In a remote village in Harayana, a 60-year-old Parmeshwari Devi set a new trend in the women’s emancipation movement. She mobilised women in her village and waged war against the opening of liquor shops and granting of licenses to them. Naturally, the women are the worst affected when their men get drunk and who can better plead for them than themselves? Any cause gets better attention when those fighting are the victims themselves.
Take dowry deaths. What we need is a forum of young women in rural and semi-rural areas, who will refuse to marry if dowry is demanded. There can be a complementary group of parents of marriageable girls. Together, these two groups can pose quite a threat to young men who will find themselves doomed to eternal bachelorhood.
Unless the parents of the girls co-operate, this movement can only be a cry in the wilderness. In the ultimate analysis, it’s the parents who are to be blamed, for throwing their daughters into an abyss of misery. All because they are afraid of wagging tongues in the neighborhood. How will it help if women in cities march to the Council Hall or press for amendments in the legal structure?
Another forum that should come up is that of daughters-in-law. It’s indeed pathetic to see how some of them are browbeaten into a life of serfdom even in cities! I know of one such, an educated girl married into a fairly well off but conservative family in Bombay. As it’s a joint family, she is not allowed to take up a job now. To think her husband is also highly educated and has been abroad on assignments! This girl is just 25 but has become a workhorse. How can anyone fight for her rights while she’s too meek to stand up for herself?
What we need are women’s groups made up of those who are suffering various kinds of discrimination and oppression. Only then will there be a solution. There’s no point in wearing your best cotton saree and shouting slogans near the Council Hall, against issues, which do not directly affect you. At best, such women can motivate and mobilise the victims and show them how to fight for themselves. We need more and more Parmeshwari Devis in the remote corners of our country. Why not launch a search for them?