Money is still the easiest wealth to acquire. The wealth that is tough to acquire is peace, and what follows it next is, good health. These two terms play a pivotal role in everyone's life, and a vital role in a woman's happiness. On the occasion of the International Week of Science and Peace, we'll be exploring both the terms here relating it with different facets of women's reality. Peace can be defined as, "freedom from disturbance; tranquility" and as a "state or period in which there is no war or a war has ended." By peace, we aren't just referring to the conflicts we're having with the other countries, and on the borders. We are taking a microscopic approach towards it, with women's wellbeing being our center of focus.
The drums of conundrums in gender equity have created a huge turmoil in the status of peace for women with a continuing tradition since many centuries. Women used to be (and still are) considered as inferior sex, meant only for household chores. Even occupations have been gender wise classified. They were believed to be incapable of doing tough mathematical calculations, jobs, services like police and other field services, and so on. Men, on the other hand, were (and as still they are) considered to be the only bread winners of any family. Their wishes, and progress were always suppressed beneath their pillows as they weren't allowed to even dream.
Here comes the first fact that this situation still prevails. The second fact is that yet we worship Goddess Durga.
Now, another contradictory fact is that this is a kind of peace violation that hypocrisy, prejudice, illogical notions of the society does to women. Consequently, a woman creates a peace treaty between her dreams and the situations enforced on her, and signs it with utter disappointment and hopelessness.
On these lines Rabijita Gogoi, a Theatre artist, expressed, "Women are born free and have all rights to practise and celebrate their independence.. Anything comes in between them should gratefully be put aside and proceeded over.." Here, we also recall what Easterine Kire, Novelist, Poet and Jazz artist, had mentioned about treading the path of gender parity, "The society has failed the girl-child by devaluing her so that she is made vulnerable to sexual violence and abuse. How can we restore value back to the female gender? How can we teach the lesson that children of either gender are equally precious?...." In the country, where we worship goddesses, we also become a part of a gruesome reality and here it is:
- 50% of children reported some form of sexual abuse
- An under 16 child is raped every 155 minutes
- A child under 10 is raped every 13 hours
- 240 million women living in India were married before they turned 18
Now, a shocking fact to shatter your faith and trust, even in the most deserving people: 50% of the abusers are known to the child or are "persons in trust and caregivers". In this context, Indrani Deb, GB member of FICCI FLO NE refers to the book, "Letters of Swami Vivekananda" and recalls that "such a case was a serious thought in the mind of Swami Vivekananda in 1894 in Chicago, who found out that our country was desperately lagging behind because of this serious issue which hampered the growth of the nation. When a woman is strong and nourishes herself, the country prospers and becomes self reliant.."
The dimensions of hypocrisy and impaired perceptions, unfortunately, stand visibly taller than any belief in the world, perhaps even taller and broader than the belief in wisdom and God. And it is like this to such an extent that the logistics of a woman's life cannot bear the burden of such a consignment thrown by an unfair society and rather go for a settlement.
Surely, you can't measure its extent with any length of a measuring tape because every measuring tape would probably lack the basic metrics or units of measurement, "conscience" and "parity." However, we believe in, and revere Goddess Durga, Saraswati, and Lakshmi and yet "she" has to do a peace-treaty.
And, why a peace treaty? It is all because if she chooses to awaken the goddess in her to speak up, she will be called as impure, vulgar or an opportunist. Why? (Again?) She is a female. She is meant to please everyone, not herself. Still, she will become a victim of violence and crimes. And Hush, hush, hush, she can't speak up.
The word, "crime" creates a sense of negativity and depression when thought of physical harm or abuse (that may or may not be fatal) that eats up the complete peace of mind. Women have been the victims of this, constantly.
The UN has divided violence against women into three categories: Physical, Sexual and Psychological. To counter this, the United Nations General Assembly aims at generating awareness about this grim situation while highlighting the need to report it. India is under the spotlight for many reasons.
Parineeta Borthakur, Actress & Singer, expressed herself in this regards, "Since ages, women are being harassed mentally, physically and socially, be it at home or at work places. Though times are changing, but still these harassments haven't vanished..."
Now, open your eyes to this: Rape is the fourth common crime against women in India. There are thirteen types of rape: Acquaintance rape, Date rape, Gray rape, Marital rape, Statutory rape, Prison rape, Gang rape, and others. Many incidences of rape go unreported for the fear of threat to life, hamper of reputation, reduced prospect of marriage of the victims, and others. NCRB 2016 report talks about a total of 38,947 rape cases registered in the country under POCSO and Section 376 and other related sections of the Indian Penal Code and that rape against children in India underline 82 percent increase in the incidences, in one year.
Here, Manjusha Baruah, Founder, East by North East, remarked, "To come across disturbing cases of violence against women through rape, abduction or any other form of harassment on a daily basis is clearly not uncommon in the society we are living in today. Due to its normalization with its growing frequency, the victims are trapped in a vicious cycle to which there is no key, while the victimizers gain tremendous power. In extreme situations, we collectively pledge to improve this situation; however, we fail to act upon it. Therefore, in order to escape this and prevent another girl from falling victim to this situation we must work towards their empowerment, together. Their status should be strengthened and maintained while each woman must be given equal resources and opportunities to prove herself in every field, as a man is given so that she can untag herself from the label of the "second sex".”
It is important to understand that violence against women is more concerned with human rights and being human, than women's rights. Otherwise, how can we talk like educated and about education for all? What is the value of education that doesn't teach a person how to refrain from being blindfolded, and let one differentiate between good and bad; and just and unjust? What is the value of education that ultimately lands many in to the pool of #MeToo? On these lines, Dr Geeta Baruah Nath, Head of Deptt., Gynaecology, Artemis Hospital, Gurgaon, emphasized, "Parents play a big role in raising the male and girl child equally, and in teaching good values from the childhood, such as respecting women and social norms, and about bad touch; not to indulge in drugs or alcohol, which in a way catalyzes violence and promote rape. Finally, education in all sections of the society to enhance mental health is the key to prevent violence and rape..."
Ms. Aarushi Dewan, Clinical Psychologist, Aakash Healthcare Super Speciality Hospital stated, "Rape incidences have become a very quotidian issue in today's time... The mental condition of the rape victim is arcane for any normal individual; their state of mind is lugubrious. The rapist doesn't only attacks on the body of the victim, but very much on her psyche; self image; self esteem: all of it goes on a toll. The victim is not only perturbed by the incidence, but actually starts questioning about the meaning and purpose of life, they get virulent suicidal thoughts. Their mental trauma/adversity is ponderous to overcome as their deference/respect is expropriated from them."
And, hush, hush, the girl or women can't speak about it as a part of #MeToo campaign. If they do so, then there are high chances that rest of their life would be full of shame and disgust. They'll be doubted and looked down upon.
Krishna Sarma, Managing Partner, Corporate Law Group remarked, "Our legal system and public policy framework have set up a number of laws and community-wide initiatives to protect Indian women from violence, whether domestic or physical, harassment in workplace or witch-hunting in Assam. The legislation relating to violence against women includes the Indian Penal Code wherein offences such as sexual offences and even the domestic ones are criminally indicted. For working women, India has, on 2013, passed the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act. Apart from legislations there are social mechanisms available to a woman. Women and girls who fall victim to gender violence, often fail to receive the psychosocial support that they need and are entitled to. The National Commission for Women has its Statewide Branches and a woman can approach the commission for guidance and support in bringing a criminal action against her offenders. Laws aside community-level initiatives worldwide has had better responses like in Nigeria, where a program to teach school boys that the meaning of being a true man is to protect women and where girls were taught self defense as an empowering tool. Rape figures have actually come down there. My friend, Sonali Khan led "Bell Bajao" campaign to prevent domestic violence. Activists in the states such as West Bengal likewise have adapted the Salishe, a traditional system of local justice, to address domestic violence…Collectively, the community arrives at a proposed solution, which is formalized in writing and monitored by a local committee. Internationally, women's right to live free from violence is upheld by the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) to which 189 countries are members including India."
Goddess Durga is a paragon of courage and justice. While Mahisasura is like a collective blend of ill-thoughts and negativism imposed on women, like incidences of molestation, rape, sexual & mental harassment; prejudicing her stance; slut-shaming; binding her freedom; and others that threaten her existence. The question still exists, when we worship female goddesses with immense devotion, then why are we still fighting to achieve hundred percent gender parity? Shouldn't it be existing in the first place itself? We all need to be educated about the real meaning of life; the real essence of parity; and real essence of goddesses.
The International Week of Science and Peace makes an important contribution to the promotion of peace further encouraging greater academic exchanges on a subject of universal importance while generating greater awareness of the relationship of science and peace among the general public. Out microscopic focus justifies the "universal" approach mentioned in its goal.
Sexual harassment and rape champion the tortures that women undergo. We asked Dr. Shubha Madhusudhan, Consultant Clinical Physiologist, Fortis Hospital, Bangalore about the possible impacts of such incidents on a child's psychology.
She explained, "It is very difficult to counsel such kind of patients as they go through a lot of mental imbalance such as, shock, feel cold, faint, mentally confused, worried about pregnancy, gynaecological problems, bleeding, infection, soreness of the body, troth irritation, tension, headache, pain in the lower back stomach, sleep disturbance, eating disturbances, crying more than usual, and not able to socialize, it's gone be slow counsel without hurting the patient."
In most of these cases counter actions should be taken by the parents and the society, who must not apply victimization on them. Most importantly, to avoid such mishaps, they should tell children about good touch and bad touch and allied subjects, without shying away or applying hypocrisy.
A woman, who is usually known as a care giver, neglects her health while taking care of others, further becoming more susceptible to various health hazards. Her health, biologically differs from men. WHO has defined health as "a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity". This indicates that a holistic approach is essential.
Women, are more prone to stress as they utilize their energy worrying about everything and everyone. Ms. Pritika Singh, CEO and Planning and Strategy, Director of Prayag Hospital, shared about how stress impacts a woman's health. "According to many studies women differ from men not only in their emotional responses to stress, but also in their physical and mental health, particularly their acute and chronic stress may take a greater toll. Women may face many problems due to stress that includes irregular periods, acne breakouts, hair loss, poor digestion, depression, insomnia, weight gain, and many more."
Did you know? A WHO study reveals that 1000 women die every day because of the consequences of pregnancy and childbirth. On this line, Dr. Ranjana Sharma, Senior Consultant, Obstetrician & Gynecologist, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi, mentioned about stress in pregnant women, "stress can lead to problem with delivery. When the mother goes into labour, if she is stressed then it is not good for a normal delivery. The labour lasts for hours, if the mother is stressed out, it may interfere with a normal delivery. But there is no evidence to suggest that if the mother is stressed then the baby will be abnormal."
Dr. Parinita Kaur, Consultant, Internal Medicine, Aakash Healthcare Super Specialty Hospital, emphasized that women should never ignore certain symptoms like even general weakness as it could mean anything from a nutritional deficiency to chronic infections, anaemia, cardiac disease, malignancy to even psychological disorders like depression, prolonged fever, menstrual irregularities, etc. She believes that for a healthy and progressive country it is extremely important to have healthy families and women are keys to families' health.
We found an amazing product, "toilet seat sanitizer" by PeeSafe, which is considered to be India's leading personal hygiene brand that facilitates all to use public toilets in a healthy way, without getting vulnerable to infections. Its founder, Vikas Bagaria, expressed, "Poor sanitation practices are depriving women to use public toilets for the chances of getting infections, vaginal burns and UTI. It can be even worse, however, PeeSafe aims at giving women a comfortable and safe experience while they use the toilets - with the help of toilet seat sanitizer spray that protects users from the deadly germs and bacteria while using the toilet. It is a unisex & safe spray and can be used by pregnant women as well as children above five years of age."
Since a lot of dimensions of women's health are indicating towards pregnancy, let us talk about it. Dr. Gayatri Despande, Consultant Genealogist, Nanavati Super Speciality Hospital, mentioned, "As soon as you have a confirmatory test of the pregnancy you must consult a gynaecologist to know what is right and wrong for your baby's health and you. The basic tests like ultrasound, thyroid profile, evaluation of anaemia and vitamin deficiency are some of the necessary investigation for pregnant women.. One must choose the right place where the facility for the mother as well as the new born is available under one roof."
Dr. Snehal Singh, Sr. Wellness and Lifestyle Management Consultant, Healthians, underlined that knowing what women will experience during these 9 months, it is important to stay healthy throughout, "the first trimester is a crucial phase where sudden changes in hormones can make you feel tired most of the time. Nausea and dislike for certain foods and smells, vomiting or morning sickness and cravings for various foods, mood swings, headaches, constipation, change in weight, etc. are all part of the first trimester. During second trimester, as the baby grows, pressure is exerted; some may feel pain around the back, abdomen and thighs, swelling of feet, numbness and tingling in hands and feet.. The third trimester makes the womb further expand, many experience heaviness, back pain, shortness of breath and heartburn causing discomfort.. consulting a doctor is recommended."
Temsutula Imsong, Social Activist from Nagaland, and a Pioneer of Mission Prabhughat, highlighted her views on hygiene as another dimension of susceptibility for harassment, which is not often spoken about i.e. the security issues that open defecation brings in to women. A real-life based movie, "Toilet" has already given an essence of this gloomy condition. Did you know 60% of the world's open defecation happens in India? Latest census data reveals that 636 million of over a billion Indians don't have access to proper and clean toilets.
This contributes to disease, childhood malnutrition, and loss of economic productivity (due to early deaths) and sexual harassment of women. In 2011, Rithika was repeatedly raped by a man from her village, when she used to go to the forest to defecate. According to UNICEF, 50% of the rape cases happen when women defecate in open. Indian National Family Health Survey reveals that at least 50 percent of structures built for sanitation purposes in India remain unused or are used for other purposes.
Even if today’s world has changed a bit with women stepping forward on the path of progress, yet she’s expected to take care of her new born baby more than her other half; cook and do a majority of household chores among fulfilling other expectations. She’s is like a genie who fulfills others’ wishes yet stays locked in a lamp. Open the lock. Let her experience the peace of mind that she deserves and stay pink, because there are only two keys to her happiness, and we know that. Time to act, and walk the talk.