Are women really so disempowered the way we are discussing today on Women’s Day? I think ‘not’. Or is it their sense of internalization of violence, self domestication and psyche of being a weaker sex that has rendered them confused? I think ‘yes’. The term Empowerment or equality holds different meanings to different people and is dependent on people’s ways of interpretation. However, it is mostly the academic and political domains that over-exaggerate and represent gender issues in a more belligerent format. I think we have lost the real vision of understanding both the women suffering and their empowerment because we always compare more than conceptualize the various and distinct contexts of their empowerment and mere imitation to us is almost synonymous to development or women’s being at par either with men or western women. An important perspective of women’s self evaluation, perception of self-satisfaction and self actualization is still missing in the dominant gender discourses. To a larger section of the populace and so called social analysts, rural or tribal women are disempowered perhaps because they do not go to beauty parlors every week or attend meetings or conferences but lie at home, rare cattle, work in fields, take care of children, or do not know how to prepare ice creams or foreign recipes, etc,. A researcher on women on finding women working in fields in villages, abruptly concludes that they are slaves, made to work by men, lack government jobs, are illiterate and thus disempowered and disadvantaged, etc, ignoring the fact that wonen keep on motivating their family members to work hard for the family’s progress.The basic facts remain hidden like the fact of the people’s sense of empowerment in different contexts and geographies, the sense and sprit of coexistence and division of labour among people, women’s own sense of empowerment and their consciousness of responsibility towards home, culture of work and hard work among women, women’s working alongside men in fields also means equality to them.
The so called revolution/delusion of igniting women against men or awakening them to strive for their rights was feminism that even attacked the institutions of motherhood and marriage, is now breathing its last. Even those championing its cause or striving for equality or the pan obsession for equality were married and mothers. Though I am not against the women’s liberty of choosing to be single and enjoy life with all comforts,for it is anybody’s right to live the way he/she wants. The fact is, anything that stands on rhetoric and hollow base loses its validity and charm as time passes. The same happened with this (feminism) pan equality, misogynist and hate men ideology. Specifically, in the Muslim world, there was not even the need to cope up with the feminist onslaught, because the societal ethos (communitas) and religious/moral code was like a strong fiber between the man and the woman, thereby giving a defeating blow to all the frivolous waves of feminism and rubbished the arguments of all those who even went on to say that feminism is as natural as breathing.
The pity is that today’s academic discourses on women be that discrimination, violence debates, feminist politics, women and public space issues, etc, are all nothing but the self fulfilling prophecies of the pseudo-academics and so called theorists who are just crazy to deliver key note addresses on the women themes or write rhetoric simply to get published in high impact factor journals. They still say that the West’s women is far more developed than of the East’s just because the parameter of being empowered they set/select and blindly compare with other women of the globe is simply the unbridled freedom or freedom to do anything. To them the Western lady is empowered for she can be in and out of the marriage or have a live-in relationship a multiple times or may be her boy-friend can even visit her home every day.
Women in Kahsmir :
Coming to Kashmiri women, undoubtedly women here are in acute trauma due to the decades of the conflict situation. They live in fear and sense of insecurity. A chunk of them lost their husbands and sons in the bloody violence. A chunk of them lost their honour and chastity due to rapes and molestations in the acute and unaccountable conflict situation. A chunk of them lost their sons to disappearances. A chunk of them had to beg for their son’s/husband’s dead bodies to the authorities and a plethora of them lost mental balance, suffered from anxieties and lost their selves to depression, etc,. Almost all of them restricted their mobility/free movement, higher education dreams, employment and liberty due to the feel insecure psyche. Despite this all, our woman is still the world’s most empowered lady not because she is a scientist or an astronaut but she has not lost her dignity at home, she loves the moral code and is satisfied with her male kins, she is not in any feminist crisis, she is really honored by all in her family and she returns the same to her family. Our mother is still the actual head of the family. If we see the reality and observe minutely, women have gained honour despite living in the world’s ugliest conflict zone. She does not go to office but remains working hard for the family in whatever capacity, she can. The beauty is that she is not in any tussle with the men folk here. She has no regrets for all the hardships she faces for her family. She does not discriminate between sons and daughters for she is brought up in a Kashmir family, where she is socialized amply and enough to deal with all life cycle or life crisis events. She is satisfied with her life and happy. This is absolutely true that the majority of the Kashmiri women are treated with high respect in their families and in this society. Our institution of marriage, family and kinship are strengthened by our women. While there is a greater hue and cry over gender violence today, she is out of this all blame game, except those who simply politicize women issues here. The sense/actually the non-sense of the feeling of being disadvantaged or discriminated is the phenomenon of the political mind sets. Whatever is narrated today as the plight of women exclusively is not happening at grass roots to that extent, though in the past it was true. However today the scene is different. Being in the armed conflict is a wrath on everybody and trauma for women folk but at the domestic front they are not neglected in any manner. What they feel restrictions or lack of freedom is actually the care given to them by their families and mostly comes under the codes of life that are equal for all humans and therefore must not be painted gendered.
As the situation for women is characterized by low levels of access to education, healthcare, maternal mortality and economic, social, and political opportunities but today the scene is improving and Kashmir is no exception. Women’s visibility in public sphere and space is quite visible and there are a plethora of females enjoying the equality of life as well. The visibility is there despite the horrors of the conflict showing their resilience and wit. Kashmiri women have been demoralized deliberately to a greater extent both socially and politically. The academic discourses have more rested upon their internalization of the feeling of ‘Being Disadvantaged in Society’ in them fostering the sense of alienation and inculcation of feminist tendencies. The facts are different at the gross root level. No doubt, there is poverty,violence and the unmet needs and demands but not exclusively of women alone. Also simply her going to office does not only mean her empowerment, a lady growing vegetables and looking after her garden is equally empowered. She commands the whole family and whole family loves her. She is happy in that. Of decision making powers among Kashmiri women, I am sure it is with them and their involvement in decision making in family is valued barring a few exceptions.
I always say that no good news is news in India. The really empowered stock is never represented by media or even in academic discourses for we are hell bent on negative thinking and negative politics over everything especially in this part of the world. The very negative discourse on gender will lose relevance in the coming few decades because all the issues confronting the globe are less gender centric and more human centric and there are no men issues, there are no women issues, there are simply human issues that need to be addressed and that is every body’s worry except the so called feminists.
Though the problems like domestic violence, lack of higher education, women’s not reaching to all higher heights, lack of ample economic resources and opportunities are still prevalent. However, we need to rethink on all these issues seriously and working in collaboration to bring change rather than politicizing such discrepancies. Also women are themselves more responsible for their issues today like the havoc of domestic violence, where a woman perpetrates violence on her fellow women. Also compared to their plight in the past, they are much better off, are working hard and keeping the pace with the times. They will be definitely at par with men on the fronts which they lag in at the moment but not by blind competition that is suggested to them and it will not happen overnight.
We can deliver justice to women simply by not politicizing gender and internalizing in them the sense of being weak or disadvantaged. Actually the very empowerment discourse and politicizing of it is very disempowering. Further the enforcement mechanisms of welfare policies for women are also not context friendly and mostly the enforcing agencies are corrupt.
We cannot say their empowerment is a myth, we cannot also say that their empowerment is a reality in full but we can definitely evaluate their lives and role using the people’s micro perspectives and perceptions of empowerment like our respect for our mother/spouse, her role in family, the power and honour she enjoys, all is a reality, which reveals that her existence is not a wasteful one but purely precious, honored, productive and contributing. The concept of empowerment as used by many agencies refers merely to entrepreneurial self-reliance needs a rethink. It places emphasis on mere superficial realities and not individualistic values, family values, common or small scale perceptions or truly evaluates women’s actual place/status in society.
Our role must also be to evaluate their success in all fields on Women’s Day and we must acknowledge home making as their biggest contribution and hail them, appreciate them and thank them today for all their tireless and regret free hard work/efforts/care for us as, their family members. Also Women must not let their issues be politicised and realize their worth and greatness by nature. They must not be after a rat race to compete with men and start to create a sense of their world and our world.
“Uttha Kar Phenk Do Bahar Gali Main
Nayee Tehzeeb Kay Anday Hain Gandey”
(Throw them out in the gallery. The new civilizations’ eggs are rotten).
Lastly, it is a moral duty to reiterate that India should seriously look into the increasing crime against women and specifically look into and deliver justice to all the women victims of violence in Kashmir. Already the graph of trust deficit against the State is high in Kashmir as justice is still to be done in so many crimes against Kashmiri women, whom we treat our honour as Kashmiris.
(Adfar Shah is a Doctoral Scholar of Sociology at Jamia Millia Islamia,Central University,New Delhi.The author writes as Guest Author in Analyst World and Eurasia Review.Mail at email@example.com)