India and its women living...

India and its women living with HIV….An INSIGHT

I am Indian. Having travelled to most parts of India, I finally made Mumbai my home. Why Mumbai, of all places? Well, every Indian knows how fast paced and advanced this metropolis is. Only in Mumbai, women get the certain amount of freedom that they don’t get anywhere else in India. I say “certain” amount of freedom and not the hundred percent of it. This country is still patriarchal, and we women are still bound by rules and law within the society. Breaking away from this law is hard, and it can even subjugate us to shame and torture. And even helplessness.. Here’s how :

We women are not taught to be alone. Independent yes, but being alone, no. It has never been instilled in us. We have grown up seeing our grandma asking grandpa for permission, mothers asking fathers before planning something and daughters asking fathers for advices and relying on grandfathers for backups, sisters depending on brothers to safeguard them - Even despite being independent, we are taught to rely on others – our dependency stems from emotional needs are well as social needs. We are taught to be dependent on male members of the family – grandfather, father, brother, son, grandson…..

In rural areas, women are told that their responsibility lie around the house – keeping the kitchen fires burning, taking care of the family, growing up the kids, running the entire household. From dawn till late night they slog their responsibilities away without a slight help from male members apart from finance. Even the most educated woman from the rural areas too end up this way – their life entirely revolves around the house. Their education is used as a basic. And their survival tactics depend on how much they can read/write/understand the world around them. Their exposure to outside world is limited. Most of them end up as teachers (who are paid lowly wages) or giving tuitions. How am I to understand then that women living with HIV could have better access to care with no internet or laptop. Private care is costly and government care is time consuming. The nearest hospital is very far away and at times there are no HIV care centre in the village and they have to make a long trip to the town/city (which is hardly possible for them given the responsibilities they have living in a joint family or given the limited amount of money they have to use for the entire month). It is not surprising then that they fall an easy prey to quacks, supersitions, false beliefs and cheating. They are often ostracized after the death of their husbands – that’s when their education come in handy and they end up doing what they could – running menial jobs to being a lowly paid teacher to provide for themselves. Women who cannot read and write end up tilling the farm, being labourers, or in other’s homes washing clothes/dishes or mopping/cleaning the house to make income meet which actually is a bare minimum.

Women in town and cities are better than their rural counterparts but in a different way. In the north, their freedom of choice is restricted (crime rate against women is high, honor killing, dowry, eve teasing) whereas in the south, they have to follow the orthodox and conservative ways of living. South women are rich in terms of gold – because their domestic stability are measured with that metal. Women living with HIV have to live within a veil – coming out of the closet is next to impossible for them unless or until they are strong enough to handle criticism and answer the critics in the right way so as not to create ugly arguement but a healthy debate. They have access to care and medication depending on their financial status (they are independent. They work but money is mostly used for the family they live in – most of them live in nuclear family). Their secrets are mostly within the family because discrimination and stigma are targeted not only at them but their entire family who also become a target to the society to hate, being judged at for their upbringing.

Women in metro cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkatta are much better off than their two counterparts. Mumbai leads the rest of three metropolis because its lifestyle and living are far much advanced. Here they have wide access to care, they can confide within their support group and some of them do come out of the closet and help change the society’s mindset. Their pay scale is much better (not as better than a man but still, they can afford to rent a house on their own). Here, their survival chance is high. Some even find the love of their life and settle down.

Last question remains : why not then move the rural and urban women to metropolis? Good shot – but their survival in metros depend on the background and surrounding/environment they come from. Most of them too scared to move out, having been within the protected surrounding for long. Some of them are so naïve that they often fall in the wrong hands or wrong company. Others find life in metros taxing, overall a heavy stress. Even if we train them, we cannot take away their habitat to which they belong. Adaptability doesn’t come easy. Like the wise says : SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST.

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