Over the years, during different phases of my life, the one thing I have learnt about freedom is that it is the same for everyone. No matter where you live or what you do, freedom ultimately boils down to having the ability and liberty to choose and have control over various aspects of your own life. For someone being forced into an arranged marriage, freedom is about being able to choose a partner. For someone who is not allowed to go to school, freedom is about being able to choose an education. But if you’re a woman in India, this definition of freedom gets even more restrictive.
Every year on Independence day, I sort of look back on the journey of freedom for Indian women, and each year I am disappointed by what I find. During the rest of the year, I am more solution-focused, trying to build a positive outlook and looking for ways to deal with the problems that exist around me, but this one day is reserved for taking a long-hard look at those problems.
This year, as I was thinking about what to share with you guys on the blog, I got to thinking about what I’ve personally learned about my own freedom in the context of Indian society. And I’m sharing those insights with you. Hit me up if you’ve felt the same or experienced similar struggles. And then maybe we can all work together, bit by bit, to change this.
It’s a fight, every step of the way
Blood, sweat and tears go into every choice a woman has to make and it doesn’t matter which strata of society or which area of India you come from. Even if I look at myself, the freedom to make simple choices like whether to go to a family function or the more complicated ones like choosing my career path – I have not had the liberty to just make a decision. All of these choices have had the say of those around me (mostly my family) along with some amount of pressure. I’ve handled many a situation with just discussions and others with heated arguments. But regardless of the situation, it’s always been a fight.
Freedom is a privilege and not a right
I know that’s not what the constitution says, but if you’re a woman in India who has grown up without being made to feel like what you have is an effin privilege, then I’d like to meet you. Everywhere from family meetings, to school assemblies, and workplaces, you will find many people reminding you again and again of what it is to be a woman in this country. If you get to choose what you can wear, it’s a privilege; if you can choose your life partner, it’s a privilege. Someone please explain to me how the basic, fundamental human rights became an honour and not jut an inherent part of society.
Freedom is equated to rebelliousness and shamelessness
If a woman in India does decide to break out of the society’s mould and chart out a path for herself (which, according to the constitution is perfectly legitimate) then she is considered a rebel or shameless. Then her parents fear that she won’t get rishtaas (that is the end of life as we know it) because no one would want to marry a woman with a mind of her own.
“Log kya kahenge” has taken more lives than anything else
This is the biggest hurdle to the independence and freedom of a woman in India. I mean how many times have you heard people say “log kya kahenge” or “we live in a society and we have to follow some rules” when you want to do something on your own accord. Sadly, a family’s name and izzat is still equated to how a woman behaves and conducts herself in society, as a result of which there are illogical restrictions placed on her freedom of choice.
You can either have safety or freedom, never both
This basically sums up this article. In a country where people still make comments like “akeli bahar jaayegi to rape hi hoga“, or, “western kapde pehenne walo ke saath aisa hi hota hai“, you will think a 100 times over before making a decision. Stepping out to buy something at night? You better have a boy accompanying you (although that also doesn’t seem to be making much of a difference these days) or better yet avoid going out completely.
Things are not changing anytime soon
I don’t want to sound pessimistic, but with the way things are going, it is very difficult to imagine a better situation in the near future. Unless, of course, people start fighting (again the fighting) for the right causes and there’s a change in the mental makeup, freedom for a woman in India is still a far-off dream.
Happy Independence Day folks!