Patriarchy in India refers to the inequality that women face here on a daily basis.The superior position accorded to men and the subordinate one to women, the ideology that women constitute the secondary sex is manifested in various ways and traditions, some of which are as follows-
10- Our Vocabulary
Our everyday vocabulary is so derogatory towards women that it is disgraceful. Popular sayings include gems like ‘Haath me chudiyan pehenana’ which translates into ‘wearing bangles on one’s wrists.’ So how is that wrong? It is wrong because this saying is used to denote weakness or cowardliness. The idea behind it is- Women = Bangles = Weak. Obviously a sign of patriarchy which functions on the belief that women are the weaker sex. Moreover, the words used to describe attractive women range from ‘item’ to ‘maal’ (goods). Blatant objectification of women. The English phrase – act like a man- too has its translation in Hindi too, as- Mard bano. It has been taken one step further into ‘mard ko dard nahi hota’ or ‘a real man feels no pain.’ All of these words serve to either commodify women, remind them of their inferior position in society or refer to them as weak and useless.
9- Eve Teasing
‘Eve teasing’ is a word that isn’t found anywhere else in the world. In India, however, it is a common occurrence. EVERY girl who has hit puberty, and then some who haven’t, has faced cat calling, whistling and staring from roadside romeos. Eve teasing is a common phenomenon in our country where girls are routinely objectified and stared at, where every girl, at least once in her life, has heard men calling out to her, where walking on the street in broad daylight can be dangerous. Eve teasing is the practice where men stand on street corners and mentally undress every woman walking by, often calling out to her with derogatory words. Now why is this a sign of patriarchy? Simply because eve teasing is a way for men to assert their dominance over women, who usually do not retaliate back out of the fear of getting raped or molested or having acid thrown or them (yes! It all happens)
8- Covering Up
Picture translation- Your gaze is dirty and I should be the one covering up? Covering their bodies up is a thing that all young women in our country are supposed to do. The freedom to be able to dress according to one’s own wishes simply does not exist in most areas. There are a very few areas, in fact, where women can roam around safely in shorts or revealing clothes. College campuses and upmarket malls are some, but even there a few educational institutes impose bans upon sleeveless tops or shorts. Most women carry stoles or shrugs with them while travelling, just so they can cover up on the way before they reach their destination. The moral policing and the mindset of the country is such that a woman in short clothes is automatically promiscuous and wants to show her body off. How is this a sign of patriarchy? It conforms to the age old idea that a man needs to control the sexuality and the body of the woman. It is further compounded by the senseless and patriarchal moral policing that advocates the notion that the culture of India is being destroyed by women wearing short clothes. Even women have internalized this idea to the extent where they consider baring legs to be an ‘invitation’ for men to stare at them.
7- The Girl is a Burden
‘Beti bojh nahi, laathi hai’, roughly translated as ‘A daughter is not a burden but a source of support.’ This is a commonly used line that people use to educate others on the fact that a daughter is not a burden on the family. Sadly, however, the mindset is still the same- a girl child is a burden, while a son is the key to all happiness. Gender discrimination in our country is not just restricted to the rural, unaware and uneducated class. Even the so-called educated and aware people regularly indulge in it. While sex-checking of the foetus before birth is banned, you will find many a clinics who are happy to do it illegally. If the unborn child is a girl, abortions are common. So how is this a sign of patriarchy? Isn’t it obvious? The male child is preferred over a female child. Could there be any clearer sign of patriarchy? I don’t think so.
6- Domestic Violence
Domestic violence is a huge menace in our country where a lot of men regularly and routinely beat up their wives. It is especially common in the lower and economically impoverished classes where the husbands get drunk and thereafter physically and verbally abuse their wives. But even in the upper classes, the practice is not totally eradicated. According to statistics, about 68% of the women in India have experienced domestic violence. A lot of this violence stems from dowry-related issues. Dowry deaths were, in fact, a very common occurrence till only a few years back and are still happening. How is this a sign of patriarchy? Well obviously, the first and foremost notion being reinforced here is that women constitute the ‘weaker sex’ (which may be true in terms of physical strength) and are defenseless. Moreover, abuse in any form, verbal or physical, is an assertion of power more than anything else. The men here feel the need to assert their power over women.
5- Sex Ratio
The sex ratio in India is deplorably skewed. As of 2011, it ranged at 940 women 1000 men. Of this, the lowest sex ratio was seen in Haryana which had 877 women per 1000 men. So how is a skewed sex ratio a sign of patriarchy? Very simply, the skew is a result of the fact that the girl child is unwanted in India and therefore very often aborted or killed at birth. The practice of female infanticide is especially common in rural areas of states like Rajasthan and Haryana. Although sex detection of the foetus is a banned practice, it is still done illegally by doctors looking to make some extra cash. Very often, if the foetus is found to be that of a female, an abortion is carried out. The fact that the desire for a male child is so strong is in itself a very strong sign of the patriarchal mindset which believes that a male heir is absolutely necessary to carry forward the family name.
Dowry refers to the money, jewellery and property that the bride brings to the groom’s household after marriage. Even a cursory Google search will tell you that 90% of the results that show up are in some way related to India. This practice is so common and so widespread in India that it does not even raise eyebrows anymore. How is this a sign of patriarchy? The practice of dowry works as an excellent means to oppress the ‘weaker sex’ and maintain the illusion of superiority by the groom’s family- superiority that has its basis on nothing but gender. The idea behind this practice is simple- we, the groom’s family, want compensation for taking away the burden of a female from you, the bride’s family. The practice of dowry then works to facilitate the continuation of patriarchal traditions in India, thereby harming the social fabric of our country. It is an obstacle in the path to progress, for it works on the notion that half the population is less important than the other half.
3- Moral Policing
“Party workers beat up women at a pub.” “Moral police tears down Valentine’s Day posters.” “Girl molested for consuming alcohol.” “Police refuses to file FIR saying that the victim of rape was a ‘loose woman.’“ It is not uncommon to find such headlines in our newspapers. The moral policing in India targets women and aims to control their freedom to speech, movement, free will and even their sexuality. The people of authority take it upon themselves to ensure that women do not wear the clothes they want to wear, do not drink or smoke even if they are of legal age, do not roam around with members of the opposite sex, basically do not do anything they want to. Political parties back up such trouble-making factions in an attempt to increase their votebanks. So how is this a sign of patriarchy? Anything that attempts to control women and their freedom in any way is a sign of patriarchy. If a boy of legal age is able to go to a pub and drink without having fingers raised at his ‘character’, a woman should be able to do the same.
2- People in Power
The people in our country who hold powerful positions have made certain statements that will make you want to bang your head against a wall. I will not express my own opinion here, just let their own words reflect the mindset in our country-
“Our culture doesn’t back smoking by women” -Health Ministry
“Boys and girls should be married by the time they turn 16, so that they do not stray… this will decrease the incidents of rape”- Sube Singh, Panchayat leader
“One should not be adventurous being a woman”- Sheila Dixit, CM of Delhi
Women should not work after eight pm – Gurgaon Police
Ah. What better symbol of rampant, blatant, baseless and stupid patriarchal mindset than the insane amounts of rapes that take place in India? In 2012, 24,000 cases of rape in India were reported. The sad part is that half of the rapes happening go unreported because the family fears ‘dishonor.’ How is this a sign of patriarchy? Rapes are not so much about lust and sexual desire as they are about power assertion. The assertion of power over a woman is the driving motive behind rape. As patriarchy has led the males to firmly believe-they are stronger than all women and must show off their power by repressing them- rapes are a manifestation of this mindset.