What Does A Woman Get From Marriage?

Do you remember Rothi, the first wife of singer James? She was pageant winner, used to be a regular face in advertisements, theatre and television at one point. Rothi had to leave acting after marriage as per her husband’s orders. James had told her explicitly that she couldn’t continue her acting career. Finally, after having two children with her, James left her and got married to someone else. Rothi had to leave with her children in 2003 and since then she has been raising them on her own. The popular James made no efforts to contribute to the rearing of his own children, did not spend even a iota of his wealth on them. After marriage Rothi had to quit acting but it’s not as if James had to similarly quit his music career. Such things are prevalent in society even today. The men who we trust to be the most educated and aware end up being the biggest impediments to independent and self-reliant women.

The custom of marriage has continued to foment gender discrimination in the subcontinent even in the twenty-first century. Every organism evolves and so do their customs and beliefs. It’s only the institution of marriage that has steadfastly resisted evolution. Till date women have to move to the house of their in-laws, Hindu women have to wear the sindoor and adorn themselves with numerous symbols of superstitions like the shnakha, pola, noa (white conch-shell bangles, red coral bangles and iron bangles, all meant to be worn by married women) or the mangal sutra. The fight for equal rights for women has been going on for a long time and, inspired by the same, many educated and cognizant women have cast aside such things. One would expect progressive individuals to greet such assertions of independence from women with a warm welcome. Instead, just the other day for instance, the legal minds of the Guwahati High Court proved how the influential and powerful people of society continue to cling to discriminatory attitudes. In a divorce case that was filed in the Guwahati High Court the judge, while granting the divorce, cited the woman’s refusal to sport the sindoor and shnakha as proof that she no longer considered the man in question her husband. As per the judge her refusal amounted to her considering herself as still unmarried or tantamount to not accepting the marital vows. This can be the judgement of a superstitious and misogynous man but in no way can it be the judgement of a court. It’s the court’s job to safeguard against gender discrimination and protect human rights and women’s rights. Instead, when the court seeks to posit things like the sindoor and the shnakha as mandatory for married women then this is surely an unfortunate turn of events. As long as this patriarchal mindset exists women will continue to suffer. This is indeed unfortunate. How can we forget that the courts are not outside society and its judges too belong to this existing social order.

The problem is that even today men take their wives back to their parents’ houses after marriage. Men refuse to embrace adulthood, instead wanting to spend their entire lives as the apples of their parents’ eyes. So the parents, the siblings, everyone takes care of this apparently grown man and then a wife is added to this mix. Yet another slave for him. For most men it becomes impossible to take care of themselves like adults are supposed to and consequently the wife, finding herself in a completely different environment, struggles to make sense of things. She has to walk the tightrope of appeasing everybody or risk inviting their criticism. She has to completely relinquish her independence and self-reliance in order to make a space for herself at her in-laws’. I know as soon as they read this hordes of women will say how nice their in-laws are and how they never had to negotiate with their independence. But the thing is why must a woman live with the relatives of her husband? It’s not as if the husband has to live with the wife’s family or that he is meant to appease them. After marriage a women has to abandon everything she knows, her family, her friends, her home and her locality, her familiar environment and spaces, all in order to seek refuge at her husband’s house. But a man has to relinquish nothing for the sake of marriage. There must be limits to even discrimination but marriage glibly crosses them all the time.

The Assamese man who had filed the divorce case had complained that his wife did not wish to stay at the house of her in-laws. That’s why he wanted a divorce. If a wife doesn’t wish to co-habit with anyone other than her husband then an adult male can move elsewhere with his wife. But the ones who forever remain their parents’ children refuse to live apart, even if it means leaving their wives. Are our men only their parents’ children? By hook or by crook don’t they end up becoming their wives’ children as well? All they desire is for their wives to take care of everything for them, from their meals right down to their shoes and socks.
The idiot from Assam has no desire to be an adult, let alone be responsible. Hence the divorce. If two people don’t wish to live together anymore, if there’s no love left between them, then even if one person decides on a divorce then at least it can happen without any problems. And that’s what happened too. The problem was not with the divorce. It’s the judge’s comments on it that has invited a lot of criticism. The judge has declared that married women must wear the sindoor and the shnakha. On the other hand most married men continue to remain bachelors. Can you look at a man and tell if he’s married or not? They look the same. Married men don’t need to carry around signs validating their marital status, no sindoor, no bangles etc. There must be limits to even discriminatory attitudes, limits that we all know don’t exist. What happens if women, even the ones who love their husbands, don’t wish to carry around such signs of marriage? Don’t they have the freedom to make such a choice? Why can’t marriage be about freedom rather than captivity?
In Europe and America married Christians and Jews, be it men or women, wear wedding rings. That’s their marital symbol. If a couple doesn’t wish to wear rings then they don’t. People of all religions deserve this freedom. Not just Muslim men, even Muslim women don’t have to carry visible signs of marriage and that’s a good thing. However, just because they don’t have to display proof of marriage doesn’t mean Muslim women enjoy more freedom than women of other religions. Muslims women are as much victims of this patriarchal social setup as the rest of them.

Marriage is gradually becoming an irrelevant thing. The institution had been founded in order to provide legal legitimacy to essentially a master-slave relation. Women were thought to be weaker and always dependant on others, they were perceived of as nothing but a vagina and a uterus. Marriage was founded to give men rights over women’s bodies. And exactly for these reasons it’s now an obsolete and meaningless institution. A woman who is not weak, who is self-reliant, whose identity is not defined by her vagina or her uterus, a woman who believes in independence and rights, a woman who doesn’t accept the master-slave dynamic but instead subscribes to equality and equal rights, why would such a woman choose marriage? Marriage seems more necessary for the men who are languishing their days dreaming of remaining children forever.

If an ancient institution such as marriage is to be preserved then it urgently needs to undergo change and evolution. It must discard its misogynous early roots and undergo modernisation, premised on the principles of equal rights of men and women. Marriage cannot continue to treat the husband-wife relation as that of a master and a slave. It must be built upon foundations of love and trust and no one’s human rights should be compromised in the process. Marriage must not seek to enslave women. Instead it must become a way of freedom from captivity, it must become synonymous with independence.

Tolerance, generosity, humanity—we must learn to nurture.

There have been numerous instances of communal clashes in India in recent times. Among the far-right Hindus of India, Islamophobia is rampant. For some this hatred is so acute that had it been possible they would have perhaps killed Muslims in droves or driven them out of the country. However, those among the Hindus who are progressive free-thinkers can always be found standing in solidarity with the minorities, just like in other countries as well. Yet, even in countries which are known worldwide for their humanity and their adherence to principles of human rights, like Denmark, Norway and Sweden, the numbers of the Islamophobic, anti-immigrant neo-Nazis are steadily rising. These days such groups call public meetings in order to burn the Quran. An Islamophobic far-right politician like Denmark’s Rasmus Paludan has earned much of his ‘fame’ from his ant-Muslim activities. He used to upload his Quran-burning videos on YouTube, once even wrapping pork in the pages before setting them on fire. In 2017 he founded a far-right political party called ‘Stram Kurs’ (Hard Line) whose members are known to harbour immense hatred against Muslim immigrants living in Northern Europe. In the last Danish general election the party was on the ballot with Paludan promising that if he won he would drive out three lakh Muslim immigrants from Denmark and prohibit the practice of Islam there. It’s not as if everyone in Denmark supports Paludan, he has even been to jail a couple of times for his Islamophobic content on social media. This racist man even wished to visit Malmö in Sweden to attend a far-right anti-Muslim event where they were going to burn the Quran but he was ultimately not allowed entry into Sweden. In fact it was even declared that he would not be allowed into Sweden for the next two years. Paludan had been invited by the racist Swedish artist Dan Park who has similarly risen in rank among the far-right for his anti-immigrant rhetoric. In response, Paludan’s supporters and members of Stram Kurs took to the streets of Malmö in protest, poured petrol on copies of the Quran and set them on fire. When the videos of these acts were uploaded on social media, nearly 300 Muslims of the city came out in protest amidst chants of Allah-hu-Akbar, pelted stones at the police and set car tires aflame. The smoke had turned the skies of Malmö black.

Why this Islamophobia in the countries most renowned for their human rights?
In 2013-2014 Sweden granted asylum to nearly 70,000 Syrian refugees. Not just shelter, they were allowed to become permanent residents. Then again in 2015 they granted refuge to nearly 1,62000 refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. It was perhaps this that led to the rise in popularity of far-right political outfits in Sweden. Sweden Democrats, the right-wing political party that is the third largest in Sweden, is an exponent of Neo-Nazism. Sweden was the world’s leading Welfare State. Since the Second World War the Swedish government has provided child-care, education, healthcare and unemployment benefits to every citizen. Now this Welfare State is on the verge of crumbling and the right-wing believes that the sole reason behind this are the immigrants. That immigrants enjoy state benefits without engaging meaningful employment, that immigrants are always ready to exploit the benefits of a Welfare State, that for many immigrants it’s impossible to get jobs due to lack of necessary educational qualifications or skills. Thus the blame of the weakening of the Welfare State, run on the taxes paid by Swedish citizens, is being placed squarely on the immigrants. In 2018 unemployment rates jumped from 3.8% to 15%. It’s due to reasons such as these that racism and aggressive nationalism has grown in popularity in almost all European nations.

After Malmö in Sweden, fires erupted in the Norwegian capital of Oslo as well. The far-right factions there organised demonstrations, followed by counter-protests organised by the local Muslims. It resulted in communal clashes in even such a peace-loving little nation such as Norway. The reasons why Islamophobia is on the rise in countries like Sweden and Denmark are also behind the comparable situation in Norway. In these countries Muslims comprise the largest percentage of immigrants. Consequently, racism and anti-immigration is synonymous with Islamophobia. How can this Islamophobia be curbed? Those who had brunt the Quran were arrested, the racists who tried to use hate campaigns to incite riots were also taken into custody. These people spend some time in prison and then get released invariably. People can be imprisoned but the hatred in them can hardly be put behind bars. Hatred spreads, like wildfire from one place to another. I certainly don’t believe hatred can be ended by incarceration and levying penalties. Millions of Muslims are living in non-Islamic countries across the world today. Those who are terrorists are being branded as such. But those who have nothing to do with terrorism, who are not religious fundamentalists, who don’t believe in violence, the simple everyday folk who identify as Muslims, why should they have to bear the brunt of this hatred just because a few Muslims have committed acts of terror across the world? Must all Muslims be held responsible for the crimes committed by a few! In the countries of the west where Muslims have sought refuge or reached as immigrants, anti-Muslims sentiments are on the rise among the non-Muslim population of these countries as well. One must devise ways to combat this.

Living with hate isn’t good for anyone, be it a Muslim or a non-Muslim. Hate is debilitating for the mind as well as the body. It’s undeniable that many Muslims actually wish to live in developed and civilised non-Muslim countries rather than in their own because in the former they can enjoy more human rights, more humanity, more freedom of speech, free and improved opportunities of education, better healthcare and various other benefits. It’s for these reasons that Muslims will continue to emigrate from Muslim nations to countries like Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand. There’s no point denying this reality.

At one time the racist Christians of Europe held deep hatred regarding the minority Jews living in their countries. This anti-Semitism reached its zenith with Germany’s Hitler and his Nazis. Nearly six million Jews were slaughtered by the Nazis during the Holocaust. Racist Christians no longer hate Jews just as much. Despite Jewish roots tied to the Middle East they are nowadays largely considered European. Jews too are no longer hostile towards Christians, their hatred has shifted towards Muslims. Jews were originally a rather small community from the Middle East that had spread all across Europe. Jews have been subject to racism, they have faced the unimaginable horrors of the Nazi concentration camps, they have died in the gas chambers, and yet they have remained indomitable, they have not demanded revenge or resorted to terrorism, when the Nazis were defeated the Jews did not rise up in vengeance and drag them to gas chambers to die. Instead they studied and got educated, they became the very best doctors, engineers, scientists, philosophers, film-makers and litterateurs. Today the Jews rank highest when it comes the number of Nobel Prize winners among them and comprise a majority of skilled personnel in almost any field. Who can hate them?

Muslims too must seek education. If they continue to foster lack of education, if they insist on denying the equal rights of all genders, if they continue to disregard freedom of speech, democracy, secularism, science and evolution, if they continue to be hostile towards non-Muslims and insist on adhering to 1400 year old laws, then it’s only hatred and not respect that they will receive. Muslims must become modern. Living among non-Muslims while simultaneously nurturing hatred for their faith and culture, engaging only in vengeance and discord, this cannot be a happy way to survive. Rather they must earn the respect of non-Muslims, they must become civilised, educated and cognizant individuals. Religious sentiments cannot be so fragile, they must be recast in steel. Just as there won’t be riots anywhere if a Bible was to be burned, the same must be ensured in case of the Quran. Christians were horrifying barbarians too once upon a time. They would slaughter anyone who expressed even the slightest of doubts regarding the existence of God. They have themselves evolved from such barbaric times. Truth be told faith cannot be found in a book, it exists within. Tolerance, generosity, humanity are the true tenets of faith. These are the qualities that we must learn to nurture.


Rape, rape, rape. I so dislike uttering the word and yet every single day I have to hear it or read it. Will such a day ever come when no one will utter the word anymore because rapes will have stopped happening?
In the state of Uttar Pradesh in India, a 19 year old Dalit girl Manisha Valmiki had gone to the fields to cut grass for the cows. She was dragged off by four men who raped her, cut off her tongue and shattered her spine. After battling for her life for fifteen days Manisha passed away at a hospital in Delhi on 29 September. Why did those men rape her? Because Manisha was a woman. Because she was a Dalit. And the rapists? The rapists were men, the rapists were upper caste. Does that mean only upper caste men rape? Do men from the lower castes not commit rape? Do women of the upper castes not face sexual violence? All of these things happen. The truth is that women of all castes, all religions, across languages, skin colours, classes, in all villages, cities and countries, irrespective of their ages fall prey to rape. And men of all types are capable of raping and torturing women. Rapes will not stop as long as our patriarchal society continues to function, because patriarchy brainwashes people with the lesson that men are the lords, to whom women are nothing but slaves and sex objects. So what else can men do to slaves and sex objects other than subject them to sexual violence! Even slaughtering them with a smile is an exciting experience on its own, and men hanker for such excitement. They hanker because they are certain that they will not be caught, or if they are caught they will never face punishment.

A couple of years ago when Nirbhaya aka Jyoti Singh, who was raped in a moving bus in Delhi, succumbed to her injuries, thousands of people had taken to the streets. Protests against rape had raged across the country and eventually the adults among the perpetrators were sentenced to death. Isn’t that exemplary punishment enough? But has that stopped rapes from happening? No, they have continued.
Last year in India an average of 87 rape cases were registered per day. In the entire country the number of crimes reported to have been committed against women were around 4,05,861. Surely the number of cases that went unreported was much higher. Especially in this subcontinent whenever we come across an official number it is understood that we have to take the real number to be nearly twice, thrice or even four times. And do that we must, for not many women actually end up registering cases of sexual violence! Which woman can dare report a man’s crime in his own social set-up and still hope to survive unscathed! Women are forced to bury their heads and endure, and doing so has become a habit for them.

Cases of violence against women are not decreasing, rather the number is on the rise. Whatever the number was in 2018, it increased by nearly sevenfold by the very next year. As per data from the NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau) there were 3, 78, 236 cases of violence against women registered in 2018 and the number of rape cases were 33, 356. That number was 32, 559 in 2017, which means it’s only increasing every year. Will these numbers pile up and graze the sky? Women are becoming educated and self-reliant, rapists are being sentenced to death or life imprisonment, immense effort is being put in to spread awareness against rape, all sorts of government as well as private organisations are working round the clock to prevent rape and yet why have rapes not stopped happening? We must ask this question again and again and we must find the answer as well, not the fake answer but the right one.

Do such crimes of harassment, rape and murder happen only in India? Of course not, as the neighbouring countries are not content to be left behind. In Bangladesh 892 rape cases alone have been registered in the past eight months. We must accordingly figure out the number of cases where the crime wasn’t even reported. Gang rapes, raped and murdered, survivors committing suicide after the incident, and so on and so forth.

Just the other day I heard the news of a Chakma woman from the hills of Bangladesh who was raped by nine Bengali men. Was I surprised by the news? Not at all. When men restrain themselves from committing rape, they do so because they are afraid of the law or of getting caught and beaten up. Had there been a law today whereby men would be able to get away with any crime, then perhaps not a single man would spend a day without raping someone.

I read a newspaper report on a certain Monir Hossain from Chandpur, Faridgunj who had been raping his minor daughter for years. It was ultimately his wife who informed the police about his misdeeds and the daughter too confessed that her father had been sexually abusing her. Monir Hossain may have been arrested but there is no dearth of people like him in our society.

Our one greatest sorrow is that we as women, whether we are part of the minority or the majority, are never safe. That’s because, as ill-fated as we are, we inhabit this society with certain individuals many of who are not really men but mere dicks, deaf and dumb dicks. Until and unless these dicks evolve into actual human beings, rapes will continue to happen.

There’s nothing to be proud of being a dick, even though patriarchy provides one lifelong encouragement to be just that.

At the moment of birth a glimpse of the new-born child’s penis sparks elation in the family. That’s when it all starts. From that moment the way a male child is pampered, the amount of money and resources that is spent on him, the dreams and aspirations that are carefully nurtured around him, it all contributes to elevating him to the status of a king in the household. And kings are bound to be arrogant, they are bound to be susceptible to taking things for granted. From the moment they are born boys are taught that they are precious because they are boys and that the numerous girls in the family or in society, none of them are as precious as he. That women were born to serve men, to be objects that men can consume as well as to bear his children. Whatever they are taught, they behave accordingly. Rapes will continue to happen as long as society continues to consider men more valuable than women. Rapists are brainwashed people. They have been brainwashed relentlessly by family, society and the state. In the family laws drawn up by the state it is men who have more rights. The socio-political sphere is a male domain, it’s only men who are celebrated there just as men are the heads of families. We must attempt to demolish this patriarchal framework, only then can true equality be achieved. If we don’t discuss the equal rights of genders, there is no way rapes can be stopped. Lords oppress their slaves, that’s how such a feudal system has always worked. Rape is a form of oppression.

Building an equal society, guaranteeing equal rights for all and demolishing all patriarchal social structures are only ways in which we can combat the rape and oppression of women.

Do We Need More Proof That There Is No God?

Not only the practice of ‘tawaf’ (going around the Kaaba) but ‘umrah’ (the pilgrimage of which ‘tawaf’ is a part) too has been stopped in Mecca. Pilgrimage to Muhammed’s burial site in Medina has also been halted. Quite possibly they will stop the Hajj as well. Numerous mosques have cancelled Friday prayers. In Kuwait new azaans can be heard, not asking the faithful to gather at the mosque but to stay at home and perform prayers from there. This is truly an incredible transformation, albeit one that is necessary for survival. Because if you go to pray your namaz and end up coming back with a virus then you will end up infecting your entire family. From a single person to ten, from ten to hundreds, this is how the contagion will spread and hordes of people will die. A single virus holds the power to drive humanity to the brink of extinction. Mullahs are no longer claiming they will go to mosques and pray before Allah to save us from the virus. That is because the businessmen of religion know very well that Allah will not save us. If anyone can it will be the scientists, who are busy at this very moment in trying to find a vaccine. The ones who should be truly surprised by such a turn of event, the ones who should have a lot of questions, are the idiots who believe in religion. The ones who flock together like sheep and follow the herd without asking where or why. Neither do they ever seek to find proof of god’s existence, nor do they have any faith in rationality and free thought. Even today are they not curious as to why their religious institutions, the ones where people are supposed to seek refuge against disease, have shut their doors to the people? Then do these religious institutions serve the common people no actual purpose?

Coronavirus has been detected in the Vatican too, the holiest of places for the Catholics. Apparently the Pope can communicate with God. But where is that now? Even he has not been able to lead us to any wonder drug revealed to him by divine intervention. The Vatican instead is reeling from the fears of a viral outbreak and the Pope is not appearing in front of the people. Numerous Christian religious festivals are held there in the presence of the general public. Holy Week, Good Friday, Easter, etc. all upcoming events stand cancelled and congregations have been prohibited. Isn’t that incredible? Where is God then? Do religious people don’t have this question?

Priests in temples are moving around with masks on. In fact, in some temples masks have been put on the gods and goddesses. The Hindu Mahasabha has organised a cow urine party because they believe cow urine will drive away COVID-19. Some have chosen to cake themselves in cow dung to shield themselves against the virus. Religion and superstitions are usually complementary. The Tarapith temple is shut, the lines of people seeking flowers, blessings or holy water are nowhere to be seen. Belur Math has no crowds, devotees are not being allowed to meet the Maharaj. The evening puja and the arati will be projected on a big screen. These are our saviours, the ones who people pray to throughout the year for protection. But when humanity is in peril it is usually god who flees first.

The states should stop all grants and subsidies guaranteed to all religious institutions. The Popes, priests, mullahs and sundry religious heads of the world are feeding off the people’s hard-earned money but come to no actual use to the people. Instead they are force-feeding people untruths and unscientific facts, raping children and pronouncing misogynous judgments from time to time. What is the use of such institutions? What has religions done over the centuries other than causing harm? Other than genocides, abuse of women, partitions, bloodshed and pervasive hate? Religious structures should henceforth be repurposed for the betterment of the people as museums, science academies, laboratories and art schools. Nature has demonstrated again and again, science has proved again and again, that there is no religion? Although many people have managed to extricate themselves from the jaws of religion, especially in the more developed parts of the world, wherever poverty, social inequalities, misogyny and barbarism are acutely present, one can also find a hyper-reliance on gods and worship.

It’s been nearly 160 years of Charles Darwin disproving the existence of god by his theory of evolution. Man was not made by a Creator, man has evolved from apes. Much before Darwin, in the sixteenth century figures like Galileo, and his predecessor Copernicus, had shown that the biblical notions of the space and cosmos are wrong. Despite all this most people in the world have continued to believe in the divine over the ages. Their invisible gods have remained invisible, no proof has been found till date of their existence, but blind faith in them has persisted. Now that the Coronavirus is a global pandemic, it’s spreading from one person to another, all gatherings and congregations where many people are usually there have been cancelled. Numerous people run to their nearby temples, mosques, churches and other places of worship in order to seek protection from illness and disease. These places are now closed as well. So the facts as they stand now are clear that diseases are not cured by Allah, God or Bhagwan, diseases are cured by scientists! Human beings are not saved by supernatural powers but by other human beings. Even religious people are no longer waiting for benevolence from their respective gods, they are waiting for a vaccine to be found.

Has the time not yet come for people to cast aside their religious madness and embrace reason?