Travelogue – Bombay, India

Gender Notions-Between A Rock And A Hard Place

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The plight of women and girls in India can only be described as between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand women from middle class and affluent backgrounds are encouraged to pursue their ambitions without regard to their gender. Women can be found amongst the ranks of physicians, engineers, and even airline pilots. I have the impression that as long as a woman gets married and bears children her professions is of little consequence. I find it extremely odd that high level academic administrators, government officials and the like privilege “Mrs.” in their titles before all other titles they may hold including “Dr.”, “Commissioner” or even “The Honorable”.

The predicament and treatment of women and girls in the lower castes becomes even direr because they may carry the burden of the caste and perhaps a darker hue. Illiteracy influenced by patriarchy and misogyny can literally make for a deadly combination for many women in this country.

I have observed Indian children of both genders of varying backgrounds and caste fawned over and doted on by their parents and family members with such affection to a degree I don’t see in the states. But make no mistake about it male children are highly prized and femicide and foeticide in some parts of India have reached epidemic proportions.

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It seems the primacy of males is taught from birth. While searching for educational toys for a group of Mahim district youth whom I first visited in 2005 and who seem to have adopted me in 2006, I spotted this children’s book for young children learning to read. Judging from the cover of the book I presumed it would appeal to both boys and girls. Imagine my indignation upon noticing the invisibility of girls in all the subject areas. But to my absolute dismay the section on word opposites included this photograph illustrating the difference between beautiful and ugly.

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Nuff said.

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