A few years ago, I took a trip to India. Although I finally felt connected to the land of my ancestors far more than ever before, there were still aspects about the country that rattled me and I questioned what it was like being an Indian woman in a country considered to be one of the most dangerous for people of my sex.
India is a land of contradictions. The divine female is revered in the form of Lakshmi, Sita and Radha, but yet everyday women are mistreated, abused and raped. This is happening in “Mother India.”
One night we were out shopping for saris. Men zipped past on their motorbikes. There were no women in sight. The gender disparity became apparent.
There are more men compared to women according to statistics compiled by the Indian government. Child marriage is still a concern and female infanticide. According to the The Thomson Reuters Foundation, India is the most dangerous country in the world for women. There are many Indians who abhor these negative practices and are working towards changing the mentality surrounding the girl child.
I grew up with two sisters, no brothers. I have heard the comments made to my parents, “You don’t have any sons?”
It is a long standing belief that a male child is more valued than a female.
During our time in India, my sister and I wanted to hear the voices of the women in our motherland.
In Mumbai during a taxi ride back to the hotel, my sister and I nervously held our breaths. Mumbai is a city of millions. You do what you must to survive. Rows of slums went on for as far as the eye could see. Piles of garbage and open sewers-the playground of innocent children. A woman-sari draped around her slim frame-squatted by an open fire making her family’s dinner. Her children ran naked under the tarp they called home. I felt like I was looking into the pit of hell.
Late one night, as we stopped at an intersection, I spotted two little girls. They looked like they were around five-years-old. The children sat on the dusty island between the two lanes, playing with small chunks of wood. A group of men gathered a few meters away.
I went back to my hotel and cried, asking my parents, “Why is India like this?”
India will test your resolve and break your spirit.
But there were also beautiful moments of hope. My sister and I spoke to the women in the busy cities and quiet villages to find out how they felt about living in India.
My prayer is that one day the land of my grandparents will lovingly respect women and children so that we no longer hear the negative news about the hate directed towards Indian females.
“Every few days, girls as young as one are raped. I don’t talk to men I don’t know and I don’t travel alone at night.”
~ MUMBADEVI IS A HOUSEKEEPER FOR A MAJOR HOTEL IN MUMBAI. SHE HOPES TO GO STUDY AND LIVE ABROAD.
“With education daughters are no longer a burden, they are a help to a family because they bring in money. With education, men and women are both equal.”
~ JIGNA MADLANI, 29, IS A TEACHER IN PORBANDAR, GUJARAT.
“Without tattoos, my arms look naked. It hurt to get them done and caused bumps all over my arms.”
~MANISHA MODVARIA, LIVES ON A FARM WITH HER IN-LAWS.
“We pick up the garbage because we want Porbandar to be clean.”
— THESE WOMEN BELONG TO THE UNTOUCHABLE CLASS IN PORBANDAR, THE SAME TOWN WHERE MAHATMA GANDHI’S WAS BORN. GANDHI PUSHED FOR THE ELIMINATION OF THE CASTE SYSTEM, BUT LOCALS HERE SAY ADHERENCE TO THE CASTE SYSTEM REMAINS STRONG.
”In the last five to ten years, no one is upset if they have a girl, they are very open minded, even the village people aren’t upset even if they have a girl.”
~ DR. PRAMODINI A. MODI OF RIDDHI HOSPITAL. SHE SAYS IT IS ILLEGAL TO CONDUCT ULTRASOUNDS ON THE UP TO 400 EXPECTING MOTHERS THAT VISIT THE HOSPITAL YEARLY.