Freedom for daughters has always been a privilege in this country. A privilege that men gain easily and take for granted, but women have to earn and also be thankful for. Whenever we see a successful woman, the first thought that strikes our mind is that how privileged she is to reach this position. Even though she might have to struggle a lot to gain this privilege, the courage and the win are still the things that other women can only admire from afar. But when the Indian constitution has made it clear that every citizen has the freedom to choose, then why are certain rights and freedoms conditional for women?
Many women in our society are provided with two choices to survive. The first is that they conform to the social norms, be the subservient gender and act as per the patriarchal conditioning. The second is to live on their own, and break norms and glass ceilings but with a struggle that can cost them their dignity, or in some cases their lives. Women can either live with their heads down or with heads up while being at the tip of the knife. Although both choices are equally painful for women, the second one is the only way women at least have a shot at realising their dreams.
However, as a lot of women might confirm, there is also a third option for us- what can be described as selective freedom. So while your parents might allow you to attend college, you must be back by seven in the evening. You can wear jeans, but they shouldn’t be too tight or ripped. You can go on that trip with your friends, as long as you are only in company of women. You can take up that job offer, but then you must quit as soon as parents find a suitable match for you.
If women wants to seek education, they are expected to either be unbelievably brilliant at it or be satisfied with the bare minimum that their parents are giving them. If a married woman gets a job, she has to accede to the condition that her work will not affect her duties as a wife, bahu or mother. If she demands more accommodating behaviour from her family, she is told, “Itna mil rha hai kaafi hai”. This phrase is often used to force to trap women in the cycle of guilt, fear and gratefulness.
Obligation and criticism: The cost of exercising your rights
In our society, if a woman is given the freedom to do what she wants, she is expected to be thankful to her family for the ‘privilege’. With this also comes the condition that they have to say yes to every other thing that their family demands from them. For instance, if a woman is allowed to study, she cannot deny getting married and that too to a man of her family’s choice. Throughout her life, a woman is expected to feel obliged to her family members for allowing her the freedom that others don’t get.
Women are often to told to count their blessings, as others are less fortunate. They must make do with what they have silently, else their limited freedom might go away too.
Moreover, living with this limited freedom is not easy either. The society keeps a close eye on women, watching their every move. One mistake is enough for it to snatch away a woman’s liberties and subject her to a lifetime of criticism. For instance, a working mom who sends her kid to playschool or hires a nanny to look after them is shamed for being a bad mom. And if someday the child gets into trouble, the mother might be told to quit her job, be less selfish and focus on her kid.
Questions we need to raise
Till when will women have to pay a cost of something that should be their right, as it is for men? Why must their freedom, or the level of liberties they get, pass via checkpoints set up by their family and society? Why should women feel thankful to others for something as basic as not policing their lives and minding their own business? In fact, why should living on their own terms be a privilege for women?
Women deserve the right to make decisions, right or wrong, and yet not get unfairly punished. Every woman should be free to live freely without being terrified of consequences. In fact, there must be no bad consequence of a woman’s choice to live on her own terms.
Views expressed are the author’s own.