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Mainstream, VOL 61 No 1-2, December 24, December 31, 2022 (Double issue)

Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, Dec 24, & Dec 31, 2022

Saturday 24 December 2022


Letter to the Readers, Mainstream, December 24 & December 31, 2022

Defying all the Taliban government in Afghanistan has banned university education for women. Courageous of women in Kabul and other cities to continue to protest against restrictions on them. In their close neighbourhood women in Iran have been protesting the repression by moral police on all women who question or resist the veil. Multiple voices of solidarity with these protests have risen to put international pressure on the misogynist Afghan and Iranian rulers with primitive attitudes towards grown up citizens. Progressive political forces must pressure the Government of India to not look the other way at these protests. But patriarchy and regressive ideas run deep in our country where we are already a highly gender unequal with a skewed sex-ratio ever since 1921. In recent decades the number of women with paid jobs has declined sharply in India, as a consequnce taking away their economic and social autonomy. Social control over women’s autonomy and individual freedoms to choose life courses by citizens is already in high supply. There is for long a concerted campaign in different states of India against inter-religious or inter-caste relationships and marriage — where adult citizens are infantalised and disrespected by the authorities and by so-called community leaders who seek docile submission and limited freedom to make personal choices [1]. In Uttar Pradesh we have had ‘Romeo squads‘ that beat up consenting young men and women meeting in Parks or travelling places together, who dare cross caste / community boundries [2]. Not long ago hell broke loose in Kerala over entry of women in the Sabrimala temple — this in a state with the highest rate of literacy in the country [3]. A prominent clergy man in Gujarat recently called for forbidding Muslim women to fight elections [4]. Some BJP leaders see women’s roles as baby producing machines [5] in the interests of the ’majority’ community. As 2022 winds to an end, the right-wing BJP government in Maharashtra is setting up a committee to ‘monitor’ inter-faith marriages [6]. Those days are long gone when governments after India’s Independence promoted inter-faith / inter-caste marriages to further National integration. Personal rights and freedoms of adult citizens to think independently, to choose their educational streams, have the freedom to work outside their homes, to dress the way they want, to choose their life partners independent of ‘community’ and social pressures, are must for us to grow into democratic society. Left and social democratic formations must resolve to enlarge their social agenda and promote greater gender equality and autonomy and personal rights of citizens to make life choices.

Dec 24, 2022 - HK

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