Women: ‘Property’ of Men – Part 2

Gursharan Singh takes a dig at the various views on women. In this second of a three-part series, the author looks at how women are treated as 'properties' that can be transferred.

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Gursharan Singh | Opinion | 2 Feb 2016 | Asia Samachar |
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4.0 Woman & Earth

4.1 In many societies women are equated to earth and referred to as ‘mother earth’ in which the man plants his seed and then claims ownership of the fruit. The land on this earth has been controlled/owned by men since time immemorial and anything growing on it would be deemed to be their property. The planting process is generally short but the growing process can be very long. Similarly in respect of a child the seed planting process takes less than a minute whereas the nourishing process in the body of the mother is about nine months and may continue for many more years and sometimes even after the sons get married. The fruit [‘baby’] is not owned by the earth [mother] but by the male owner of the land. The fruit is taken by the man who gives the child his name as it is deemed to be his ‘property’ until transferred to another man on her marriage and thus the ‘ownership’ status continues forever.

SEE ALSO: Women: ‘Property’ of Men – Part 1

The sex of a baby is dependent on several factors that are also contributed by the man. However the man is seldom blamed if the woman does not conceive or does not provide sons. Male dominated societies seldom accept the possibility that the cause of female births could be due to the inability of the husband to father a male child. Unfortunately the female members of society also support their dominating [owners] males [fathers, husbands, sons, other relations and community leaders] and are deemed to be helpless or chose not to voice their concern. Absence of a male birth is accepted as a sufficient reason for the man to divorce the wife and remarry or take another wife with the hope that the new wife will produce males. However, the woman is rarely permitted to leave the man even in cases where it is medically confirmed that the defect is with the male partner. In some societies the wife is a expected/forced to find another woman for her owner husband to marry to provide a male child. This happens even in societies where the laws may have criminalized polygamy. This is again illustrated in a Bollywood serial titled ‘Kala Teeka’ currently being aired on Astro Ch108 where the wife has brought in her own sister to be a co-wife. The male child curse was well illustrated in the Bollywood movie titled ‘Lajja’.

 

5.0 Transfer of ‘Property’

5.1 Transfer of property requires compliance with several conditions. These are as follows:

[a] Transferor – Seller   [b] Transferee – Buyer

[c] Witnesses – Witness the transaction   [d] Legal Authority   [Registrar]

The ownership transfer of women is affected through a ceremony that is registered with the relevant regulatory/religious authorities. The registration is confirmed by the issue of a Certificate. The ‘Certificate’ is evidence that the ‘transaction’ has been affected in compliance with approved regulations and registered with the relevant authorities. Failure to register can result in criminal/social action in most cases, against the woman and sometimes against the children whose ‘ownership’ may be disputed by the men. In a recently reported legal case a wife whose religious ceremony marriage was not registered was denied maintenance and share of husband’s property on his death and the property was given to the wife whose marriage was registered.

5.2 The ‘Ownership’ ‘Transfer’ of women may be done in a religious ceremony and  an additional civil ceremony to give legal protection to the wife. The transfer process is done by the fathers [or other male relatives] of the women whereas the mothers have no role to play in the transfer and including any prayers that may be done. Examples of the mode of ‘transfer’ of women by men to men [groom] under the various religions are as follows:

[a] Hinduism – ‘KANYADAAN’ [Donating the daughter – by father]

[b] Christianity – ‘GIVING AWAY THE BRIDE’ [Giving the daughter – by father]

[c] Sikhism – ‘PAALA’ [Transferring responsibility of the daughter – by father]

It may be observed in the wedding ceremonies that it is always the bride who is dressed and decorated in all its finery to be a fit ‘gift’ that is to be presented to the groom.

The critical components of the transaction are there as follows:

[a] Father of the Bride – Transferor [b] The Groom – Transferee

[c] Attendees at the ceremony – Witnesses [d] Priest/Registrar – Legal Authority

5.3 It may be remembered that in almost all instances it is the men or their representatives who ‘beg’ [propose] to the woman or her parents that the daughter be ‘donated’ and the male ‘beggar’ shows his graciousness in accepting the ‘donation’]. Thus it is the men who initially are the ‘beggars’ and accepting ‘donation’. Yet society convinces the woman that the man is God’s gift to women and their ‘heaven’ lies under the feet of the men. In some societies the wives do penance, fast and pray for the long life of the husband whereas there is no known case of any society where the men have done any sacrifice for the long life and happiness of their women.

5.4 The men have been abusing their power of this property transfer to the extent where young females who are still to reach puberty being transferred in the name of ‘marriage’ to older men. Relatives, society and the regulatory authorities do little to curb this practice which may be an injustice to women. Laws are passed making it illegal for underage marriages but their enforcement is ineffective and the prescribed penalties rarely imposed to the full on those caught. The position of such ‘transfers’ is common in societies where the girls are from poor families where they have no say in their own marriage and an unmarried daughter is deemed to be a matter of shame for the family. The extent of this practice cannot be stated with any degree of certainty as details are not gathered or provided in the media. It was reported that the family ‘burnt’ a young daughter when she refused to marry a man of her family’s choice.  However reports of the international NGOs provide some information of the extensiveness of this practice and the absence of effective action by male dominated governments/religions/societies.

5.5 The male dominated relevant authorities and some well meaning women in the corridors of power, who are there due to the patronage of their men who may be in power or rich, make profound statements regarding the progress being made regarding the injustices against women. The changes may be there but it is like the movement of glaciers whose movement is only noticed when there is a major change with a break and the iceberg floating away until it dissolves in the ocean.

5.6 To add insult to the injury and injustice there are societies where the groom’s side demands as a condition of the marriage that the father of the bride give dowry [gifts for the groom including his family members and the groom’s party who accompanies the groom to collect his ‘donation’] and finance lavish celebrations to welcome the groom’s parties even in cases where the bride side may not be able to afford and fulfill all the demands [dowry]. Unfortunately it is the parents [fathers, mothers and relatives] of the groom who make all the demands that may include  cash, jewelry, landed properties, household goods, cars, overseas honeymoon trips, expensive dresses, etc. and also similar gifts for the groom’s relations and friends.

Though the practice of such ‘dowry’ demands is declared  illegal [for both the receiver and giver] and carry heavy financial penalties and/or prison sentences in some countries, it is still flourishing as the bride’s family succumb to the excessive dowry demands to keep ‘face’ in the society. In some instances the payment of dowry demands is settled in installments that are to be settled after the marriage with the threat that if the installments are not paid on time the ‘bride donation’ will be returned to the father and all the gifts received to-date will be forfeited. This bleeding of the bride’s family continues for long periods even after the marriage when the bride is required to collect more during her periodical visits to her parents’ house on various occasions. Failure to meet the dowry demands have resulted in bride burning in certain societies as has been exposed in the media. The bleeding does not stop there as even the employed women are required to handover their earnings to the men and their parents even after the marriage. The dowry curse was well illustrated in the Bollywood movie titled ‘Lajja’.

 

6.0 Freedom from ‘Ownership’

6.1 The ‘freedom’ of women from ‘ownership’ movement started in Europe and USA during the beginning of the twentieth century when women were required as labor to assist in the war effort and ‘man’ the factories, industries, offices and medical services. The women were needed to replace the men who had been deployed in the armed forces and sent overseas. It was important for the factories/offices operate to assist the war effort. However at the end of the war the men returned to take up their jobs in the factories and the women were required to be sent back to their houses and kitchens.

6.2 The women had tasted financial independence and freedom of choice that they could enjoy. They were reluctant to return to their subservient role and wanted to continue to be financially independent. The politicians-employers-economists encouraged the women entering the work force as they would be paid lower salaries that made the industries cost effective even though it was exploitive in nature but not so realized then by the women. Society accepted the working women and it became an advantage as the men preferred wives with earnings that enabled the family to have a better material quality of life.

6.3 This started a revolution in thinking and women decided to achieve the ‘free’ status through better education and better job opportunities that provided better financial rewards. Further the women now demanded remuneration that was equal to that of the men and commensurate with their education and skills. The women demanded for voting rights and they used their voting power to force the Government to make the appropriate changes to the laws to support the economic status of women by opening many new employment opportunities at all levels of the Government and Corporate sectors.

The Malaysian Government has made a legal requirement that all public listed companies to have its Board of Directors with at least 30% women. The Government has shown the way by appointing women to some of the most senior administrative positions. However it is perceived that not many may have the required authority and power as they to make any noticeable change to attitudes as their appointment is due to their male interventions and may still have male seniors and also those in next in command and thus their voices may be ignored and they may be there as ‘wall flowers’ or be there be for ‘cosmetic’ purposes.

NEXT: Part three.

 

Gursharan Singh, C.M.I.I.A., a retired audit officer from the Malaysian civil service, is also a trainer. This article was written in November 2015. He can be reached via emails at gursharan38@gmail.com or sharwant38@yahoo.com, or via mobile at +6019.2927178

 

[ASIA SAMACHAR is an online newspaper for Sikhs in Southeast Asia and surrounding countries. We have a Facebook page, do give it a LIKE. Follow us on Twitter. Visit our website: www.asiasamachar.com]

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