Thiruvananthapuram: As 2018 draws to a close amidst the Sabarimala cacophony and 2019 promises to usher in yet another free and fair general election in India-Bharat-Hindustan, women in God’s “own country” find themselves at the crossroads of freedom and bondage. Social awareness has peaked following the September 28 Sabarimala verdict of the Supreme Court that placed gender equality above religious values. With menstruation taking centre-stage a long-standing taboo was broken and women began to seriously challenge men for the first time.
Mute spectators suddenly became activists, often freaking out on FB and Twitter. Skeletons tumbled out of patriarchal closets, as the ripples of the October 2017 #MeToo revolution gradually reached India’s shores.
Women born in independent India have always taken their freedom for granted. Never having known the agony of slavery we didn’t need to think about how we gained these rights. Instead of granting new rights to women to correct the gender imbalance, a handful of men are now trying to snatch away some of our existing rights. Sabarimala is a case in point. What the Constitution offers, what the SC awards, what the government endorses is not practised, because all these institutions are at the mercy of male mobocracy. The threat of violence is enough to make everybody cow down.
With 5 per cent representation for women in the Kerala Assembly and 12 per cent in the Lok Sabha, what progress can women expect? The Women’s Reservation Bill haslapsed after languishing for decades. The 2019 elections are unlikely to change this dismal scenario.
Politicians like Congressman K. Sudhakaran have the audacity to proclaim that women are unclean. Many others are saying the same thing without using offensive words. The Leader of the Opposition, the Devaswom minister, the president of the Devaswom Board - all these men are cutting a sorry figure by making pronouncements about women’s so-called impurity.
Sabarimala and the menstruation dialogue are only triggers. The #MeToo movement suggests that women can no longer be silenced. Today’s woman is going to speak out about the crudeness of male behaviour - the indecent propositions, the grabbing and groping, the fanciful ideas that men have about their sexual prowess and their attractiveness to the female, and so on. When the silence is broken, men will no longer look like supermen, the emperor will stand exposed in his nakedness, and the rock-solid foundations of patriarchy will be shaken like never before.
Today’s woman is acutely aware of her inequality — and unwilling to accept it.
We in Kerala are educated, employed, income-earning, property-holding and independent.We ride motorbikes, drive cars and fly planes. We travel round the world unescorted. The advent of contraception has liberated us. The technological revolution has changed our lives forever. Social media has given every woman a voice.
However, we still don’t have equality but our Constitution acknowledges that we have a right to be equal. The sad part is that there is no equality in intra-household division of labour. The scene will change when women rise up and say “It’s not my job!”
The era of the woman has begun. Though many of us are yet to realise it, the juggernaut is unstoppable. Believe it or not, the current century will see a turnaround in women’s fortunes. Women’s insubordination is an idea whose time has come.