Posted: Thu, January 17, 2013 | By: Anjalin Joshi
Recent Events in India over the treatment of women and girls have left me appalled and shocked.
It makes me wonder how different my life may have been if my father hadn’t left India several years ago and immigrated to England. I have lived in the U.K. with my parents and two brothers for the last thirty odd years, and I cannot remember a time when I was sexually harassed by any male here.
My parents are traditionally Indian and very much into those old-fashioned values of girls being inferior to boys. I could see they were more interested in my brother’s education than mine and I felt these ‘Indian cultural values’ as I was growing up, to the point where I began to loathe Indian culture.
As you can imagine I wasn’t very close to them. My dear father has now passed away taking a few lectures on equal rights with him. God bless his soul. May he come back as an Indian Woman!
It was only when I went to India at the age of sixteen that I awoke to the reality of life as an Indian female.
Within a space of a few weeks living there I noticed how my cousin brothers spoke ‘down to me’.
Is this the way they were brought up to speak to women? I also noticed how men spoke to women in general in India, as if talking ‘down’ to a woman was an achievement and something to be very proud of.
On the other hand my brothers, in England, never spoke like that at all.
My experience on Indian transport didn’t fare any better. I was on a very busy bus when a man tried to touch me between the knees. I caught his hand and he quickly turned his face away and jumped off the bus. Another incident occurred when I was sitting in a train next to my little brother. I was half asleep and suddenly felt a hand next to my hip. I turned around and the beast quickly removed his hand and moved out of the carriage away.
On top of this I noticed how men looked at me. Surely it wasn’t because I was a foreigner but I know now that it happens to women in India all the time. The men look at you as if you’re a piece of meat waiting to be attacked.
Getting used to India is a hard enough culture shock for someone coming from England but this was despicable.
I was so glad to come home.
I have lived in the U.K. for thirty odd years. I have sat in buses alone at night without being harassed. I have been in train carriages with men without being touched. I have walked in busy crowds without being groped.
The only sexism that I experienced was from my old fashioned father and a few elderly Asian uncles.
Blame lies in the roots of Indian religion and culture and the fact that the politicians of India and the police don’t take women seriously. Oh, and neither does the Indian cinema industry of Bollywood which does further damage by portraying women as merely objects of decoration and the ‘Hero’s girlfriend.’
The ironic thing is that India is known to the world for its spirituality and religious culture yet human/equal rights are non-existent for women, people of the so-called lower classes, and the poor.
On the other hand England is known as ‘GODLESS’ by many and ‘non-religious’ but here we have human rights and systems are in place to help if you are subject to sexual harassment or discrimination of any form. That is the meaning of democracy.
Ask any immigrant who is standing to get past the port of Calais into England, ‘why does he desperately want to come here?’ and the answer is ‘Human rights.’
I am not saying this country [UK] is perfect. There are some women who experience harassment and other forms of abuse and we still need to make progress in the equal pay laws here.
But there are systems in place to protect us because sexual/domestic crimes of any kind are taken very seriously. And I am free, free to walk and live as I wish without anyone imposing any rules on me.
I have many ‘happily divorced and single’ Muslim female friends who wouldn’t dream of going back home to their countries for fear of being abused for their status. They are much happier to be here.
I laugh in scorn when my dad’s friends tell me that British Asian kids should NOT forget their culture.
In Indian culture a girl is seen as a burden when she is born, she has no identity until she gets married, then if her husband dies before her, she loses her identity.
A culture that gives me no identity is not a culture to be proud of.
These rules were made by uneducated old men who had nothing better to do with their lives. And later they were on accepted by a generation too scared to fight for what they believed in and very keen on ‘obeying the rules of their culture.’
The downfall of the Indian woman began with the classic Ram and Sita story.
Ram sought to rescue his wife Sita from a Demon. He finally brought her back safely to his kingdom with a little help from his friends. However his people began to question Sita’s purity.
Sita sat on a holy fire to prove her purity but that did not stop the people from talking.
Ram (whose kingdom was more important to him than anything else) abandoned his pregnant wife in the jungle alone. (Nice guy wasn’t he?)
Surely if he was a devoted husband he should given up his kingdom and gone with his wife?
And what kind of an example did he leave his followers? Well look at the state of India today!
The Indians say that the Ram and Sita story is one of devoted love between husband and wife.
Are you kidding me? It is the story of ultimate betrayal! Are you so uneducated and thick that you can’t tell the difference between right and wrong?
Are you so devoted to your religion and culture that you wouldn’t see injustice even if it hit you right in the face?
As a British Asian female I have more rights in England than I do in my own ‘so-called’ country of origin India. I also feel much safer here.
At one time I and my British Asian friends were inspired when we heard that India was making economic progress but now we shake our heads in dismay.
We believe India will only make any real progress when it learns to treat its women and girls as equal and respectable citizens.