Religion and Women’s Rights

This is not an overall view or essay on women’s rights movements or feminism. Here, I lament about how recent and ongoing women’s rights movements in India leave me at odds with myself on the issue.
To give my readers a short background, I have been brought up in an Liberal Hindu Brahmin family in the midst of a rapidly changing yet largely conservative South Indian community. I am glad to have had parents who have refrained from imposing much religion or caste upon me when I was a kid. I was always allowed to think freely and act freely – not that I was much rebellious anyway.
I’ve been surrounded by women, so to speak. Not in a way most of my male friends (and myself?) would prefer it though. I simply tend to open up better to women more than men. Circumventing the details of why and how that is so, I mean to say that a majority of those who I hold dear are women. As a result, I’m fairly exposed to the woman’s point of view (no pun).
On the other hand, I’ve grown to be a more spiritual person than my liberal upbringing warrants. I don’t know where I picked this up, perhaps it rubbed off on me from my parents. I have a deep  seated respect for my community’s tradition, practices and beliefs. I must say that I may be more connected to my cultural practices but that has never hindered my interaction or caused discomfort to my friends of other faiths and beliefs. For example, I have extremely close friends who consume non vegetarian food, something I don’t do, but this has never stopped me from sitting next to them and breaking bread as long as I eat the food that I prefer and they eat theirs.
I have no staunch belief in any one form of God, though I’m certainly a theist, I don’t see an advantage in assigning a name to God. This is strange because I feel a very deep responsibility towards preserving my communities practices and yet, I don’t believe in God on the same dimension as they do. Regardless of that fact, I do believe in preserving my cultural identity, very strongly if I might add.
I wish to see my lady friends get the same access I do in all fields, that is only fair. However, what if it is the culture that I so greatly value that denies them of some form of access? Whenever matters of tradition and following it arise, I simply ensure that I’m insulated from it. In other words, regardless of what another person does, I’d follow my path. If the other person hinders my path, that I oppose. But in this case, the lines aren’t all that clear. I am a man but women are all around me. It stops not being my problem. I deeply desire that the traditions of my people aren’t trampled upon. But I can’t stand half my people, the women, feeling left out. Since it doesn’t affect me if women break the conventions outside my family, I disregard that. But within my family I still prefer adherence to the “rules”. This kind of self contradiction portrays me as a hypocrite. That being said, prefer isn’t a strong word au contraire, it is a deeply personal one.
I do wish if there was a clear cut way to get the best of both worlds. Maybe there is!


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