Trying to turn conventional wisdom on its head, One Billion Rising (OBR) is planning a campaign called “Property for Her,” where the idea of dowry, the financial expenses of a daughter's wedding, is being asked to use to buy her a property instead. Social Scientist and South Asian Coordinator of OBR Kamla Bhasin said this campaign will be used to help liberate women from the clutches of inheritance laws and wedding customs that favour patriarchy, to make sure they have some financial independence by changing perceptions.
Speaking to the Dhaka Tribune's Esha Aurora
about why this campaign is important, Kamla Bhasin
in an interview elaborates the need to fully understand the adverse effects of internalised patriarchy which perpetuates a culture of violence and subjugation as the norm.
Based in New Delhi, Kamla has been an activist for over 35 years, working on issues related to gender, development, peace, identity politics, militarisation, human rights and democracy.
She is also currently working as an advisor at Sangat, a South Asian Feminist Network, also with Jagori, a women’s resource and training centre in New Delhi, and Jagori Grameen in Himachal Pradesh as an active member. She is also the co-chair of the worldwide network, Peace Women Across.
There are laws in Bangladesh regarding child marriage that critics say will embolden rapists to rape and then marry these children under the clause of special circumstance. Do you think this is a regressive policy for women and children in 2017?
To address this we first have to talk about rape. What is rape? It is about power. It is about taking away someone's “purity” even though when a man has multiple sexual partners they never seem to lose their purity. Because girls are looked at as burdens by their parents, the best thing they can do is get rid of her.
We need better laws to address the root of the issue and not treat the symptoms. We need better hearts. This idea of purity comes from patriarchy. We need to have some form of social responsibility that holds men and women equally responsible for their actions. Laws like these will be used to the advantage of an abuser.
Can you explain what exactly patriarchy is and how it relates to our society?
It is a social system in which men are considered superior by definition. Patriarchy is a blind belief.
Men have more control of the ideology, resources and authority in our lives than women. For example, words in themselves are highly patriarchal, like the Hindi word for husband is “swami” which means owner.
Even the idea of marriage in Hinduism perpetuates patriarchy with the practice of “Kanyadaan” which means the father of the bride is handing over all his rights and duties towards his daughter to her prospective groom. This way the father gives her daughter as a gift to the groom.
All this denotes that a woman is owned, first by her father and then by her husband. These words need to go as patriarchy sneaks into our daily vocabulary; from birth to death we are constantly confronted with ideas of patriarchy. Think about this, women are not even allowed to perform funeral rites.
As patriarchy permeates our perceptions in daily life and colours our discourse, what exactly is the history of patriarchy?
I believe Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx explain this very well. See, with the onset of the idea of private property did patriarchy seep into societies. Capitalist patriarchy is the biggest problem. We are now confronted with ideas of class, race which work to separate us. We see now that man is the owner and women are to be owned.
We need feminism to fight this. Feminism is a thinking and action against patriarchy. Feminism seeks equality for all genders. Let us not forget that men are also tied by patriarchy which has a deep culture of propagating toxic masculinity.
Today, patriarchy is being perpetuated by capitalism. Greed-based profit making where money is now God. So our new campaign is “Property for Her,” where we take this idea of capitalism and tell everyone to forget the dowry and give their daughters a flat. This way, traditional adherence to capitalist ideas can be used to benefit the daughter who is always at a disadvantage.