Challenges of being a woman in India

India is often called “The largest democracy in the world”. Having a growing economy they’re still facing huge challenges, especially with regard to issues of poverty and climate. With more than 1.2 billion inhabitants the nation is the second-most populous in the world. Experts predict India to pass China in a few years. Close to 50 percent of the population is below the age of 25, resulting in an extreme challenge with providing enough school places, jobs, residences, and health care providers. India has the worst health care provision per capita in the world. The country also tops the world list of children suffering from malnutrition. They also have the highest number of illiterates. 270 million people don’t know how to read and write; 2/3 of them are women.

But this country encounters other challenges too. Today India is a secular democracy and the caste system originating from Hinduism was abolished when the former British colony received its independency in 1947. Liberation took place as a result of non-violent protests against the British rule under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. After the liberation, several violent actions between Muslims and Hindus resulted in the partitioning of India into two states, India and Pakistan. Even today these two countries have a tense relationship.

The women of India often have to endure the worst living conditions. India is ranked as the fourth most dangerous country for a woman to live in, topped only by Afghanistan, DR Congo and Pakistan. Harassments and violence against Indian women occurs both in the public and private sphere. Domestic violence and violence in close relationships are widely spread.

Gang rapes
It shocked the whole world hearing about a 23-year-old medical student being gang raped on a bus in New Delhi in December 2012. The woman boarded the bus together with her male friend when the bus driver and some passengers assaulted her, taking turns and even violating her with an iron rod.  Her friend was held and beaten while she was raped. Then, they were dumped off the bus, critically injured.

Two weeks later the girl died from her injuries. The incident generated widespread international media coverage, and hundred of thousands of Indians protested against the lack of adequate security for women in India.  This incident has opened the world’s eyes to India’s treatment of women and the underlying causes of abuse and injustice. Not long after this a 32-year-old woman was gang raped, killed, and hung half naked in a tree.

Rape is an everyday issue in India. It is a problem that the large majority of the rapes are never reported. The normal reaction from the woman’s family is to conceal the trespass and never inform or report of the abuse either to the police or anyone else.

Arranged marriages
The Indian society is still governed by ancient traditions, despite all efforts to be a modern and outgoing society. Indian marriages are mainly arranged marriages implying negotiations between the families. Forced marriage may be the outcome of a situation where one or both parties are reluctant to the marriage. Physical violence, death threats, and deprivation of liberty are means used to force a girl or boy to marry a partner they don’t want to marry.
There is different legislation for how to enter into marriage depending on the religion one belongs to. With 80 percent of population being Hindus, it goes without saying that the majority gets married according to Hindu marriage legislation.  In India the marriage is of great importance, especially for the women. Huge numbers are married off when very young, being so-called child brides. More than 40 percent of child marriages worldwide take place in India, even though law prohibits child marriages.

Girls are of lesser value
A huge number of baby girls are being aborted, strangled, poisoned, frozen or starved to death, for the sole reason of being a female. Socio-economic conditions are often the reason for girls being deselected. The practice is for parents or relatives to pay a dowry to the bridegroom’s family along with the bride.  Dowry is seen as a balancing custom so that the daughter also gets a share of her parent’s property, since the laws favor the sons. This is to give the newlyweds financial help from both the husband and wife’s families. This practice may leave a family as debt slaves for a lifetime, resulting in girls being deselected. Even though dowry payment was prohibited by law over 50 years ago, the problem is rather increasing than decreasing.  
Hindu funeral rites may also affect boys being more attractive than girls. When you die, the Hindus believe your soul transmigrates to a new creature being born. This circle of rebirthing is referred to as “samsara”, and is without origin or ending. The goal of all Hindus is to surpass rebirthing by achieving “moksha”, which is liberty in the Hindu belief system. Hindu funeral rites may therefore affect boys to be more attractive than girls. The belief system says that a father can only achieve “moksha” if a son is lighting the funeral fire. A son brings great honor to a family, while a daughter becomes a financial disaster.
As millions of baby girls are being murdered, a new problem is arising. The unbalance between the genders is increasing and the government has prohibited gender information to be given while at ultrasound.  Still, abortion and killing of baby girls prevails in India.

Found on the dump
Irene Komanapalli (24) is one among millions that was unwanted by her parents. As a baby she was found dehydrated on the garbage dump by a woman digging in the trash. The lady heard the baby crying. Irene knows she’s been very lucky to have been found and given a good family. She’s still carrying a grief on behalf of the millions of girls that are unwanted by their parents.

Irene says: “I know what it feels like. Now I’m part of a big family. These privileges are not given to everyone, and my desire is for these girls to have a better place to live, to be loved and cared for”. Soon she will graduate as a midwife. “It is so sad when it’s being said that having a girl is like a financial crisis, which is particularly widespread in the Hindu religion.  To hear how girls are being treated is so painful, and I really dislike dowry. It just makes no sense. In many of the Indian religions a girl cannot be married unless a dowry follows. A husband and his parents may punish his wife if the demanded dowry is not given to them. Some husbands beat their wives and demand more dowries even after the wedding” Irene adds, and shows us her engagement ring.

Irene is getting married in the summer without a dowry. Among the numerous candidates her parents have found, she has found her man and is really looking forward to the wedding. She is very aware of how fortunate she has been with her family.

Women’s rights
India has a National Commission for Women meant to protect and defend women’s rights in the country. National laws and legislations are to safeguard women’s rights and to ensure that women have the same rights as men. But even though women and men officially have the same rights politically and economically, the country has a long way to go before gender equality is a reality. The role of women in society varies a lot, depending on their region, ethnical and economic belonging. To a great extent, women in India suffer from discrimination and different kinds of violations of their human rights. Violence against women is widespread regardless of the nation’s laws and legislation that are supposed to prevent this. At the same time there are more visible women in India than what you may find in lots of other countries.
Let us make a stand for women and the view of women in India.
Happy International Women’s Day to all you women!

Challenges of being a woman in India
It is March 8th and we’re celebrating International Women’s Day. Today we turn the spotlight on the situation for the women of India. Did you know that millions of Indian baby girls are killed, only for being a girl? Or that every 20th minute an Indian woman is raped?

India is often called “The largest democracy in the world”. Having a growing economy they’re still facing huge challenges, especially with regard to issues of poverty and climate. With more than 1.2 billion inhabitants the nation is the second-most populous in the world. Experts predict India to pass China in a few years. Close to 50 percent of the population is below the age of 25, resulting in an extreme challenge with providing enough school places, jobs, residences, and health care providers. India has the worst health care provision per capita in the world. The country also tops the world list of children suffering from malnutrition. They also have the highest number of illiterates. 270 million people don’t know how to read and write; 2/3 of them are women.

But this country encounters other challenges too. Today India is a secular democracy and the caste system originating from Hinduism was abolished when the former British colony received its independency in 1947. Liberation took place as a result of non-violent protests against the British rule under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. After the liberation, several violent actions between Muslims and Hindus resulted in the partitioning of India into two states, India and Pakistan. Even today these two countries have a tense relationship.

The women of India often have to endure the worst living conditions. India is ranked as the fourth most dangerous country for a woman to live in, topped only by Afghanistan, DR Congo and Pakistan. Harassments and violence against Indian women occurs both in the public and private sphere. Domestic violence and violence in close relationships are widely spread.

Gang rapes
It shocked the whole world hearing about a 23-year-old medical student being gang raped on a bus in New Delhi in December 2012. The woman boarded the bus together with her male friend when the bus driver and some passengers assaulted her, taking turns and even violating her with an iron rod.  Her friend was held and beaten while she was raped. Then, they were dumped off the bus, critically injured.

Two weeks later the girl died from her injuries. The incident generated widespread international media coverage, and hundred of thousands of Indians protested against the lack of adequate security for women in India.  This incident has opened the world’s eyes to India’s treatment of women and the underlying causes of abuse and injustice. Not long after this a 32-year-old woman was gang raped, killed, and hung half naked in a tree.

Rape is an everyday issue in India. It is a problem that the large majority of the rapes are never reported. The normal reaction from the woman’s family is to conceal the trespass and never inform or report of the abuse either to the police or anyone else.

Arranged marriages
The Indian society is still governed by ancient traditions, despite all efforts to be a modern and outgoing society. Indian marriages are mainly arranged marriages implying negotiations between the families. Forced marriage may be the outcome of a situation where one or both parties are reluctant to the marriage. Physical violence, death threats, and deprivation of liberty are means used to force a girl or boy to marry a partner they don’t want to marry.

There is different legislation for how to enter into marriage depending on the religion one belongs to. With 80 percent of population being Hindus, it goes without saying that the majority gets married according to Hindu marriage legislation.  In India the marriage is of great importance, especially for the women. Huge numbers are married off when very young, being so-called child brides. More than 40 percent of child marriages worldwide take place in India, even though law prohibits child marriages.

Girls are of lesser value
A huge number of baby girls are being aborted, strangled, poisoned, frozen or starved to death, for the sole reason of being a female. Socio-economic conditions are often the reason for girls being deselected. The practice is for parents or relatives to pay a dowry to the bridegroom’s family along with the bride.  Dowry is seen as a balancing custom so that the daughter also gets a share of her parent’s property, since the laws favor the sons. This is to give the newlyweds financial help from both the husband and wife’s families. This practice may leave a family as debt slaves for a lifetime, resulting in girls being deselected. Even though dowry payment was prohibited by law over 50 years ago, the problem is rather increasing than decreasing.  

Hindu funeral rites may also affect boys being more attractive than girls. When you die, the Hindus believe your soul transmigrates to a new creature being born. This circle of rebirthing is referred to as “samsara”, and is without origin or ending. The goal of all Hindus is to surpass rebirthing by achieving “moksha”, which is liberty in the Hindu belief system. Hindu funeral rites may therefore affect boys to be more attractive than girls. The belief system says that a father can only achieve “moksha” if a son is lighting the funeral fire. A son brings great honor to a family, while a daughter becomes a financial disaster.

As millions of baby girls are being murdered, a new problem is arising. The unbalance between the genders is increasing and the government has prohibited gender information to be given while at ultrasound.  Still, abortion and killing of baby girls prevails in India.

Found on the dump
Irene Komanapalli (24) is one among millions that was unwanted by her parents. As a baby she was found dehydrated on the garbage dump by a woman digging in the trash. The lady heard the baby crying. Irene knows she’s been very lucky to have been found and given a good family. She’s still carrying a grief on behalf of the millions of girls that are unwanted by their parents.

Irene says: “I know what it feels like. Now I’m part of a big family. These privileges are not given to everyone, and my desire is for these girls to have a better place to live, to be loved and cared for”. Soon she will graduate as a midwife. “It is so sad when it’s being said that having a girl is like a financial crisis, which is particularly widespread in the Hindu religion.  To hear how girls are being treated is so painful, and I really dislike dowry. It just makes no sense. In many of the Indian religions a girl cannot be married unless a dowry follows. A husband and his parents may punish his wife if the demanded dowry is not given to them. Some husbands beat their wives and demand more dowries even after the wedding” Irene adds, and shows us her engagement ring.

Irene is getting married in the summer without a dowry. Among the numerous candidates her parents have found, she has found her man and is really looking forward to the wedding. She is very aware of how fortunate she has been with her family.

Women’s rights
India has a National Commission for Women meant to protect and defend women’s rights in the country. National laws and legislations are to safeguard women’s rights and to ensure that women have the same rights as men. But even though women and men officially have the same rights politically and economically, the country has a long way to go before gender equality is a reality. The role of women in society varies a lot, depending on their region, ethnical and economic belonging. To a great extent, women in India suffer from discrimination and different kinds of violations of their human rights. Violence against women is widespread regardless of the nation’s laws and legislation that are supposed to prevent this. At the same time there are more visible women in India than what you may find in lots of other countries.

Let us make a stand for women and the view of women in India.

Happy International Women’s Day to all you women!