Battle of the sexes is one-sided
Posted Sunday, July 29 2012 at 01:00
While writing about travels, once in a while, one cannot avoid to pause, sit back and analyse people and situations. The most interesting subject for me remains the progress of women.
More than two decades ago, I traveled to the Peshawar region of Pakistan. Though I was travelling from the Gulf region where women are veiled, I was mesmerised to see women from Afghanistan covered from head to toe in what looked like a thick tent that only allowed a few holes in front of the face for breathing and seeing.
Since then, this kind of attire has improved a bit, but not abolished and while this can be a good protection from the cold winters, one should remember the sizzling heat of summer when men dress freely to avoid the heat and these women can boil under their tents.
Sometimes I wish this kind of discrimination would end at clothing. Alas, even as we speak, many women remain chained by heavy customary rules that have reduced them sometimes to lower levels than domestic animals kept in the same house hold.
At later stages of my life, I found out that my maternal great grandfather actually came from Afghanistan. That day I looked at myself and wondered what would have happened to me if my grandfather had not moved to Persia, and if the religion that I embraced had not given me the total equality of rights with men, among which rights is the freedom of wearing clothing according to my own will!
However, I feel it is a half-way joy because other members of womankind are still struggling.
An elderly friend coming from a very traditional home in Iran told me that in their household, there were five boys and one girl, and instead of their sister being spoiled, she became the house maid and the little girl had to jump to each and every whim of her five brothers plus the house chores she had. Recently, I met another such family and their little boy, who was obviously very up to date with mobile phone technology and today’s modern ways of life, had a very similar attitude towards life. I then looked at the sad face of the grandmother of this boy; she was quiet and resigned, accepting her fate.
Later on I got to hear the story of this lady, who like many ladies, was pushed and ordered around by her husband and sons. Her mother and grandmother lived even worse lives, the latter being forced to marry at the age of nine.
Maybe today laws prevent such early marriages but it seems that not much has changed when it comes to attitudes. Some women are still considered second class citizens, others are murdered in the name of honour with their killers getting away under the watchful eye of justice.
We all heard the stories of dowry in India that girls must bring to the house and in Greek culture, women are expected to have a house and the husband walks in the house with his clothes and few household items. Girls, who marry without owning a house, will have to live with the fact that they have no say in major decisions.
In recent observations, I have seen progress, but meeting the little 10-year-old boy that expected his mother to be his servant, paints a grim picture of a future that seems to struggle between old norms and new needs for a balanced society.
I was once on a very long bus ride. The driver, who drove us for over five hours, reached the mountainous part of the journey, seemed very tired and exhausted, gave his seat to the co-driver who was fresh and awake and drove us safely through the mountains.
This act of collaboration between the two drivers is very similar to the happenings of life. Men should understand that by giving women equal rights of growth, will not only help them but many others along the way.