I’ve never thought of myself as a feminist. However, in recent times, I have found myself pondering over women’s issues. The recent rape case of the 23 year of medical student on a moving bus by six completely sick minded individuals in our neighboring country India caused quite an uproar all over the world. In our own country Nepal, it made headlines and in recent times, women’s rights activists have been actively raising their voices.
Everyday cases of rape are reported in the papers as it has become a hot topic for everyone these days. We don’t know if this is just a frenzy that will die out in a few days, but women’s issues have become a topic of discussion among people in present times. Just the other day, I read about a girl who had been raped by her own father. What’s sad is the fact that hearing of such incidents doesn’t come as a shock anymore. We read about it in the papers and forget all about it the next day. But women and girls who have to go through such ordeals in life are the ones who have to live with the scars.
This reminds me of the time when I happened to meet Anuradha Koirala on a plane while returning to Nepal from India about six or seven years ago. This was well before she became a CNN hero but as I’ve always had an inclination towards social issues and social work, I immediately recognized her. I was traveling alone and she was sitting next to me in the aircraft. During the course of the journey, I introduced myself and told her I’d heard about all the good work she’s been doing. She was traveling with two young girls and I assumed they were her relatives. However, after talking to her for some time, she revealed that she had rescued those girls from a brothel in India, and one of them had already contracted the HIV virus. They were hardly 14 – 15 year olds! That was really an eye opener to me regarding the plight of girls and women who are being trafficked and is one of the major problems our country is facing.
There are numerous other issues faced by females. We hear of female feticides/ infanticides, child marriages, abuse, molestation etc. However, while thinking about it, it’s not just big cases like these where women are disrespected or looked down upon in a derogatory manner. It’s also in the instances that we face in our day to day lives. Millions of girls face eve teasing. Having to hear lewd remarks or the lecherous look in men’s eyes while you walk down the street is a common phenomenon that torments women. There’s another instance of gender discrimination that I recently noticed. At the organization I work at, there is a lady driver who also runs small errands for the office. While driving down the streets with her, I notice the look on people’s faces. Pedestrians and other drivers (including people who look well educated) stare at her, some even doing double takes at the sight of a female driver behind the steering wheel. Even though we don’t hear them saying it aloud, the expression on their faces clearly reads, “ Is that a woman driving a car?”. It really is a sad scenario. The world may have advanced in technological terms, but in some aspects, we are still stuck in the middle ages.
It is not just our country but rather a global issue and millions of women suffer silently all over the world. After all, women have been looked down upon as inferior beings since time immemorial. It is a well known fact that prostitution is the world’s oldest profession. What has been the trend since ancient times will definitely not disappear within a year or two. It will take many more generations for concrete changes to take place. There are positive strides being taken in that direction so the future for women and girls is not all that bleak. However, although much is being done to advocate women’s and girl’s rights, maybe we need to look more deeply into the kind of messages that’s being portrayed about women in movies, books, magazines and music. Are suggestive “item numbers” and songs with explicit lyrics really harmless entertainment or is it leading people to look at women as nothing more than objects? We really need to start analyzing these things and the entire social pattern needs to be transformed to bring changes to the mindset of how people view women. Until then, the world is definitely not a safe place for women and girls.