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Jul 31 2012

A big celebration of patriarchal tradition

Yes, it happens in the Indian subcontinent every year. It is a big patriarchal festival celebrated by Hindus. Men and women of all ages, of all classes and of all castes celebrate Raksha Bandhan or the bond of protection. On this auspicious day, sisters tie a silk thread called Rakhi on their brothers’ wrists and pray to God for their health and well-being. Brothers make a promise to protect their sisters from all harms and troubles.

There is no such festival where sisters promise to protect their brothers from all evil and brothers pray for their sisters’ health and well-being.

Middle class is rapidly expanding. Educated people are emerging. Technocrats are everywhere. Women are becoming more and more financially independent. But everybody will celebrate Raksha Bandhan day after tomorrow. It has been celebrated for centuries but no one says, it is not necessary to celebrate Raksha Bandhan when women are becoming educated and independent and they can very well take care of themselves. Instead of encouraging women to be strong and courageous, people celebrate Raksha Bandhan which is a symbol of women’s vulnerability. The message is, women are weak and vulnerable, so they need to be protected by men.

In reality, sisters are expected to give their inherited properties to their brothers. Many sisters are forced to stay with abusive husbands because brothers are not ready to take care of their sisters. Many sisters commit suicide for being helpless. Many widow-sisters are abandoned by their brothers and flocked to Vrindavan, a holy city where they have no other alternative but to live a miserable life and wait to die. And it is not uncommon that brothers kill sisters to save family honor. If brothers protected their sisters, India would not have become the 4th most dangerous place for women in the world.

The celebration of patriarchy is the celebration of men’s superiority and women’s inferiority. The festival is getting bigger and more glamorous every year. It is alarming.

21 comments

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  1. 1
    Ophelia Benson

    Argh.

    I did some reading about widows in India for Does God Hate Women? The BBC has done some excellent reporting on the subject. It was desperately sad stuff.

    1. 1.1
      Taslima Nasreen

      I would love to read your book.

  2. 2
    Alyson Miers

    In reality, sisters are expected to give their inherited properties to their brothers. Many sisters are forced to stay with abusive husbands because brothers are not ready to take care of their sisters. Many sisters commit suicide for being helpless. Many widow-sisters are abandoned by their brothers and flocked to Vrindavan, a holy city where they have no other alternative but to live a miserable life and wait to die. And it is not uncommon that brothers kill sisters to save family honor.

    IOW, the brother’s vow to protect his sister doesn’t amount to much in terms of behavior?

    1. 2.1
      F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

      Well, as one protects property until it outlives its usefulness and becomes a liability.

      -

      One can only hope that the sisters, in return, cease to pray for their brother’s health, which is apparently all they have the right to do. Ritualized displays of supposed love are too often only displays, although the cultural debt placed on these sisters is all too real, with no way to enforce their benefits of the ritual contract. That’s some protection you got there, bro.

  3. 3
    Brad

    Seems like fine sentiments… except for the part where they forget to do half of it. All the rest is fucked up and needs to go. Are there organizations in India fighting this?

    1. 3.1
      Taslima Nasreen

      I don’t think so.

  4. 4
  5. 5
    H. Kier

    Cultures do evolve, although at a glacial pace. The fact that the problem is being recognized and discussed on the internet is evidence of that evolution. Let us hope that the internet will prove to be the accelerant that we hope it will be.

  6. 6
    S Mukherjee

    Whenever I hear that women have to be ‘protected’ by men, I wonder — protection against what? The answer is of course, protection against the predations of other men! So a woman has to be nice and submissive to her husband or father or brother, so that these men will condescend to protect her against other men. It is a nice little protection racket.

    I hate Raksha-bandhan. When I was at university in Northern India, some girls who were embarrassed to admit that they had boyfriends used to tie the rakhi on the wrists of these boys, so that they became their ‘brothers’ and therefore would have social sanction to meet them whenever they pleased.

    1. 6.1
      Vivek

      Ridiculous. A few stupid girls do something stupid and you disregard an entire community? this is like saying “I hate driving because some people drive rash” or like “I hate eating at restaurants because there was food poisoning in one of those”. Grow up dude.

  7. 7
    Mike

    While the message is clearly patriarchal, I would certainly find comfort in a strong bond between siblings looking out for each other, regardless of sex. To celebrate siblings (who aren’t terrible people) would be a worthwhile affair.

    Sometimes it is just nice to know your brothers and sisters have your back.

    1. 7.1
      Vivek

      Very well said Mike. There are lots of festivals, celebrations which are traditional and hold good in the context of the era.

  8. 8
    Humayon Pervaiz

    Read thoroughly keeping a careful eye to every word. I respect thy thought and wisdom. You are right on the part that brothers don’t protect their sisters’ lives in danger. While, I consider this tradition as a “Bond of Affection” between Brother & Sister rather than an Agreement of “Taking Good Care of Each Others Lives”.
    Thank You!!

  9. 9
    Surbhi

    I don’t agree with the idea we should not celebrate Rakhi.
    Mam, what you are forgetting is that like everything festivals have also evolved to have different meaning with time.
    I am an independent working woman and do take my ‘independance’ seriously.
    But I love rakhi because it is a day when I bond with my sibling. The bond that I share with my brother isn’t because of dependance of any kind but because of love. The common childhood memories.
    It is these sweet n some bitter memories that I share with which makes me send a Rakhi every year and will do so every year inspite my feminist idealogy.

  10. 10
    Anuj

    To comment about a culture,you need to know about it. I am an Indian, and a christian, am not supposed to be celebrating this festival. But I am. How few maniacs/perverts act cannot be taken for an entire nation. I would like to invite you over to an normal Indian family, celebrating this festival. You can see the loving bond between siblings. This blog though represents in a very negative tone.

    If you would know the meaning of Raksha Bandhan. Please go through the link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raksha_Bandhan please go through the history of Raksha Bandhan. And you can know one thing is, guys have been protected by girls prayers and Rakhi than the other way around.

    This is sacred Rakshabandhan, where I know have a loving sister praying for my safety.

  11. 11
    Nikita Oberoi

    I just put the following status on FB.. Tho im nt expecting many “Likes” for this 1 :P

    Nikita Oberoi

    Party Spoiler Alert!!!!

    I find the whole show and symbolism of Rakhi utterly sexist and hence outrageous. One of the connotations (apart from others such as love, granted), i.e. of expecting “raksha/protection” from a ‘brother” only indicates that you are inferior and incapable of managing your own self. Only the WEAK need protection.
    Subtle forms of discrimination rooted in our culture that we proudly follow without a thought to its underlying connotations.

  12. 12
    Deepa Nagaraj

    Hi mam,
    Good one. In Indian films, sisters of the heroes are always shown in subservient ways, always younger and below to these macho-brothers, who r labelled good when they ‘obey’ their brothers who are ready to die for these sisters to ‘protect’ them. Not the other way. Sisters are never shown as strong personalities. Some women defend by commenting that it is time to bond with brothers which is fine, then the name should be changed as ‘bandhan divas’. Makes more sense.

  13. 13
    Mayank

    I feel disappointed to see you have won so many prizes. You might me one of the many pseudo intellectuals that roam around every street.
    I feel your knowledge about feminism has gone terribly wrong. You so very blatantly insinuate on family, bonding and relationships by talking about the problems facing our society.
    I am not saying your views are wrong but they are definitely amiss. You talk like a totalitarian and you seems to have a strong belief in what Foucault Normalization.
    The way you portray everything is how it has always been shown and has it done anything good, ever? I am a feminist myself and by it I believe that instead of directly calling war on the Patriarch, it is required to have your own identity in crowd that speaks for itself.
    There are different approaches to deal with everything and the way you talk it feels you are a fame hunter. Criticizing something the way you do would never help us find a solution to the issue. We need to get to the core of the issue and then work together to find ways to help the community.
    All you do with this article is invigorates people without giving them a possible way to start thinking about the solution.

    I have a question for you, Do you believe in god?

    1. 13.1
      Mayank

      and BTW with your belief in god, I just mean what do you actually think about the entire concept?

  14. 14
    Maegan Ybarra

    Women might have proper sex drive but reaching an orgasm is not the end point of an intercourse for women.

  15. 15
    Cynic

    There is no dearth of ‘popular’ Bollywood movies that cannot resist glorifying this bullshit ad nauseam.

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