07 March 2011


In the 1960s before they were outlawed, there was a TV cigarette commercial that proclaimed,
You've come a long way, baby
To get where you got to today
You've got your own cigarette now, baby,
You've come a long, long way.

Aside from the fact that calling a woman "baby" is demeaning and having a cigarette for women is a very dubious advancement, I got to thinking how far have we come as women, both in the West and in India.  (I thought about posting the commercial from YouTube here, but I was afraid some readers would accuse me of promoting tobacco, which, of course, I would never do.)

Politically, I suppose we have come a long way.  Names of women in politics come to mind.  Hillary Clinton, Margaret Thatcher, Carolyn Parrish (I love her!) and, of course, Indira Gandhi (I do not love her).   Politically, I guess we have come a long way.

Socially?  In the West there have been huge changes in many ways.  Spousal abuse, which up until the 1970s was considered a family problem that the law should stay away from, has become unacceptable to most people and the perpetrators are prosecuted and jailed sometimes.   Oftentimes, still, however, the woman refuses to prosecute her abuser for various reasons.  Although perhaps understandable, this is very sad on numerous levels.  It is bad for the woman. it is bad for the society and it is especially bad for the children.  The boys learn to punch and the girls learn to be punching bags, thus perpetuating the cycle of violence.  There has been progress, but not enough.  One area where I have seen progress is in the attitudes toward rape.  Rape is now recognised as a crime of violence against women, not just the boys having a good time because "she asked for it."  Having sex with a woman who cannot resist because she has been drugged or is asleep is also recognised as rape.  Marital rape, where a husband forces his wife against her will has likewise been criminalised.  I remember reading a very influential book called Against Our Will:  Men. Women and Rape.  Although published in 1975 and a bit dated, this book is still one of the best analyses of the subject that I have read.  I do find her condemnation of men in general too harsh. 

This is the cover I rermember.  I believe it has been updated.

India, as is often the case seems to be in a state of confusion.  Societal issues, in general, far favour men over women.  Thr double standard is in full force.  (A boy is just sowing wild oats, a girl is a slut or whore.)  Eve-baiting occurs everywhere to the point that many young women dread going out.  A woman who has been raped is often said to have been "dishonoured," although she is the victim and the male perpetrator is the one who has dishonoured himself, if indeed, he had ever had any honour to dishonour.  (This leads into izzat, which is a topic for another post.)  Some laws, I am told,  favour women to the point that a simple accusation without supporting evidence can land a man in jail, I am told.

This article from today's (7 March 2011) Times of India is a real eye opener:
Printed from
NEW DELHI: Nearly one in four Indian men has committed sexual violence at some point in their lives and one in five has admittedly forced his wife or partner to have sex. The findings of a recent International Men and Gender Equality Survey reflects a new low for Indian men. Only 2% Brazilian males and less than 9% of men in Chile, Croatia, Mexico and Rwanda were found to have indulged in sexual violence.

The survey was conducted in six developing countries across four continents to map attitudes and practices related to gender equality. Researchers from the International Centre for Research on Women ( ICRW in US and India) and Instituto Promundo in Brazil, who led the survey, interviewed more than 8,000 men and 3,500 women, aged 18 to 59, from these countries.

Indians, who are known to excel in competitive examinations globally, were ranked last on the 'gender equitable men' scale, given that only 17% of men here qualified to the 'highly equitable' (gender-just) category. The percentage was the lowest for this category among the six countries. On sexual violence, 24% said they had committed some form of it in their lives.

While Croatia topped the test, with 82% 'gender-just' men, more than 50% men in Brazil, Chile, and Mexico made the grade. Rwanda, which is among the least developed nations in the world, in fact, fared better than India, with 30% males qualifying as 'highly equitable'.

Rwanda, however, joined India with highest rate of domestic violence, with 38% men admitting they had physically abused their partners. Worse, more than 65% Indian men also believed that women should tolerate violence to keep the family together and that women sometimes deserved to be beaten.

And although Indian men were the most sexually and physically violent at home, they were not involved in violent or criminal behaviour outside. Only 4% Indian men had participated in robbery and 7% had been involved in fights with weapons, compared to 36% men in Croatia and 22% men in Brazil.

The findings, released in Washington last month, reiterated that although India may be on its way to becoming the world's fastest developing economy, it figures at the bottom of the pile when it comes to gender equality. "Indian men are far more traditional, to put it mildly. Even young, educated men are not changing as rapidly as women. They are still living in the old ages," said Ravi Verma, director of ICRW's Asia regional office in Delhi.

Verma added that they would soon present the survey findings to the ministry of women and child development and other policy-makers to urge them to make appropriate changes in policies and programmes to better foster gender equality.

In the survey, which found Indian men to be the worst offenders in terms of sexual violence, more than 1,000 men from the 1,500 interviewed in India were from Delhi. The findings mirrored the high incidence of sexual assault in Delhi: the capital witnessed 489 rapes last year.

"Although the survey has focussed on violence in the privacy of homes, it reflects the situation in public places, too," said Kalpana Vishwanath, project director of the Gender Inclusive Cities project run by Jagori NGO. South Asia does fare quite poorly in terms of gender equality.

Vibhuti Patel, a women's rights activist, blamed the repression of sexuality in India for the high rate of sexual violence. "All the other countries surveyed have more sexual freedom than India. Rwanda, too, has tribal culture so people are more open and women's role in the economy is recognized," said Patel, who heads the economics department at Mumbai's SNDT University.

"In India, the age-old code of conduct has been to keep men and women separate. So women are only viewed as sex objects," she added.

I can think of no better way to end this post than to remind all my readers of the beautiful words of Guru Nanak Dev ji.  Most of us say this words each morning.  I think it's time we listen closely and take to heart what he wrote.


 From woman, woman is born; without woman, there would be no one at all.

 O Nanak, only the True Lord is without a woman.

  ॥From woman, man is born; within woman, man is conceived; to woman he is engaged and married.

ਭੰਡਹੁ ਹੋਵੈ ਦੋਸਤੀ ਭੰਡਹੁ ਚਲੈ ਰਾਹੁ  
Woman becomes his friend; through woman, the future generations come.

ਭੰਡੁ ਮੁਆ ਭੰਡੁ ਭਾਲੀਐ ਭੰਡਿ ਹੋਵੈ ਬੰਧਾਨੁ  
When his woman dies, he seeks another woman; to woman he is bound.

 So why call her bad? From her, kings are born.

 From woman, woman is born; without woman, there would be no one at all.

 O Nanak, only the True Lord is without a woman.


Here is my annual post.  Nothing has changed.  I am sick and tired of this.  What more can I say?
There is a lovely little nursery rhyme that every child in the UK and Canada knows. I am not so sure about the children of India, so I reproduce it here:

Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are.
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!

As long as I have been expressing myself publicly (about 2 years 5 years in 2011), I
have said that the most dangerous enemy we Sikhs have is not the
Indian government, the Deras or even the Hindus. It is no force from
outside our own community. It is ourselves. We are fast destroying
ourselves through one particular practice. I have here a little poem
I wrote about that. It unites IWD and our self-destructive

Tinkle, tinkle, little boy,
Bring your parents so much joy.
You're their diamond, you're their pearl,
They're so glad you aren't a girl.

Punjab practice straight from hell.
Very soon its evil tell.

You are looking for a wife,
Someone who will share your life.
Not a woman to be found,
Rotting foetus in the ground.

Guru's teaching has been taught,
But its meaning never sought.
Daughter is a gift from God,
Not a dead, decaying clod.

Without woman, there's no life,
No more children, no more wife.
Guru's teachings die off now,
Go and worship sacred cow.

Tinkle, tinkle, little boy,
Bring your parents so much joy.
HAPPY INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY, 2008!!! 2009!!! 2010!!! 2011!!!