I Speak Out For Women’s Rights In India So All Women Can Be Free To Live The Life They Choose

By Pooja Kannan

In today’s modern era, there are increasing efforts to push for gender equality all over the world. We have seen numerous countries legalize gay marriage and pass laws that support LGBTQ+ rights.

We all know that India is a developing country. But it has taken great strides toward progress for women’s rights compared to decades past. In previous generations, the kitchen was the only world for women to belong in. Yet there were some great legends like social activist and reformer Raja Ram Mohan Roy and Tamil poet and activist Subramania Bharathiyar who fought for women’s freedom and empowerment. Women like Rhani of Jhansi, an Indian queen leading rebellion figure, and Sarojini Naidu, a political activist and poet, are some examples of women in India throughout history fighting with courage and bravery against patriarchal discrimination.

Today, women’s empowerment and freedom of speech has become a popular movement throughout India. There are many non-governmental organizations helping lots of women in day-to-day life, as well as activist groups advocating for feminism. There is a very good progress toward women’s empowerment on paper, even in the constitution, but women here still lack freedom of speech in a number of ways. Each family has its own religion, custom, tradition and caste. People who follow those things are more into pride, image, and reputation. But when a woman or girl speaks out in a way that is different from her family’s tradition, her parents will commonly think that their family reputation or image are destroyed, and she is called names such as “bitch” or “whore”.

I come from an orthodox family, where culture and tradition plays a vital role. My father taught me to be courageous, brave, well determined, self-independent and disciplined more than the culture and tradition of my family. For so many years, my parents were very supportive of the decision I made. 

Marriage is the most celebrated festival in India. According to Indian people, girls and women should definitely aspire to get married. Knowingly or unknowingly, the girl child in India is considered a burden to the family. According to Indian parents, when a girl child is born, she has to study in a well reputed college with good grades, work for a reputable company in a chosen “acceptable” career path, and once she has worked for 2 years, at the age of 24 or 25 her parents will have her married off. If a woman does all these things, then she is a pride to the family and their reputation.

This is currently what is happening in my life. I work in a well reputed company. Now, my parents, for their reputation and pride and especially because of what society will talk about them, wanted me to marry someone from the same caste and it should be a well organized “arranged marriage”. However, I stand against my parents and my while family on this. And now I am considered to be a “bitch” in my community. 

If a girl is around 24 years or above, people ask her when she is getting married, or why she is not married yet. If a woman is not interested in marriage, people start rumors about her such as she is in love with someone, or possibly already secretly married. The idea of a woman falling in love, as opposed to being set up in an arranged marriage, is very taboo in a lot of Indian families, which many people in the Western world may not be familiar with. It is all about protecting the family’s reputation and marrying the man that her family determines is right, as opposed to someone she chooses for love. People don’t ask about her dreams or passions. So many Indian women sacrifice their dreams to get married to someone whom her parents agree on, to keep her parents reputation and image in place. There are very few women who will choose to go against the grain, but now that is thankfully changing, the more women like me raise our voices and empower each other to pursue our dreams as independent women.

I am among those very few who stands for her desire and passion, and wants to make a change to help other women do the same. I speak because there are many of us who cannot, and I want to be a voice for them.

I want to make a difference in the minds of Indian society to help them live with an open mind. Yes, we are moving more toward progress for women in India, but we still have a long way to go. I hope sharing my story will enable readers around the world to know why it is important to keep fighting for women’s rights, and that there are women and girls in parts of the world who refuse to be forgotten by patriarchal standards. I stand with courage and boldness to make a difference in women’s lives.

Writer Pooja Kannan

Pooja Kannan describes herself as a simple, ordinary and open minded person, from an orthodox family in India, who is determined and courageous to fight for her passion and what she wants in life. She loves to be a voice for humanity and fight for the righteousness of humans, irrespective of gender. Pooja also loves adventures, and helping the needy. Traveling has taught her many things and given her a beautiful experience of life and serving humanity. Today she is raising her voice for freedom, for women’s speech and living out her dreams.

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