On the 69th year of Independence, while India celebrates with pompadour and selfies, I feel a twinge of dissatisfaction with my apparent freedom. As an independent woman in urban India, I am supposed to be privileged and doing exactly what I want. That’s what freedom bought us; a democracy with assured constitutional rights. However, I still crave freedom from multiple things in India that does not come easy to a woman.
What do we need freedom from, you ask? Well, let’s chalk out a list.
1. Freedom to wear anything
Yes. We have talked about this and we will continue to till we really have the freedom to wear anything. We will talk about this till we are free from catcalls and whistles if we wear a low cut blouse. Women rethink their wardrobe choices each time they go out. I need freedom from judgement, perversion, voyeurism and just the feeling of being unsafe in my own country.
2. Freedom to go anywhere
Every woman, even ones who live on their own, have a curfew whether we talk about it or not. We do not walk down lanes alone at night. We don’t take Ubers alone if it’s beyond a certain time. We need male escorts when going to clubs at night. We walk with our bags in front of us in areas we don’t feel safe. We choose restaurants according to crowds, and movie theatres as well. We have concerned parents and friends and boyfriends to answer to. We have moral policemen/women to stand up to.
3. Freedom from sexual harassment
Women are afraid of sexual harassment— on public transport, on the road, at workplace, even in a relationship. Women walk with tension in their body language, looking out for danger all the time. Why should assault be a natural part of every woman’s life in India?
4. Freedom from the inevitability of motherhood
Every little girl is told about how they will get married and be a mother some day. They are never even given a choice. Motherhood needs to be treated as a choice and not an eventuality in India. Infertility needs to be not treated as a crime or a reason for shame. Not all women see children in their future. Women do not need to be reminded of their biological clock.
5. Freedom from judgement if we have a sex life
Contrary to popular belief, women have libidos, they like sex as much as men, and they watch adult cinema. I can almost hear the cumulative gasp at this statement. However, women need freedom from this judgement. Women are free to have sexual partners who are not their boyfriends or their husbands. Virginity needs to stop being a yardstick for judging women. India, wake up and smell the female ejaculation.
6. Freedom from sexism at workplace
Recently, a friend of mine who works at a car manufacturing giant, was told “girls who talk cars don’t look like you”. The ‘look’ that was talked about was beautiful, slim and well kept, not considering that my friend also has a mechanical engineering degree and eight years of work experience. This is just a random example of sexism at workplace. Sexual harassment, absurd appraisals and objectification are just a few things we need freedom from at the workplace.
7. Freedom to do any job
Women still can’t serve at an active war front. They can’t be recruited to border security force. Women can’t work night shifts at manufacturing plants. Could we please stop being restricted for our “safety”?
8. Freedom from abusive trolls online
Part of the experience of being a social being on social media is handling trolls. For women, the price of participating in a healthy debate might often be a rape threat online. While men get verbal abuses, women receive rape threats and comments about their looks and make-up.
9. Freedom from the burden of honour
Women in India carry the burden of their family’s honour wherever they go. Apparently the family’s honour is linked with their bodies and their vaginas. Women need freedom from being caretakers of this imaginary honour. Our family’s or community’s honour cannot be tied to the kind of jobs we have, the clothes we wear, the person we marry or the life we lead.
Disclaimer: This piece was first published on DNA India, on 15th August, 2015.
Featured Image Credit: IndiaToday.in