Seeing Red Over Civil Service Menstrual Forms (India)

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The highlight of my annual travel season is to trek to India in the late fall to experience its multiplicity of traditions and cultures. There are many things I adore about traveling in India and there are conditions and circumstances I find hard to accept.

Every once in a while like today when I read the attached BBC article, I am reminded of the institutionalized gender and sexual oppression women in India must endure—including non-Indian women.  The article is about the section of the civil service performance appraisal form that documents a woman’s menstrual cycle and maternity leave. The womenfolk are not having this muckary and foolishness. After vocal protests and an intervention by the prime minister, the section has been deleted.

During annual visa appointments at the Indian Consulate in San Francisco, I sometimes pass the time by reading the matrimonial legal notices on the bulletin boards. Essentially, these are declaration of a male claiming his possession.  I still haven’t quite figured out why these notices have to be posted in the consulate.  I think it has something to do with non-resident Indians (NRI), many of whom marry Indian citizens.

Another practice that gives me pause is the visa and passport applications requirement for female applicants to list their husband, father or damn near any other male relative on their applications.  I know from first hand experience that unaccompanied female travelers in India are looked upon with suspicion. One year when I planned to take an overnight train from New Delhi to Allahabad to visit a long-time friend, I had to be escorted to the train station and put on the train by her male cousin.

Too much.

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Jai Maa. [Victory to the Divine Mother]

Excerpt from the article:

“I am completely shocked!” said Sharwari Gokhale, environment secretary in western Maharashtra state.

“I have absolutely no words to describe how I feel and I have no intention of telling them anything about my personal life. I am gob smacked.”

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