CREATING CHANGE FOR WOMEN IN INDIA

It is undeniable that we, as a society, have grown to become increasingly apathetic towards the levels of political volatility that surround us. Perhaps it is due to our instability based on the periphery of the Eurocentric vision. In true Peter Singer style, we are comfortable as long as we are not directly confronted with the tragedies, rendering our politics limited to politicians and television screens (Singer, 2009).


Unfortunately, society finds itself faced with issues that bear far more weight than spasmodic party politics. According to a study this year, in India, a woman is murdered by her male partner every hour. By introducing bills like the citizenship amendment act (CAA) and the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC), the Indian constitution validates an unquantifiable amount of injustice against the most significant religious minority in the nation – Muslims. The mainstream media has consistently turned away from this injustice, away from hundreds of shocking statistics like this. The attitude the West has cultivated towards the persecution of Muslims is nothing particularly new. They eagerly turn their heads away from the Uyghur genocide, happy to connote Muslims with '9/11,' 'Shamima Begum,' and Kamila Shamsie's 'Homefire'. This game of association grows much worse when we think of Muslim women. Here, we find ourselves thinking of burqa-clad 'letterboxes' and 'in need of liberation. To then place this minority in a state operating under a secular constitution practically begs for hate crimes, discrimination, and despotism.


India has developed a system described as "one of the awful infrastructures of the 21st century for a woman to seek justice”. The Muslim women do not even come into the equation here (Narain). However, as Rousseau writes, "all things are made good, man meddles with them, and they become evil". We must question, by what means has man meddled in such a horrific way that 48 million women are paying the price today?


The answer lies within the 200-year long British colonization of India, which only recently ended in 1947. The 'divide and rule' nature of British occupation relied upon Raj's attempts to create further, practically diametric, fractures within the Caste system to prevent the collaboration of independence parties, which would have inevitably led to a much earlier end to the British presence in the country. By creating a dichotomy between the majority (Hindus) and the minority (Muslims), Britain encouraged the discriminatory 'tyranny by the country's majority sentiment.’ Many historians find a great deal of integrity within this belief: the division between religions in India originates from British influence throughout the 18th and 19th centuries.


The answer as to why women suffer is not as simple, though. Contrary to popular belief, neither Hinduism nor Islam advocates for women's oppression. For their treatment as second-class citizens, we must search for the answer somewhere else. Foucault's 'Power Knowledge' prompts that 'power' is the sole cause of destruction, which is imposed wrongfully through the concept of 'knowledge.’


The fact that 57% of adolescent boys believe that it is justifiable for a man to beat his wife sheds some light as their 'knowledge' has influenced the 'power' they see themselves to hold. Still, what makes this concept so prevalent is that 52% of adolescent girls also believe that wife-beating is acceptable. Their 'knowledge' has given men the 'power.’ Abiding byFoucault's theory, the most plausible explanation for women's treatment in India is due to the misogynism society has cultivated over centuries. Mahanta describes this as 'the Taliban-plus mentality.’ The Lack of accessibility to education has led to a stagnation in women's progression (especially Muslim women due to the reasons as mentioned earlier through societal hierarchies). Consequently, they lack the 'knowledge' that they, too, can be 'powerful.’


Political turmoil and subservience in India remain at war, and I urge you to turn your heads towards this conflict. The vote that, out of all G20 countries, India was the worst place to exist as a woman. It had increased the urgency of the amendments to facilitate Muslim women's status in the Asian sub-continent. There truly is an explanation for the oppression of the millions of Muslim women in India, but with these explanations comes understanding, which is a catalyst for change.




Suha Kidwai is currently a Sixth Form student in pursuit of a career within the British political sphere. She spends much of her time writing for various philanthropic efforts in an attempt to raise awareness for causes personal to her. As a female Muslim, she understands the issues of stigmatisation and access which bar individuals from reaching their true potential. Through LedBy, she wishes to leverage her writing in order to raise further awareness and support for a platform which empowers the Muslim women of India.

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