‘…that the more you gave yourself the less of you was left. There were always people to snatch at yo, and it would never occur to them that they were eating you up. They did that without tasting.’ (‘The Wings of the Dove’ – Henry James)
The above sentences by Henry James strike a chord with me for various reasons. In many ways, it depicts my feelings on various spheres of life. For me, it describes, in modern-day times, humans as ‘dementors’ ( character in Harry Potter books). We are, I feel, in one way or another are dementors if we think about it for a minute. In our daily lives, we intentionally or unintentionally do eat each other up for a multitude of reasons. The ironic thing is as a woman, we are consumed on a daily 24/7 basis in various forms such as prostitution, sexual harassment, abuse, psychological torture and we never feel it. Now, the very existence of women is in question as she has a new enemy: technology.
In ancient times, baby girls were buried alive simply because they were girls and not boys. The tradition continues to this day in many Asian societies as the ancient thinking survives. The ‘girl’ is considered as a burden on the family because of the heavy amount of dowries that have to be paid to in-laws. A ‘man’ is the breadwinner and most importantly, is the insurance in old age for parents. This traditional thinking continues despite stories of son killing his parents for property or in some heated argument. Even in 21st century, a woman’s role is nothing more than a domestic servant. There a million stories of how women are capable of earning, how they can fight their way out of poverty and become earners and supporters of their families. But all examples are worth for nothing.
Today, technology has joined hands with the traditional customs and has become the latest in line to consume women. If the fetus is determined to be female, she is discarded (or to be polite aborted) and if it is a male – well there are a million reasons to celebrate (even if in future that male child is the reason for parents’ death). No matter how much the world organizations such as United Nations warn of disasters due to gender imbalance, the harsh reality is that ‘female infanticide’ is happening at a faster rate. Vietnam, India and China are on the top list. Various laws have been implemented, yet, the mass murder continues. All because ancient traditions refuse to die, refuse to accept a woman’s capability of earning, and continue to place her in the lowest denominator.
Woman is believed to be the root of all the ill-causes. Many ways have been sought to punish women; customs, traditions, sex trafficking, child labour and sexual violence. No matter how hard women fight, a woman is neither valued as an individual nor as a human being. The crude reality is that in Asian societies there is a new war for women; they have to fight for their right to exist, their right to live and to survive.
The question that should be asked is: will the ancient customs of devaluing women win or will the women win their right to live? So far, the ball is in the court of the ancient customs.