Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Gender Equality

Rufaida demands R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Strength Thy Name is Woman


A feminist is not the one who wants to be treated like a man but who keeps herself at par with men. Women are in many ways ahead of men, but unfortunately most women either are not aware of their strengths or do not want to be aware. Supporting feminism does not mean giving out lectures but taking charge of everyday life. A woman sacrifices her dreams, desires and 'chooses' to do household chores and take care of the family, without being paid for it! She does it all selflessly and what she gets in return is her husband's beatings, in-laws’ abuses and society's views on 'housewives' where if a child is asked what does her or his mother do, the reply comes "nothing, she is a housewife". This 'nothing' indicates the perception rather misperception of people about the Herculean job of a housewife. The maintenance and perpetuation of human society depends to a very large extent on this indiscernible, unpaid, underrated soul. And the is no recognition of the unrelenting jobs done by women- the cooking, feeding, washing, cleaning and breeding services provided by wives and mothers.

A young woman is a productive and reproductive asset in the larger scheme of things and she is not allowed to take her own decision on who she'll marry like a domesticated cow or horse cannot determine who it will be milked by or whose cart it'll pull. How do these housewives and mothers swallow it all with a smile? This and many other questions always bother me. Why is a woman expected to leave her parents house after marriage? Why is she supposed to adopt her husband's surname? Why is only a woman expected to learn to adjust in a relationship? Why is only a woman supposed to do the household chores? Why is she the epitome of all the values and traditions of a family? And yet why is she the 'weaker-sex'? To all these questions the answers can be traced back from the time of hunters-gatherers. It is a historical fact that at that time there was an egalitarian society. In fact, women had a superior role because of their superiority in sexuality which includes the power of giving birth to an altogether new being and the power to attract any man towards her. Women also had the ability to perform both the jobs that is the household as well as the hunting-gathering. But as the time passed and men started feeling inferior to women, inequality started emerging and women's role started waning. Their role was limited to the household. Through ideology and force the men made women accept this as 'the fact of life or the law of nature'. Men had a physical advantage over women. They were made stronger. They took (mis)advantage of this and overpowered women. They labeled women as the 'weaker-sex'. They did this because they suffered from a huge inferiority complex.

Its human nature that, if there is anything that threatens us, we try to overpower it and this is what men did to women and are still doing the same! But still they could not hide some facts. By producing kids women did the biggest favor to humankind. The pain that she goes through is unmatchable to anything that a man has to face during his entire life.

Most ironical and disgusting side of the story is that it is not just men but women who have accepted slavery as their fate. Indian women are the most 'faithful' of the lot. They think it is their birthright to bear with such a treatment. They are asked to treat their husbands, while she herself is seen as merely a piece of furniture, a machine that produces kids. This plight of women especially Indian women is because they are mentally, physically and financially so much dependent on their husbands that they prefer to get beaten and abused by their husbands than being without his support. Her husband is her only bread-winner after marriage and gives her a sense of security and protection. She feels totally incomplete without him and is not ready to leave him even if he ill-treats or thrashes her. The 'husband' as the title suggests that of a caretaker takes advantage of this situation and treats his wife like a slave is treated by his lord. But her culprit is not her husband but she herself. Women are seen as objects of love and lust because she desires so. She dresses up in such a way that she remains nothing more than a Barbie doll, that’s it! Her brain is supposed to be hidden in her elaborate hair-do.

Men, on the other hand are also stuck in their patriarchic role. From office to home the male is still built in a patriarchic image. An aggressive boss might not be a happy man himself but he is clearly been told that to 'diktat' and 'control' are masculine qualities. The most telling is the popular notion is that a man should not earn less than his working wife. This will definitely hurt his so-called 'male-ego', and even if it doesn't matter to him individually, it'll matter in the society. He has to be the primary bread-winner and if he is not he is being undervalued is the perception. The most common perception of a husband is that of an aggressive, dominating, and powerful, in control of his wife, the provider and if he is anything else, he is then a softie, a henpecked husband who is laughed at by society.

Now, if we come to think of one more aspect of the debate, I would say it was once very rightly said by a very famous historian that a true conversion is not that of faith or religion, but it’s the conversion of a woman which she goes through after her marriage. She gets a new surname, new house, new parents (which she is expected to treat like her own even though they are not), all new relatives, and overall an altogether new atmosphere. No matter whether she accepts it or not, this is got to be her world. a world where she not only has to live, but try her best to create a heaven out of it, even if it comprises a bunch of devils. But who cares! She has got to sacrifice as they say its (sacrifice) the "essence" of womanhood.

After her marriage, a woman is not only a wife or a daughter-in-law, but she is also a mother, a mother who is given very less value when it comes to the surname of the child. In India children are given the father's surname and are shown as the descendants of their patriarchic family while the matriarchic side is totally forgotten. Our old system (of insisting the) father's name be included in the certificates. Why not mother's? This is very unfortunate and discriminatory. She is the one keeping the child in her womb for nine months, getting sleepless nights because of the child, providing him/her with her milk and unconditional love and care. She herself suffers but makes sure that her child doesn't. She is the one taking the child to school mostly, but when it comes to legal and government stuff she stands nowhere.

Not only in India but most of the cultures around the world are marked by a distrust of female sexuality. In Christianity too, it is Eve who bears the stigma of succumbing to the temptation. Women are just 18.4% of the members of parliaments around the world. Many countries, in the developing world, use quotas for their women to get into politics.

Celebrating Women's day once a year is not a solution to this problem. Why not make everyday a women's day! The need of the hour is a 'woman of substance’. One who cannot be taken for a ride, who takes her own decisions, who is independent not only financially but mentally and physically as well. She needs to have self-confidence, self-assurance, self-respect and most importantly self-worth. Until a woman doesn’t respect herself, she cannot ask for respect from the society. Only a woman can liberate herself. They have to understand that power is not given to you, you have to take it. For all this women need to be educated especially women at a grassroots level who are the worst victims of this 'man's world'. Moreover spreading awareness about women empowerment would do a lot of good. This will help women to raise a voice against any injustice done to them. My main purpose behind writing this article is -"if you support humanism, then support feminism”. I would like to conclude this essay by quoting the words of an American playwright and a feminist Clare Boothe Luce,

"Because I am a woman, I must make unusual efforts to succeed. If I fail, no one will say,’ she doesn’t have what it takes’. they will say,’ women don’t have what it takes'."

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