"Being in denial, never solved any problem, for anyone, anywhere."
As a white, British woman living, studying and working in India over the last seven years it cannot be denied that I benefited from white and economic privilege there. As this First Post article correctly points out:
The reality is that the average Indian woman -- many of whom are poor, lower caste or rural — is far more unsafe in India than any white person.
Much has been written about the South Asian obsession with pale skin already and I will not explore that here. I am also not going to discuss the derogatory, sexist and racist stereotyping of white women and western culture in India either; Hollywood should Feel Offended by Bollywood does a very good job of dealing with those issues.
What I am going to raise here is the oft repeated claim of moral equivalence, that India is somehow 'the same' as (or worse than) developed, western countries in terms of how it treats females. Study after study, millions of 'disappeared' females, the legality of marital rape, the incessant attacks on young girls and women of all ages so on and so forth confirm that India is one of the worst places for females (let alone LGBT) to live. Yet, many Indian nationalists, religious fundamentalists, patriarchs, and even 'liberal', educated types go into full denial mode when these disparities are mentioned. One story in particular appears to unite all these people in their Occidentalist scorn, the personal testimony of white women in India.
First, let me make one thing clear, I love India. The amazing food, music, spiritual philosophies, mountains, beaches, yoga, ethnic and religious diversity and all the other reasons tourists flock there, make India a place worthy of visiting again and again. But for a woman it is often dangerous and restrictive. My life in Europe is a hundred times freer, safer, healthier, anonymous and happier than living in India. If you don't believe me, here are just a few of the things I experienced in India that I never experienced in Europe:
And NO, Europe is not perfect and YES, misogyny and sexism exists there too. BUT I have yet to experience any of these things personally there. It is no conspiracy or mistake that European nations are consistently rated the best countries in the world for females.
Why have I written this? I was asked to do so, several times. By an Indian woman who is tired of the lies, denial and fantasies of Indian nationalists, post-colonialists and patriarchs. Who knows the reality of living in India. Who is alienated by white Liberal 'friends' propping up her oppressors and deniers with long words and sophisticated political theories making claims of moral equivalence where there is none. I write it in solidarity with Rose Chasm(Michaela Cross), Ophelia Balan, Sarah Webb and others who have spoken out about their experiences in India and faced not only a deafening silence from white women but also a hateful backlash from those who take any opportunity to attack white women, especially 'feminists'. I write in solidarity with Japleen Pasricha who bravely wrote about her brief taste of freedom after five months living in Germany and with Swati Parashar, who rightly says 'It's time more western feminists spoke up against the violence women in countries like India face repeatedly and every day.'
Women's personal testimonies and 'lived' experiences should never be silenced or belittled based on their skin colour or nationality. Basic human rights are women's rights and no amount of cultural relativism, 'victim mentality', post colonialism or hysterical cries of 'white imperialism' will ever change the truth of that.
More on the author:
Author is a British feminist, writer and activist who has lived, worked and travelled extensively in India, Nepal, Europe and North America.
Views expressed here are of the author alone and do not necessarily represent that of the brand.
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