Sometime ago, I was sent a link to an article — a sort of a suggestion, that I was told Indian women could use to stop the female gendercide in India!
I took one look at the article and burst out laughing!! Was this a joke?
The article was about how the women of Liberia had banded together and gone on a “sex strike.” They had refused to have sex with their husbands till such time the violence and civil war was stopped and the average Liberian could at least try to live in peace!!
The reason I thought it was funny was because, this person, a westerner, who handed this lovely idea to me, obviously had no idea, or was too terrified to even contemplate, how the issue of sex and gender actually panned out in India. Did she think that this is an option that the women of India can actually exercise?
In a country where millions of young women and girls, 50% of who are still teenagers, are forced into marriages, and the beds of complete strangers, who are forced to have sex with men they barely know, and often don’t want to marry, who are raped night after night, who have children forced on them whether they want children or not, who have abortions forced on them when they are carrying girl babies — do these women actually have the standing to go on a ‘sex strike?’ Who are we kidding here?
But are there parts of the third world, countries even poorer than India, where women can actually exercise this power or withholding sex from men?
Well, the Sex-Strike in Liberia worked so well that recently the women of Togo announced that they are doing the same. They are using it as a tool to force their political agenda in Togo, which is they want to form a strong opposition party and have the men join them so they can defeat the oppressive regime that has controlled Togo for the last 16 years!!
Why is it that women in far poorer nations than India can fight to stand their ground, and fight to exercise their sexual right as and where and how they want to, and Indian women can’t even have the choice of which man they will and won’t have sex with and whose children they will or won’t bear?
I have had many African and African American friends, and there is a certain grounded, powerful strength that I have always deeply admired in these women that I have never seen in Indian women. What I realize is that it is not often about education and money, but about a cultural attitude that defines femininity and womanhood, and how women create space and identity for themselves within that culture. As the founder of Liberia’s Sex Strike Leymah Gbowee said, “African women can be absolute hell-raisers.” In a way that Indian women aren’t!!
I have often hated not just how Indian society but even westerners have patronized the subservient, head bent, face covered, submissive stance of Indian women, as ultra-feminine and appealing!!
It is the Indian feminine image — passive, submissive, self-negating, un-individualistic, fragile, that has been eulogized in Bollywood films like ‘Slumdog Millionaire.’ When I lived in the U.S. it bothered me insanely that the western men who would advertise for Asian women in the lonely hearts columns, were always interested in this passive, submissive, aspect of the Asian feminine psyche.
It’s this image, this female model that has now resulted in millions of women in India passively going to their deaths like cows to a slaughter yard. It is what we must challenge and change!