The Condition of Women in our Country

The condition of women in our country is complex and cannot be described with a singular monopolistic category. Although a woman is honoured as Goddess in our culture, the way that we relate to women in practice may be aptly described as cultural fascism. Our society is not merely patriarchal, it is deeply patrifocal. This is why half of us Indians who are our mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters are victims of worst oppressions in our families, workplaces as well as spaces of worship. Women in our country seem to live in an intermediate space between death and life. It seems to a journey from harassment to invisibility. Even at birth, the girl child is unwelcome. She is born with a cancelled identity. Several among them suffer an infliction of violent death at birth. Even before she is comes out of the womb of the mother, she is made to enter the tomb. She is made to die in silence without a name and identity. No one cries for the aborted daughters of India. They just pass into invisibility and remain forgotten. But those that are lucky to survive the initial intensely violent cultural fascism are compelled to live a losing fight in an imposed chains of isolations and politico-moral policing  as survivors in a man’s world till they too are relegated to silence and invisibility through  their death.

The subjection of women to several indignities exhibits the will to power of a male chauvinist society. This will to power is ultimately and intimately grounded in the will to purity that is afflicting our caste laden society. The quest for purity is everywhere in our society.  It has put us in a perpetual cleansing drive. It is getting uglier by the day.  Women like other impure ones are considered unclean and hence, suffer sexual abuse as children, domestic violence, rapes, confinement to homes, made object of sex and met with denial of repression as adults. We have naturalised and desensitized us of all guilt of violence to our women. It is this will to purity that generates the cultural fascism that is afflicting our society today. Indeed, we are taken captive by our will to purity.  This enslavement is most visible today in the way we treat our tribals, Dalits, religious minorities and women. Violence against all these sections of our people is growing by the day. It will continue unless we find ways of coming to terms with our insatiable thirst for purity which is forever elusive. It seems that this vicious will to purity is at the root of violence against women in our society.

The will to purity intensifies from a sense of loss that is haunting a society that is on a decline. It is a defence against decline and decomposition. In fact, a society afflicted by a sense of decay looks for out for victims that our powerless and enact the ritual of purity on them. In some way, women like others that are deemed as impure in society suffer what may be called sacrificial violence. This is why perhaps the twenty-first century India looms ahead of us as a spectral scene of mean violence of all shades and colour.  We seem to be struck by the fear of contamination and are in  search  of a pure nation. At the same time, we enjoy a libidinal drive for the pleasure of inflicting pain, humiliation and death on those that are considered the impure ones. Women are the worst victims of this cultural fascism that is afflicting us all. We have the challenge to trace emancipative responses to our imagined dirty world. We have the ethical imperative to reassert the in-between zone where we all Indians belong and have our life and being. We have to find and befriend the Indian in us. We are either Goans, Punjabis, Telugus, Tamils or Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas But not Indians. We exist fragmented. It is hard to find an Indian in India. May be we find them abroad. We need to let the Indian in us blossom again. The Indian is always in an in-between condition along with other Indians.   There are multiple and divergent ways of being Indians.

This rebellion against the will to purity has to be natural for Christian. This does not mean that Christians are free from their enslavement to the will to purity.  The condition of Indian Christian women is far from being any different from our society. Therefore, Christians like other Indians also have the common challenge to seek emancipative response to the cult of purity that is collectively afflicting us. We are all worshipping at the altar of imagined purities of all shades and colours. Jesus who rebelled against the excesses of will to purity in Judaism can become a great inspiration to Indian Christians to generate an emancipative response that will not just bring dignity and freedom to Indian Christian women but all other women as well as other victims of our enslavement to will to purity.  Indeed, we Christians have to respond to the prophetic call from our context today and work to generate a Gospel-centric response to the condition of women and those deemed impure in our country.

Although Indian Christians are best placed to bring a theologico-moral response to condition of women in our country, it would not be possible without other Indians of Good will. This is why Indian Christians have to not just avail of the resources from their Christian tradition but align with other Indians and traditions in India to bring about a Gospel-culture encounter that will open ways of breaking the enslaving shackles of will to purity. In this effort, great Indian traditions like Buddhism, Jainism, Vedanta etc., might be of great assistance.  This means Indian Christians have the challenge to read the signs of the times and trace the seed of Gospels already germinating in cultures and traditions of India. This will open us to the in-between zone that is central to the triune God of Christianity. Perhaps, it will enable us to work to actualize the salubrious perichoretic space of the Holy Trinity in our society.  The violence against women cannot be countered with violence. such violence will intensify the spiral of violence. What we need is a prophetic affirmation of our deepest being as being in-between that in the image and likeness of God. It will only lead to the living our inter-being.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao