Nari Tu Narayani" - Woman, You are A Goddess. There is no dearth of such rhetorical jargon indicating great reverence towards women in our Indian scriptures. These are the words our people recite like parrots when boasting about the high status and treatment of women in Indian Society and Culture to other Nations during international discourses; but, is that the way it is in reality? Behind the veneer of our lofty Indian culture?
Let's move behind the screen to see the actual situation. And there we come face to face with the stark, grim reality- the deplorable condition of the 'unwanted goddess', in all except a few enlightened families who understand the true meaning of culture and live by it.
What do we witness and hear all around us, day and night ? Among people living in the area where we reside or work, on television, and whom we read about in daily newspapers ? Living conditions of people, especially women, and incidents taking place in their lives that are poles apart from the rosy picture painted in our Scriptures and 'Holy Texts'.
Facts that remind one of the great realistic novels and films, like Guru Dutt's 'Pyaasa', with the song shot in the Red Light Area- "Jo he Naaz-e- Hind par Woh Kahan hai ", and "Aurat ne janam diya mardonka, mardone use bazaar diya" of the old film ' Sadhana' starring Sunil Dutt's and Vyjayantimala, which exposed the tragic lives of women caught in the vicious web of immoral traffic.
Despite the appeals made by social reformers and welfare workers, this scourge shows no signs of decreasing. So many girls from poor homes are brought and sold to brothels in India and neighbouring countries like Nepal; and countless girls are deported from India and sold to the Gulf countries.
Rape of young girls, as also of women of all classes, are an everyday affair, not only at the hands of outsiders, but sad and ashamed to say, within the four walls of their house as well, which one would expect to be the safest place for a woman. And it is not always because of the victims wearing provocative dresses or being in a seductive profession like bar girls, that they get raped, as many people believe, judging from the fact that several girls below the age of puberty, and so poor that they have to go about in rags, leave alone specially purchased provocative dresses.
The situation becomes still more complicated, hopeless and depressing if the sexual assault leads to pregnancy of an unmarried woman, in which case she and her poor, innocent child become the objects of social disdain, permanent stigma and all round castigation, leaving her with no choice but to commit suicide, or to harden her heart and desert or kill her newborn child. The worst cases are those of fathers raping their own daughters, even kids, as in the instances reported recently in Mumbai.
This is not all. The evils of female infanticide, dowry harassment and murder of brides, battering of wives and daughters, ill-treatment of widows, with the cruel custom of Sati in some regions, have been a source of pain and righteous anger of all right- thinking people since centuries in India, like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, who was eventually successful in getting at least Sati banned by bringing in the Abolition of Sati Act. But for that, he had to face the censure of our Hindu Society, sacrifice his right to a share in his family's property, and entail the help of the British rulers for the revolutionary Law to be passed.
Still, till only some years back, upto the end of the 20th century,sporadic cases of Sati, such as the Roop Kanwar case,in the small village of Deora in Rajasthan, continued to occur from time to time. The most shocking part of it was that even the young widow's father and his family were proudly proclaiming to all that his daughter had brought glory to both his family and to her in laws, and the site where she committed the terrible act before the whole village or small town, was converted into the place for a fair, in memory of the Sati Devi!
Well, fortunately, the inhuman custom of Sati has been practically eradicated now.
However, another evil has arisen now in its place in our so- called modern society, even in cities and among educated and well-to- do people, namely, Female Foeticide, with the help of the modern medical technique of Sex determination of the foetus in- utero by amniocentesis, i.e testing of the amniotic fluid in the uterus.
This nefarious practice has spread like cancer across all strata of Indian society to the extent of creating a serious imbalance of the male: female ratio, more so in some Northern states like Haryana, so that a stage has come to compel the folk of those states to stretch their hands before other states for brides to get their sons married.
Yet,our people refuse to learn the lesson that women are as necessary to society as men,and so,cases of abortion of female foetuses continue to occur unchecked to this day, in spite of Sex determination and Medical Termination of Pregnancy to abort female foetuses having been banned by Law,in connivance with several unscrupulous and greedy doctors and selfish patients. However,In quite a number of cases,it is the husband and inlaws of the woman who force expectant mothers to undergo the operation against their will.
All these evils have a very deep and damaging effect on the psyche of women , as seen by serials like 'Is Des me Na Aana Laado' being produced by the dozen,and songs such as 'Agle janam mohe Bitiya Na Kijo' appealing to women.
Luckily, a few women like me escape these travails by virtue of being born in truly enlightened and progressive minded families. Nevertheless, one cannot remain unaffected ad undisturbed if one has to hear about the acute suffering of other women or girls every now and then.
Finally, it needs to be mentioned for the information of those naive women who are fooled by the superficial exaltation of women in religious texts into believing that their status is verily that of Goddesses, that a recent Global survey on the condition of women in several countries around the world conducted before the latest G-20 summit meeting in Europe, has released the report that India is the worst country to be born in as a woman!
And as long as the fixed patriarchal mindset of our Indian men and society,including many Indian women brainwashed by that thinking persists,sorry to make the pessimistic concluding statement as below- ' Aurat Teri Yahi Kahaani'!