Woman, Honour Yourself: What it Means to Be an Indian Woman Today

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By Ruby Bagga, Guest Blogger @ruby_bagga

This past week has caused me to think about what it means to be a woman, specifically a woman born Indian. Until recently, I did not think that I was any different than anyone else. I thank my parents’ upbringing for that. They gave us a strong foundation by instilling cultural values, the ability to differentiate between right and wrong and confidence in making our decisions. We are a family of 3 girls (yes, brown people, THREE girls !) and from an early age were given freedom in making our choices. Sure, our parents guided us when they felt we may not be making the right decision but more often than not, they would give us their reasoning and let us decide. We were always involved in decisions that may affect our family, be it as trivial as buying a new appliance for the home or the next expat assignment that my dad should accept. I realized this week that my parents may have been an exception to the general parenting style in India.

Over the course of the last few days, horrible cases of infant and newborn girls being killed by their own family have surfaced in India. These are just a few of the ones that the Indian media has broadcast in the hundreds and thousands of infanticide cases that happen each day. Be it foeticide, infanticide, dowry killings, rape or murder, Indian women have learned to live with no rights. Those women that are lucky enough to not be subjected to any of the above, still have to endure other kinds of humiliation.

Just a couple of days ago, a fairness cream ad was released which advertised the product’s power of skin lightning around the vagina. Come on! Do our vaginas now have to be white to have sex?! What kind of a message is being sent to the new generation; that you will only have a happy life if you are fair skinned? One more thing for society to ask of women…pile it on.

All this happens in a land where the majority of its people worship Devis or Goddesses and is widely known as a spiritual haven. It is a country where the literacy rate is 74%, roughly 3 times the population of US, is one of the fastest growing economies in the world, and one with a space program and nuclear energy. Yet, every day women are deprived of their basic rights.

Somewhere, I think Indian women are one of the causes for their own degradation. Had we raised our voices against physical, mental and emotional abuse to us and our children and not worried about the “shame” it would bring to the family, our situation would not have been this deplorable. As Mary Wollstonecraft said, “ I do not wish them to have power over men, but over themselves.” We forget that as women, WE are the ones giving birth to the sons AND daughters. This oppression has to be stopped and women have to unite and raise their voices together.

This article was originally published on Ruby’s Blog here: motherhoodandmore.wordpress.com/2012/04/15/woman-honor-yourself/

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There are 4 comments

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  1. Archna Suneja

    wow, ruby. what a great article and so true. yes as parents we try our best to instill the best in all our children yet also let them make their own decisions about their journey of life. you do write well and just want to say that i truly enjoyed reading it. well, lots of good luck to you and love to all of you, archna aunty

  2. Nadia

    That’s so true. Women do need to unite and voice our concerns. There are many women that aren’t able to speak out and we need to be their voice or help give them a voice.

  3. Sheba S.

    I loved reading this. You are right. The change needs to begin with us women. We need to start standing up for ourselves and showing the world that we value ourselves and each other. Those that have the courage and strength to speak out should continue to do so.

  4. Rita Banerji

    Absolutely Ruby! That’s what I find running a campaign on genocidal violence in India. Violence has become so unbelievably internalized in Indian women, it is the biggest challenge we face. If the victimized group doesn’t recognize its victimization, and eventually participates in it — how is this going to stop?

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