In my first rendezvous with Tara, I found her looking forlornly at the red-painted sky. Sky is never painted red, it is blue I thought. This portrayal of red colored sky could never fit into my thinking. While she longed so hard for red she herself never wore red, she wore white. White, the colorless, the red less, appendages, non-colored color defined her for rest of her life. Tara was seven when she was married and was only nine when she was widowed. Tara is an epitome and empathetic depiction of all child widows of Nepalese Society. The issue became vivid and living after writer Amar Neupane decided to bring forward the latent and untold stories of all child widows in his book Seto Dharti, the white land. The novel is the reservoir of narratives which are both manifested and unspoken by Tara, concurrently at the same time. Her wishes, her desires and her surpassing of those urges are so strongly presented in the book that it forces us to question ourselves, “Does a woman deserve suffering just because she is a woman?” She was symbolized as Seto Dharti, a barren and colorless land. Land is green. Land is colorful but never white.
This is only one facet of issues that women are facing today. The multitude of questions such as; why you have to go to school, why you have to go out at this late hour, why should you talk with men, why are you wearing this kind of dress, why are you not getting married, why are you entering into kitchen while on periods, why are you talking, why are you writing, why are you even expressing and ultimately why are you even in existence; are never answered but are always asked. They are traditional. They are mainstream. They are pervasive. Being born and raised in a traditional Nepali Society, I grew up along with these questions. I remember each time I used to go out, my grandmother suggested me to cover my body. But, covering was never the remedy. It never rescued me from seductions. The problem was never my dress; the problem was I was a woman.
When we are born we come up with biological differences of sex. Man and Woman. While we grow up gradually gender comes into existence. Male and Female. Masculine and Feminine. While sex only differentiates us on the basis of our reproductive organs, gender differentiates us on the basis of concepts of roles. You are a male. You have the “penis”, the sufficiency you are the symbol and exerciser of power. You have to play with guns. Remember you can’t play with dolls because that will be too sissy of you. You can go out and at any time. You can drink. You can smoke. You can have sex and if you want you can force it. And, on the other side, there is deficiency. No penis. You can only hold and contain. You have to bear. You have to endure. You have to play with dolls. No guns. Do you wish to be called a tomboy? These are very common and strong depictions of gender roles. The concept of gender itself is a fictitious and assumed concept where differences are created and forced within the human mindset. It is then the human thinking that processes and frames the image of what a male is and what a female is rather than what they actually are.
My English Literature teacher while teaching the ways of interpreting the literary creation came across the application of Feminism to The Great Gatsby. There is a part when Tom Buchanan says that Jay Gatsby is not even a man because he wears a pink suit. This interpretation clearly reflects what a society views a man should wear. The pink color is stereotyped as the Girl’s color. And like this one particular stereotyping, other forms of prejudices are viciously prevalent in our society. Everything that is inverted is not powerful. The only way to root out these judgmental biases is education.
It is believed that males are dominants. Females have to be submissive because that’s what our society and the advocates of patriarchy say. The law of dominance is while one exercises supremacy other has to surrender. If we will take the cases of abuses and violence against women, it will be clear that abuses are done by the strong and weak have to suffer. But what makes one race strong and other weak? Is it strength? Or, is it a mere illusion of strength.
The most extreme cases of the modern day violence against women include those by Daesh, most commonly known as ISIS. Brutal abuses and heinous exploitations are a common phenomenon. According to a 2016 UN Report, 3500 individuals are enslaved majority of which are women and children from Yazidi and other minority community. As per the report of Civilian Rights and Minority Rights Group International, around 14000 women are killed in Iraq since 2003 A.D. due to gender based violence. And, these figures accounts only for 39% of documented cases. What about the rest? The professionals, politicians and activists among all are the major targets. Patriarchy has attached women with honour. This imposed morality is one of the ways of dominance on account of which ISIS is exercising these acts of violence. They further attempt to justify these crimes through Islam claiming that Islam permits sex with non-Muslim slaves. War Brides, sex-slavery and auctioning, systematic rapes and inhuman treatments are all guided by their self-interpretation of religion.
The stories of the escaped and survived are much more spine chilling. Imagine being sold for multiple times. Imagine being forced for sex. We might simply turn a deaf ear to the issue because it is not happening with us here, but we should also not forget that it is happening now. How can we guarantee that the next Qandeel Baloch won’t be anyone from us! How will be react if our politicians too will start using Trump’s objectification of women as a political campaign! What actions have we taken against numerous undocumented cases of gender violence and discrimination within Nepal! What have we done till now to end these differences? And of all, have we ever thought how are these ideas of gender disparities conceptualized? What are the flaws? How can they be redefined?
The only answer that comes in my mind is education. Lets’ face it and accept it, the very ideals of our society are wrong. Lets’ change it. Let’s start it from our home. Let’s not stop a daughter from wearing a jeans or joining an army. Let’s not tag any boy feminine if he wants to do Katthak or if he wants to wear pink. Let’s not call a guy a stud and girl a slut. Let’s not perceive the world through the spectacles of phallocentrism. Let’s not make one race strong and other one weak. Let’s not create advocacy for women’s right for it is deliberately making her weak. By doing so we are agreeing that a woman is weak and she needs voices and support for upliftment. No she doesn’t. She is already capable. Instead let’s advocate for equal rights and equal treatment of men and women. Top of Form
*Pratistha Koirala contributed for Mero Tribune Media. She was the former privilege banker at ICICI Bank and she worked as Training and Research officer at Nepal Administrative Staff College.