After constantly hearing about Donald Trump’s Wall, we in India were treated to our own wall – a “Woman’s Wall.”
Millions of women lined up on the streets of Kerala forming a human wall spanning 620 km from Kasargod in the Northern part of the State to Trivandrum in the South. This wall stands for gender equality and inclusivity rather than keeping people out and is more powerful than Trump’s wall ever could be.
Gender Equality is political. It is a power relationship where despite women not being a “minority” we have been discriminated against. It manifests itself in exclusion from important fora be it – economic, political, financial, educational and even religious.
The Kerala Government in conjunction with Hindu organisations organised this unique event as a stand for gender equality against the religious conservatives opposing the Supreme Court verdict that permitted the entry of women of menstruating age into the temple at Sabarimala. It was aimed to break down harmful traditions. However, the number of women who took part in this event far exceeded the numbers that were expected.
The Kerala Government in conjunction with Hindu organisations organised this unique event as a stand for gender equality.
Not surprising as most women and girls are quite disgruntled with the appalling state of gender inequality in India. Though women and girls comprise about 49% of the population, we are still referred to and treated as a “minority”. There are special schemes for girls’ education, women empowerment and livelihood training, yet socio-cultural barriers exist that prevent women and girls from fully participating in social and economic life.
For example, despite the heavy protests from conservative Hindu groups, two women managed to enter the temple a couple of days ago under heavy security. Although this was their constitutional right and upheld by the Supreme Court of India, the temple authorities shut down the temple post their visit for “purification rituals.” This is patriarchal and further perpetuates norms that treat women as second-class citizens.
Excluding women from places of worship because of their ability to procreate and controlling their lives from womb to tomb is a form of power that men continue to exercise. We see it play out not only in the religious context but also in everyday life.
Excluding women from places of worship because of their ability to procreate and controlling their lives from womb to tomb is a form of power that men continue to exercise.
Safety and security continues to be a problem where domestic violence, rape within marriage, violence in public spaces and honour killings still take place on a daily basis. A couple of weeks ago, a 15-year-old girl in Agra succumbed to her injuries sustained from being set alight by a couple of men on motorcycles. Whilst in Telangana, a 22-year-old woman was killed by her parents for marrying a man outside of her caste.
Men continue to turn the other way, condoning the toxic masculinity and bro culture prevalent in the workplace and in social circles. The entire #MeToo discourse has now outed this double standard of pretending to be feminist yet being silent bystanders to the violence. So it is heartening to see men also participate in this exercise in Kerala where they formed a parallel wall.
The Women’s Wall in Kerala is significant. Women need to reclaim the narrative around their own rights and lives. Women are mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, voters and more.
The Women’s Wall in Kerala is significant. Women need to reclaim the narrative around their own rights and lives.
In 2018, women have risen to the occasion and marched to make a point, they have been elected in large numbers and have voted governments out of power. In 2019, we will see more of it and this Women’s Wall is just the beginning.
The views expressed are the author’s own.