Pen Forging the Path to Equality in India
by Thulasie Manoharan
India is a bustling country, filled with culture, color, wisdom and traditions, but, over the past decade, India has been in the spotlight for something entirely different, something rather grueling- RAPE. Rape has been a rising issue in India and has been said to be the fourth most common crime against women. Nothing shook the world like the unspeakable tragedy in 2012- the rape of Jyothi Singh. Rebecca Winthrop, senior fellow and director of the Center for Universal Education, said in her article in Brookings that, “if there’s a silver lining to this tragedy, is that the issue of gender equality is on every ones lips."
Gender equality, although not a foreign subject in the land of mystic, has been a subject that had taken awhile to sink in. As writer Aneswha wrote in 2013, in the Bold Sky, “the truth is that Indian writers were a little slow in catching up with the feminist movement that raged worldwide.” However, nothing seems to be stopping them now.
During the article writing process, I had the opportunity to speak to two very opinionated women; Mansi Goel, a writer who runs her own blog called A Nosh of Life, and Lipsa Mishra, a 23 year old IT Consultant, based in Mumbai. Both women shed some very enlightening information on the issue.
“India used to be a very liberal country,” said Mishra, “but the Mughal invasion changed all that. Women were said to have not covered their breasts in those days. Carrying the marks of your fellow lovers’ nails was said to be a mark of pride for them, but the Mughals openly looted and raped any women they liked. I think the purdah and all these restrictive customs evolved from that. This I believe has warped our senses of right and wrong over the centuries.” Later she goes on to say, “we are a conservative society but I feel we are more sex crazed than pious.”
Despite the rigid traditions, India is taking a turn in perspective as Goel said, “Indian culture in urban and suburban areas is becoming more open to equality of the two genders”. More and more people in the society are trying to spread the awareness and create a platform so that action will be taken.” Goel goes on to say, “as of now I see the pen doing the job. The responsibility of the pen is to arouse people to pick up the sword. Society needs empathy, and then equality will follow”.
What’s more interesting about this is that the whole concept of feminist writing began with men, in India, but along the way women caught up to the chase and began voicing and writing their opinions for the world to see. Some of the most famous authors and writers, who write on the issues of gender equality, are Mahasweta Devi, Rabindranath Tagore and Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, to name a few. Mahasweta Devi, the 90 year old feminist, author and social activist has enlightened the world with many of her writings; The Why-Why Girl, Breast Stories and Of Women, Outcastes, Peasants and Rebels are some of her most prominent works.
The efforts of creating awareness through writing had not just stopped with the older generation in India; the younger generation has created a wide base for information sharing through blogging. The Feminist In India blog, quote “aims to serve as India’s first feminist portal for resource & documentation purposes for everything related to feminism in India and a new media community platform for people to break their silence and raise their voices.” This blog currently features interviews with women who have made a difference, feminist ideology and personal stories of victims of gender inequality. Similarly, Ultra Violet. Indian Feminists Unplugged, The Ladies Finger and Feminists India are all targeted at addressing the issues of gender equality and enlightening people of the struggles that surround it.
The classic pen and paper has never failed to inspire, educate, arouse action and create intention. India’s use of the pen to create a more balanced society is seen as a noble approach to the issue at hand. Like Robin Sharma had once said “words are the verbal embodiment of power.”