Background: Poet and Dalit activist Meena kandasamy recently wrote about her story of domestic violence. She is an evocative writer and her article has resulted in a lot of conversation on various web-platforms. Among the usual “hear, hear” and “she must be lying” comments were a few a few questions that are earnest and need to be answered. This is a post addressing those questions.
Note: I am not trying to explain Meena Kandasamy’s story, I have no business doing that. I am strictly answering general questions on the topic of Domestic violence.
How can feminists be victims of violence?
One of the earliest reactions to this story was “how can someone so “strong”, a fierce feminist, put up with domestic violence?”. I hope this leads to people searching for truths about domestic violence, and not concluding that her story is fabricated based on a presupposition that strong women do not get beaten up. On my timeline on twitter, stories were pouring in about VP’s of companies, Doctors, and NGO owners who were victims of violence who suffered in silence for a long time. This is, no doubt, puzzling and I hope to explain why it happens.
There is a totalizing ideology on the march across the world, and it’s anti-women. This is not about religion, piety or virtue. Rather it’s about misogyny and a global war against women. It’s about the rights and freedoms of women. The ownership and control over women’s bodies has become the chief battleground.
Examples abound that all the increase in salaries of women in the corporate world has not addressed what happens under the untouchable umbrella of social customs and cultural practices.
In India, we have more than enough of this happening. From governments being mum on ridiculous judgments of khap panchayats and dishonor killings to daily stories of abandoned and battered girl children, we have ample reason to sit up in alarm.
It is not not that the fight against brutality to women is a purely feminist responsibility, far from it. In her book “Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide” Sheryl WuDunn proposes that the
Central moral challenge of this century is gender inequity
You should watch the whole video.
The important thing to learn from the video and from any work that highlights the issue of inequity is that gender inequity is not a womens problem only. Gender discrimination is the single greatest reason we are unable to face some of the greatest challenges of this decade like religious extremesm and HIV/AIDS pandemic.
While some of you might be skeptical that just educating and empowering women might be a panacea for all of worlds problems, for those who care to look and listen, (not just the video) the transforming power empowered women have on societies is fairly obvious.
I know that there are organizations like Bell bajao and CEHAT that work in the area of Domestic violence, but I am unaware of many others and whether these would call themselves feminist.
In the coming days I hope to gain some insight into the role of feminism in gender equity movement in India and hopefully a better understanding of how the feminist movement in India can take up this challenge with the urgency that it requires.