After hearing the news a couple of weeks ago that women in a factory in India had been strip searched to find out which of them was on their period after a sanitary towel was found in the toilets, I am more appalled than ever at the standards of inequality for women in India. For some Indian women, being on your period must be much harder than it is for Western women considering that these women might be living in poverty, if not poverty, then almost certainly in standards much worse than women who work in factories in the UK live in; therefore probably not having the same levels of sanitation that we have come to take for granted.
We often hear stories of Indian women being raped when they're forced to relieve themselves in open spaces in the dark because some villages simply do not have toilet facilities and recently there have been closures of schools, or poor attendance for the same reason. We also hear in the news of women being raped on buses, rape victims being blamed for their own attacks and consequentially being punished for them. One woman recently having her nose cut off as a punishment for her own attack. The prosecution rate for rape in the UK is embarrassingly low and it it's a well known fact that most rape cases don't get a conviction. If that's the case in our own country, where women are supposedly equal to men, then what chance do we have of stopping these crimes in countries that harbour very different attitudes? When will these barbaric practices and attitudes be changed? Looking at the response of the public on social media sites in regards to these stories, it has to be said that yes, of course women (and men) are raped all over the world, not just in India and of course, this crime is detestable, whatever country it is committed in. That being said, this article concentrates on the rights of Indian women more generally, rather than simply the right to not be raped. Despite the fact that the right not to be raped is a basic human right, there are other factors to do with women's rights in India that also need addressing. Perhaps if people thought more of women, their rights and as them being equal to men, these crimes against women may eventually start to fall.
As a white, Western woman myself, visiting India in 2014 was a huge eye opener. Fortunately I didn't see any aggressive sexism myself, but, alas, I did experience what is now known as 'every day sexism.' I was told before I travelled to India than men may find it disrespectful to address women and may therefore address the man in our company rather than myself or my friend. I was perfectly willing to accept that this was by no means an insult to either of us, rather a compliment as any other mark of respect would be considered to be. However, when I addressed men, it was very hard for me to look past the fact that they sometimes ignored every word I said and spoke to my male friend rather than to me. Smaller issues like this may be an issue to Westerners such as myself, but reading stories in the news, where women are literally stripped of any fundamental human rights really puts things into perspective.
India is such a beautiful country, filled with lovely, helpful, friendly people who were nothing but kind to me during my trip, so why do such repressive things like this seem to be the norm? I don't claim to be an expert on Indian politics - far from it - but surely the Indian government should start spreading their wealth more equally? Providing sanitation, safe toilet facilities and perhaps provide a better education for their people? 2014 was undoubtedly the best year for the feminist in my lifetime, so perhaps in 2015, we can take things further and address the rights of non-western women; those who are suffering the most. What can be done to change these attitudes and what can be done to help prevent these crimes and unjust punishments in India?
These questions are by no means rhetorical, please start/join the debate or post any opinions or thoughts either on the comments for this blog or on my personal Twitter account - BeckyLHopper