Hemangi Gurjar, [2nd year BA LLB student at NMIMS Kirit P Mehta School of Law]
Since the last several years, women have made effective use of the chances that have been provided to them, demonstrating time and time again that they are equal to anybody else. With discussions and activities on women's empowerment abounding, the twenty-first century presents sufficient opportunity for women to thrive in whatever sector they choose. Women have actively participated in all domains, whether it is joining the military services or taking up leading roles in government institutions. But that in no way makes it easier for woman to survive without having others question their choices, even in the twenty-first century.
Indians will never stop judging women for their decisions, be it be a woman wanting to marry early on in life or wanting to hold off on marriage to prioritize her career. At some or more points in life, every woman in India has nodded with derision when someone enquired her about her marriage plans as if marriage is the only turning point in the life of a woman.
The misogyny embedded in these statements is so inviolable according to some and some with access to large platforms fail to realise what effects their statements can have on the public at large. Recently, Karnataka Health Minister Dr K Sudhakar commented on how “lots of modern women in India want to stay single. Even if they get married, they don't want to give birth. They want surrogacy. So there is a paradigm shift in our thinking, which is not good," and the amusing part is that the statement was made during the World Mental Health Day at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurological Sciences (NIMHANS). A woman being aware enough to know what her body might not be able to power through is being labelled as ‘following western culture.’ This is one of many sexist remarks passed by people with access to an audience on a subject that does not require their opinion. A woman’s choice of giving birth, not giving birth, having a surrogate, or adopting, is her personal choice which she should not be questioned for.
This is one of many instances where people with significant power, being in politics have made sexist remarks against woman which were absolutely demeaning to each and every woman of the country. Attacking women, their choices, their careers, their bodies and their lives has been a defence mechanism for many.
In November 2021, KPCC president Mullappally Ramachandran said, “This woman had cried that the entire state had raped her. We can understand if a woman gets sexually abused once. But if it gets repeated, then any woman with self-esteem would either commit suicide or try to prevent such a thing from happening again. But this woman has been saying she was repeatedly abused”, to say this to an audience of hundreds was disrespectful to rape survivors everywhere.
Sexism is harmful and it produces feelings of worthlessness, self-censorship and it also changes behaviour and deteriorates the health of those affected by it but what does not change is that ultimately it lies in the roots of gender inequality. Women have to face this everywhere be it the 63% of women journalists who have been confronted with verbal abuse or 80% of those who were mansplained or manterrupted at work. Individual acts of sexism may appear harmless, but they contribute to a climate of dread, insecurity, and intimidation.
All of this negates the struggle of millions fighting for equality every day. Fighting to prove that women do not require permissions, do not have to be subservient and that they can make their own way in the world. For centuries everyone has been trying to explain why women deserve to live the same life as men do, no questions, no judgements when it comes to personal choices but it has been long enough and it gets exhausting to demand basic respect.
At this juncture what we sincerely hope for is that if people do not support those fighting for eradicating issues like sexism and inequality they should also not make things worse and exacerbate wounds for those who have suffered.
Why should there be a fuss about providing more protection to women when society provides everyone equal rights to safety and security and freedom? Our cultural outlook based on sexuality and gender bias, where women are deemed weak and undeserving, is the answer; a culture that has fiercely supported the life of a woman under the guardianship of a father, brother, husband, or son from the dawn of time. It did not respect her wishes and wills, preventing her from living a decent life. Women were protected, but only under the appearance of subordination.
When a woman wants to live no one wants her to live the way she wants, that needs to change and all the choices that a woman makes should remain hers without judgment and especially without having men tell them what is wrong with how they choose to live.