Saptarishi
Thursday, May 18, 2006
  Empowered or oppressed?
I found this photograph on BBC:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/4995140.stm

This photograph intrigued me recently. The photograph depicts a demonstration in Kashmir by women protesting against the recent sex scandal involving top state police officials. Some of the protests have turned violent because of the conservative nature of the Muslims in the Kashmir valley who view this scandal as an outrage on their social mores.

Isn't it ironic that a woman, covered from head to toe, is protesting against exploitation of other women? Does she realize that to an untrained eye, unfamiliar with the concepts of women dressing up modestly in Islam, she seems to be the oppressed one? In fact, just by looking at the photograph out of context, I felt that she is protesting against her own plight. But this is not the case here.

Of course, apologists for this kind of dress code for women will argue with me that, hopefully, nobody forced the woman in the snapshot to wear the burqa. She wore it out of her own volition because of her sense of what is appropriate in her society. Who am I to comment on the cultural practices of other societies?

I do not buy this argument. Although the above argument has its merits, yet I believe that there is something really uncomfortable in any culture that seeks to hide its women like this. This is not in consonance with the evolutionary trends of human civilization all over the world. It seems to be a form of oppression that has been given a moral justification by embedding it in the basic ethos of the concerned society.
 
Comments:
I do not agree with you. If you like at the history from Roman time to the midieval time. And look at the image of U.S. today, it isn't there some similarity? I am not saying, we will go directly into another midieval time, but at least it is understandable why things like emphasize on chastity etc. will come after a period of totally none. At least that concept will help to fight again AIDS. Although AIDS might be more spreaded because of drug and blood related products. I don't know what I will see in my life time. But for sure there will be a pattern of going one way then the other. We are just oscillating our culture at different time, with different freqency.
 
Aninda,
You're right. It's an ancient trick of every oppressive system. Get the oppressed to "choose" their oppression, either by showing a stick (e.g. stoning) or a carrot. The oppressed (some women in this case), often internalize it and forget that they had in fact been coerced into their "choice" and often even defend/perpetuate it.
Another instance daughter-in-law sometimes growing older and becoming the oppressive mother-in-law...


ps:
I'm not sure I understand the previous comment
 
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"Saptarishi" in Sanskrit means the Seven Sages or rishis who are extolled at many places in the Vedas and other Hindu literature. They are regarded in the Vedas as the patriarchs of the Vedic religion. The constellation of Ursa Major is also named as Saptarshi. (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saptarishi)

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