parents don't think is whether their son(s)/daughter(s) would really identify themselves with the caste or disassociate from it. No one is born into a caste. It is thrust upon them. And, even in this case, the girl either has the father's name as pre-fix or suffix before marriage and husband's name (after marriage).
Just before her marriage and after it is fixed, the system of dowry comes into picture. Though dowry in the olden days was meant for the girl to settle down in a house alien to her and that the little money and articles her parents give would help her. Now, marriage is no more a marriage. It has become a business. A bride buying business. Once the girl is sold off, she is taken for granted.
She is expected to look after the house, the kids, bear with marital rape, listen to the in-laws, take all the beatings and still remain calm. She is expected to not have male friends else she is not a loyal housewife. And, if the husband helps her in the kitchen or respects her for what she is, the others think the wife is responsible for turning the man into a "powerless" human. Even after marriage, she has to sacrifice a lot of things for her kids, her husband, suppress all her likes and live like a lifeless human being and serve the husband.
And then, there is female genital mutilation which is a consequence of man's insecurity that a woman will derive sexual pleasure if she possesses her genital organs and sleeps with other men and hence, her genitals are cut/mutilated. Even then, she has to go through the pain quietly and not complain.
So, a woman, irrespective of her age, undergoes discrimination at every stage of her life in this country. She dies many a time before death comes calling to her. Yet, she has to bear it all silently. Even when she is stripped naked in public, we stare at her but wouldn't help. I guess that's what our mythologies taught us (Mahabharata) and we strictly follow them.
It is a shame that all these are deeds of our mind, how we perceive things. Even "caste" and "gender" are the things of the mind and existent in our blood or any part of the body.
Like the Cambodian civil rights group said : "It is not gender which is destroying our culture.... it is our interpretations of culture which has destroyed gender equality."
And, here's a suggestion to parents/partners:
"DO NOT GIVE BIRTH TO KIDS IF YOU CAN'T RAISE THEM OR WANT TO KILL THEM. THINK BEFORE YOU LEAP. WEAR A CONDOM AND HAVE SEX. IT SAVES A LOT OF LIVES, INCLUDING YOURS."
Note: This is not a generalised post. All the examples I have mentioned are just examples to highlight an issue. This post is not to cause harm/offend anyone. You are free to hold positive/negative) opinions and comment.