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The eco-conscious health responses to the COVID-19 outbreak in India have revealed the heterosexist, racial, ageist, casteist and classist prejudices of an overt Hindu-Brahminical society. The idea of environmentalism driven by capitalism, nationalism and cultural imperialism exploits marginalised humans, animals and nature alike. Therefore, the discussions around epidemics, animal welfare, and climate change must be nothing but ecofeminist.

Population Control: Ecocentric Or Androcentric?

The COVID-19 outbreak has led to a blanket shutdown of economic activities like aviation, tourism, and non-essential industrial production. The resultant climate outcomes, with improvement in air quality and reduction in emissions, have triggered a host of environmental discourses. However, in India, given the severity of the epidemic and crippling health infrastructure, ecological stress has been (mis)attributed to overpopulation.

Population governance in India has had a contentious record of coerced sterilizations and blatant undermining of the sexual and reproductive health of womxn. Intrusive family planning measures that place the onus of “planning” on womxn only perpetuate patriarchal and heteronormative ideas of a family.

Population governance in India has had a contentious record of coerced sterilizations and blatant undermining of the sexual and reproductive health of womxn. Intrusive family planning measures that place the onus of “planning” on womxn only perpetuate patriarchal and heteronormative ideas of a family.

An ecofeminist sensibility exposes the male-dominated nature of population control and calls for environmental reproductive justice. It goes beyond access to birth-control methods and addresses the need for clean air, food and water, pre and postnatal care, and freedom from bodily governance by the state.

Furthermore, capitalistic dynamics also govern population control measures. When gauged through economic value and contribution, they have exclusionist effects that discriminate against the poor and the elderly. The public health response to the COVID-19 outbreak has revealed grave age and class discrimination. The ageism following the outbreak was apparent enough for the World Health Organisation to have issued a myth buster to the effect. In India, a lockdown announced as a health measure left migrant daily-wage workers stranded on roads without any food, transportation, or shelter. Given these circumstances, a call for addressing overpopulation only seems myopic.

An environmentalist push for population governance dangerously runs in tandem with the Indian government’s feverish interest in a two-child policy with two bills proposed to penalise large families in the legislative Budget session 2019-20 itself. When linked with India’s regressive abortion laws, endorsement for stringent family planning measures only aims at upholding cultural (read: Hindu-Brahminical) history.

Vegetarianism: Animal Liberation Or Cultural Imperialism?

The initial report on COVID-19 traced the origin of the novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) to bats and their probable contact with human carriers. As a reason, China, the epicenter of the COVID-19 epidemic, has come under scrutiny for unregulated wildlife harvesting and illicit trade.

However, India chose to fix its gaze on the human-bat transmission and the inference that a non-vegetarian diet led to the COVID-19 outbreak. The rumour mill churned out social media messages that not only extolled vegetarianism but created fear-mongering around meat consumption for months, resulting in loss to animal farmers and breeders. The misleading information around meat consumption was addressed only recently in media by the Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry & Dairying.

Vegetarianism shares a hostile relationship with meat consumption owing to casteist and classist prejudices of the Hindu-Brahminical culture. Therefore, the push for vegetarianism in India does nothing for animal welfare as much as it does to establish cultural imperialism.

Vegetarianism shares a hostile relationship with meat consumption owing to casteist and classist prejudices of the Hindu-Brahminical culture. Therefore, the push for vegetarianism in India does nothing for animal welfare as much as it does to establish cultural imperialism.

Although China has become a convenient scapegoat in conversations around illegal wildlife trade in the wake of COVID-19, illicit wildlife activities continue to grow unabated in India through networks of clandestine trade. In the year 2018 alone, India reported 782 offences under The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

Online Wildlife Trade. Image Source: Green Humour

According to the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Climate Change, by 2016, around 106 websites were used in the trade of rare animals in India, including YouTube and Snapdeal. While the government announced the National Wildlife Action Plan 2017-2031 to crack down on poaching of wildlife, it fails to acknowledge the role of forest-dwelling communities and tribes in conserving biodiversity. The cultural rights of tribal communities are rooted in their forests and wildlife, and therefore, make the first line of defence against poaching and hunting.

Devising wildlife and animal welfare policies that override cultural differences tend to erode the social fabric of a country, and become tools of cultural authoritarianism and universalism. Therefore, an ecofeminist approach to animal welfare becomes imperative as it blurs the nature-culture duality and allows a plane for both to coexist.

Also read: Amid Covid-19, India’s Deep Rooted Exclusivity Becomes Evident

COVID-19:  Natural Disaster Or Nationalist Disaster?

Ecocentric discourses around the COVID-19 outbreak quickly dubbed it as a natural disaster and lesson to humanity. However, an ecofeminist analysis of the political rhetoric that surrounded the pandemic reveals how nationalism exploited the natural. Country leaders around the globe gave away the opportunity to survey and learn from the COVID-19 outbreak situation in epicentre China to further their xenophobic agendas.

President Trump crossed out “Corona” in his notes and replaced it with “Chinese.” Image Source: The Washington Post

The President of the United States of America, Donald Trump, in his addresses post the COVID-19 outbreak, has oft referred to the Coronavirus as the “Chinese virus”. The attachment of Chinese ethnicity to the novel Coronavirus allowed Europe and America to vilify its communist model of government. The hyper nationalist leaders across countries exploited the novel Coronavirus outbreak to strong-arm China through unfounded allegations of (bio) terrorism.

India, too, joined in the xenophobic bandwagon following the COVID-19 outbreak with a marked rise in cases of racial slurring and harassment against people from the North-eastern parts of the country. The xenophobic medical surveillance in India has proven that COVID-19 is not merely a natural disaster.

India, too, joined in the xenophobic bandwagon following the COVID-19 outbreak with a marked rise in cases of racial slurring and harassment against people from the North-eastern parts of the country. The xenophobic medical surveillance in India has proven that COVID-19 is not merely a natural disaster.

Ecofeminist Futures

The COVID-19 outbreak has exposed the mistreatment of the nonhuman. However, a sweeping indictment of humanity for ecological stress and deterioration internalises prejudices perpetuated by power structures of capitalism, imperialism, and patriarchy. Ecofeminist thought, therefore, cautions against knee-jerk ecocentric reactions to crises that hurt the marginalised.

Also read: Inaccessibility To Menstrual Hygiene In Times Of COVID-19

Instead, it holds the power structures accountable for exploiting both the nonhuman and human. An ecofeminist approach furthers the idea of environmental justice that takes in its fold social and cultural differences.

References

  1. Catriona Mortimer-Sandilands and Bruce Erickson (ed.), Queer Ecologies: Sex, Nature, Politics, Desire (2010)

Featured Image Source: Quartz

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10 COMMENTS

  1. Articles like these make me nauseous. I don’t even know how these people are even allowed to write. I hope the author now talks about the Nizamuddin case and xenophobia and maybe even theophobia against a certain religion of peace by the brahmnical Indian society.

  2. Yep a whole deal of Linguistics battered down to nothing. With the basis being an agenda push Lmao

  3. I was so bored that I read this piece. My my it’s repleted with platitudes, conjectures etc all in all it’s total bullshit.
    To the credit of the writer it’s well written, with extra efforts on the linguistics and semantics.
    Their lack of skill to gather robust data and balancing it by abysmal extrapolation of anecdotes is a well known strategy.
    I hope the writer meets her objective and get accolades for this and maybe a better job in the West..
    If you have reached the end hope you had fun reading it because I had a lot. Have a great day Stay Home Stay safe

  4. Agreed with Debotroy for sure. It honestly seems very one sided and a personal rant which is more than baseless. I’ve been a big follower of FII but this article is shockingly disappointing.

  5. I wonder why “feminism in india” never find any prejudice and fault in islam, a muslim female writer will never ever ever ever ever write anything against islam, but hindu female writers are opposite, the muslims are much smarter in this regard, i use to be supporter of feminism and “feminism in india” earlier but not now, and i am not alone.

  6. Surely family planning is supportive of ecology? Humans have a moral responsibility to allow non-humans access to resources and NOT overburden the planet or annihilate other species? Non-humans are in the minority and their rights trumps any others’?

    Non-vegetarianism is also discriminatory to non-humans since they are bred solely for capitalist purposes (consumption?) and not in accordance with laws of nature?

    Vegetarianism is not the bastion of Hindu Brahmins alone – non-vegetarianism is discriminatory and intolerant of Jain and Buddhist populations not to mention several atheists and people with health conditions who opt to be vegan or vegetarian – all of these are tiny minorities whose rights’ need to be protected.

    By dubbing COVID19 as China virus, we also pay an important tribute to whistle blowers like Dr. Wen Liang who was cruelly taken while fighting this pandemic? Why is the writer discriminating towards preserving this memory? Dr. Ai Fen continues to fear for her life – surely eco-feminism’s priority is to ensure that these brave warriors have enough resources to fight the mighty Chinese establishment by ensuring that this record prevails and is not whitewashed?

  7. Why are English educated Hindu women so hate-filled? This hatred of one’s own culture to the extent that one is blinded to even healthy practices like vegetarianism and its benefits, touted around the whole world, gives one pause. Factory farming of meat is animal holocaust – we are stressed out by staying home during covid19. Imagine animals being cooped up in cages, surrounded by their own waste, forcibly impregnated, only for milk and meat?

    What started as harvesting excess milk from cows has now become an industry where animal babies are snatched from their mothers, their milk stolen, and the animal butchered, for a never-ending thirst for meat! Not all can be vegetarian but where is it justified to lock up an animal for life?!

    And take your “patriarchy” arguments to Islamic cultures – where in high summer heat, women are forced to live in black tents. Many develop breathing problems, are repeatedly impregnated starting in early teen years and churn out baby after baby because birth control is “haraam”. Where women are denied an education.

  8. What is Hindu Brahminical culture? There are several castes that comprise the Hindu community. Hinduism is not synonymous to Brahmins. Associating Hinduism with Brahmins is so casteist in itself.
    //VEGETARIANISM SHARES A HOSTILE RELATIONSHIP WITH MEAT CONSUMPTION OWING TO CASTEIST AND CLASSIST PREJUDICES OF THE HINDU-BRAHMINICAL CULTURE.//
    This statement is ill informed and flawed. All non-Brahmin castes are not meat eaters. There are baniya vegetarians, Kshatriya vegetarians too. Neither are all Brahmins culturally vegetarians. There are Brahmins of several communities who eat copious amounts of meat.

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