“You are a WOMAN! You cannot do this. You cannot do that.” Just look around you. Woman or not, you must have at least heard or seen the restrictions for women which have been created on the grounds of religion, culture and societal values. Does this underline the fact that a woman cannot act according to her own wish just because of her gender?
Let’s look at the societal structure with regard to women. When a girl is brought up, adults are extremely careful of her safety because she is insecure in the society, which is one of the reasons for her to lose her independence. Is the society really unkind towards women or is it the attitude of the people that “a woman is a weakling” that makes her vulnerable? I favour the second one because, from the very early times, women have been made dependents of men. Women have been stereotyped to be naïve, innocent, emotional and unstable. Generally, those qualities are present in every human being regardless of their gender. For an example the plight of the widow in the traditional Sri Lankan society is pathetic. The society sets a code of rules for her to follow; she has to mourn her whole life and cannot remarry, if she talks or looks at another man, she seduces him. It is believed that a widow cannot survive without her husband which is not true. She is a separate individual and if her husband dies, should she also be killed by the society? This idea revolves around the norm of the “weakling.” When an idea is embedded in the human minds for a long time, they tend to see only from that angle. Likewise, when the mindset of the people is formed as “the woman is a weakling” they tend to see in that way although women are stronger. Yes, we can blame the society for the insecurity and labeling her as a weakling, but who is this society? It consists of you and I. Ultimately the blame is on us.
It is natural for a boy and a girl to fall in love and there are some boys and girls who have more than one love affair during their young age. The number of love affairs a girl has had is used as a yardstick to measure the societal norms such as “purity” and “reputation.” If she has gone out with many boys and has had many love affairs she is deemed to be called as “a bitch” “a bad girl” and in Sinhala “බඩුවක්”. What about the boys? If a boy has gone out with thousands of girls and if he has had many love affairs with girls, nobody questions his behaviour; “He is a boy, it is okay for him to act like that. BUT you are a GIRL; you cannot do whatever you like”. Why doesn’t a boy tarnish his purity and reputation if he has had many love affairs and why does it only apply to girls as a yardstick to decide upon her character? Shouldn’t boys have purity and reputation? If a test of purity and reputation is being done to the girls based on the above-mentioned fact, the same should be done to the boys. In my point of view, the parameters for the above test are subjective and therefore, an individual’s true character cannot be decided. On the other hand, who are we to judge others?
Marriage and the dress a woman wears are areas in which she has to consult her neighbours and relatives more than her parents. Their opinions are held in high regard because what they think about whom you are going to get married to and what you are going to wear is “important”. If a woman wears a mini-skirt and if men look at her in a filthy way, she is to be blamed. She tempts men by her dress and she would be a victim of rape someday just because of her dress but not because of the mean and filthy minds of men. In my point of view, the problem does not lie in what a woman wears, but the attitude of people. If a person wants to look at a woman in a bad way and if he wants to rape her he would do it even if she wears a long dress or a short dress.
Abortion is another crucial issue in relation to the choice of women which still has not been legalised in Sri Lanka even in the limited circumstances like rape. Doing an abortion solely depends on the woman because the foetus grows within her and she would be the one to raise the baby up someday. Almost every religion in our country is against legalising abortion because “killing is a sin”. It is highly probable that a woman does not willingly give consent to abort the foetus because after all, it grew within her. There might be a grave reason for her to do so and she has the sole authority to decide the fate of the foetus. Though abortion is not legalised in our country, it happens illegally. There are some people who cannot afford to do it illegally and when their children are born they are unloved by their mothers and they become a threat to the society; the very society which barred abortion and the woman’s free will. My point of view is abortion should be legalised and should confer limits in which it should be done.
One can argue that the restrictions for women are for the purpose of protecting them. Yes, that may be true, but on the other hand, do you notice that with those restrictions which are only for women, gender discrimination has been created? So, from where does discrimination start? It starts at home. The moment you limit your daughter’s independence and give limitless independence to your son and treat your son and daughter in a dual manner you create discrimination. A woman symbolises culture, morality, values etc., Furthermore, she is a daughter, a wife, a mother and a working woman and there is an enormous amount of duties and responsibilities she has to fulfil. Therefore is it justifiable to restrict her freedom in the guise of protecting her?