Women in India

Muslim wedding in India.

Muslim wedding in India. Credit: Wikipedia.

By Andrea Alarcón

I have been in northern India for about a week, traveling around with my mother. From now on, I will commence writing about my experiences as women traveling alone (after India my mom goes back home and I will continue on my journey by myself) and my impression of women’s lives in general.

India is a land of contradictions and exceptional contrasts. First, I barely see any women working, not even as cleaning ladies of hotels. Our guides told us they rather have their women at home, and about 90% do just that, whether college educated or not. I don’t see women on the streets, I don’t see women driving. Of course, we only spent about a day in Delhi, and then headed off to smaller cities, but it is quite shocking to see.

Second, every single guide we’ve had has told us very proudly about the low divorce rate, and how it’s only 10%, and I cannot help but find a little correlation between these two situations. When I told one of them that my parents were divorced, he looked at me with that “you poor child” face, as if I had told him they were dead. Then he asked me, “Is it a big problem in Colombia like in Europe and the US?” A problem… I felt the urge to tell him that if their society allowed their women to work, divorce would come in right after. It’s dependency that keeps families together a lot of the times, not happiness. In spite of it being legal, the societal ties that come with marriage cannot be shaken off. If people still don’t choose their spouses, how would a divorce be arranged?

And then of course, the infamous arranged marriages. Apparently the man can choose whether he likes who his parents pick or not, but a woman cannot. The dowry system is still up and running, so having daughters becomes a financial burden. According to The Economist, gender selective abortion and the practice of midwives killing baby girls is so steep in India that the current generation of men will not have enough women to marry.

Yesterday we went on a camel ride in the Thar dessert from Jaisalmer, the Golden City. My camel guide, Sanjay, lived in a nearby town where there is no electricity. He was 28 but looked 38, and told us he had one boy. The girl, he said, had died the day after she was born. My paranoia kicked in, but then, so what? Maybe she was born sick… I hope she was.