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The ban on women working night shifts is a symptom of the poor status of women

May 5, 2007

Now its the turn of the government to be sexist. The Karnataka state government has banned women in certain industries like the hospitality and entertainment industries to work in night shifts, ostensibly for safety reasons. Instead of providing better policing, gender sensitization to stop eve-teasing and molestation, and asking companies to provide security to women employees, the government has banned night shifts! And strangely it has not banned night shifts for the IT and the medical sector! Its clear that the government is sending out a moral message to women – work in nights shifts only if you are in a ‘decent’ profession. Forget about working in shops or hotels at night, that’s not right. So if that is the case why is the government pretending that they care about the safety of women?

A viewpoint of a man on the street (appeared in the newspaper today) is that the ban was a good thing because all offices should let women go home by around 5 p.m. because otherwise they neglect their homes! This directive of the state government will come as a boon to men like these.

But what about women who are unmarried, who need the money, and those women who simply want freedom to do what they want?

If a particular man wants a woman to be at home, not work on a night shift, not kiss Richard Gere, I am sure he can find one. There are many women who voluntarily choose to be full-time homemakers and mothers and I am not at all looking down on that. I was at home myself for about ten years and lost out a great deal on my career but I don’t regret it one bit. I worked hard at home, and am proud of my kids and my home. My husband never told me to do it. I did it on my own. The freedom to choose is important.

But how is the common man to have a broadminded attitude when playing the moral police has got an official sanction like in this case of the ban?

Which brings me to the Richard Gere and Shilpa Shetty kiss episode. When it blew out of all proportion, most of us dismissed the outcry as a result of the clever manipulation of the non-event by political groups of the general hypocritical prudishness that pervades our society, the publicity seeking behavior of those who had filed the PIL’s and a misguided and an overzealous judiciary. I confess that I too tended to think on these lines.

While all of the above is true, there are other reasons too. And going a bit deeper into it after reading more reactions on blogs and in the media, I have realised that a significant proportion of our population was outraged by this kiss. I found it a little puzzling at first. Then I slapped myself on the forehead. Ofcourse. A vast proportion of our people do not think that women deserve equal treatment with men.

What if a famous woman star like say Angelina Jolie had delivered a kiss on the cheeks of a Bollywood star like John Abraham or Arjun Rampal? She would not have done it so flamboyantly ofcourse, being a woman. Richard Gere has a style of his own, and as he said, he was re-enacting a dance step from one of his films. Now, how would our public have reacted to a kiss by a foreign national who was a woman (Angelina) on the cheek of an Indian man? I doubt that there would have been much outrage. In fact many men might have envied Arjun Rampal or whoever it was that Angelina had deigned to kiss. Just like today there are many girls who would have squealed in delight if Richard Gere had kissed them. We are all human after all so lets shed the hypocrisy and the pretence that women are a different species.

In any case the kiss was so obviously a non sexual act and that too a sequence from his film! I was a little surprised that this many Indians did not know that that kissing people on the cheek is a normal form of greeting in the west and that Gere did not mean to insult Shilpa in any way. Surely after being bombarded with so many Hollywood movies and satellite television we should know that?

And yet there was a comment on a blog post (not my post) which petulantly said that it was fine if Richard Gere kissed Shilpa as long he ‘treated’ his American women the same way! That was so funny! How could Gere’s behaviour be considered as ill treatment? Well, I guess it could be construed as ill treatment if women are not supposed to be so close to men in our society, unless they are with their husbands! And never mind if women want to. They should not want to because after all its women who are to uphold all the values in our society. Illogical because if women are so priviliged as to be upholders of all so-called moral values, then they should be treated with respect, right? But no, that doesn’t happen. A woman who upholds all these values will probably be treated the worst at home as she is likely to be traditional and submissive.

And there was a letter in today’s newspaper saying that the media should stop talking to celebrities and page three people about the kiss (and the ban) and talk to the normal average Joe. The average Indian man according to the writer of the letter, was offended by the kiss. I do wish what the letter writer said is not true, but I don’t know. Its probably true.

Update May 07: The Karnataka government has seen some sense because of widespread protests by womens’ groups. They are not going to ban night shifts.

Related Reading: Bar girls evicted from their homes.
Gender sensitization programmes help reduce molestation and eve-teasing
Wife beating in India

15 Comments leave one →
  1. srisviews permalink
    May 5, 2007 3:27 pm

    the press is out to get some cheap publicity….they know very well that they are making a mountain out of nothing…..

  2. May 5, 2007 8:45 pm

    Too bad. In a society where abuse of women is accepted I don’t think policing or training classes are a good investment. Of course we know that a woman may be attacked at work, at home, going or coming from any location at any time of day or night. Perhaps this law is just a means of finding more excuses for blaming the woman for the attack. You know like, “You shouldn’t have been wearing THAT dress.” “You shouldn’t have been out at that time of night.” etc. Really what do we need these men for? We women should keep our distance. They want to dominate and control others. This is not a reference to exclusively India, not at all, not at all! And by accepted I mean “it happens regularly, persistently”

  3. May 6, 2007 1:17 am

    I was very astonished when I read about the kissing incident. You were right when you said that national outcries on trivial public displays does nothing but damage your image as a people. Already the western cultures don’t value you much for anything more than cheap labour, sing-song movies and colorful costumes. They took your Kama Sutra and stripped it till it was nothing more than a sexual manual and in some ways as a people, you simply sat back and let them do it.
    I still hold Bollywood (because that is what I am most familiar with) responsible for not showing the common man that India has to catch up with the rest of the world…not necessarily to emulate them but to understand what are their positive achievements and translate them for yourselves. I mean if Bachan Snr (according to rumors) still labelling the Roshan-Rai kiss immoral in Dhoom 2, what is the cleaner who looks up to him going to think.
    India and Nigeria have been systematically infiltrated with what I like to call religious riff raffs. Most of the people who take to the streets burning effigies are paid to do so. The rallied by men and in some cases women, who will not be at the fore front of the riot and set free on the public. I am almost afraid to attempt to fufill my dream of visiting India. I am a Yoruba woman and quick to temper. Also, I do not hesitate giving someone a piece of mind and I am afraid of what situation I will land in if someone treated me like an object to my face. Also, I have read about your caste system and how dark skin is viewed.
    In conclusion, we need the women who have the world’s audience to step forward and speak up and stop acqueisising and allowing society to dictate what and who they should be

  4. May 6, 2007 8:14 am

    About the prejeduce abt dark skin in India – here there are people who consider fair skin more beautiful and yes, somehow fair skin has also been associated with the higher castes. But one thing I have to say, we do not consider people with dark skin inferior (I am not talking of caste at all here). In fact in South India most people are dark and many have skin as dark as African skin but generally in our country south indians are considered very intelligent people. Brainy as we call them here.
    there was an article as to how we Indians like to have fair skinned air hostesses and receptionists and brides, but when it comes to intellectual work, no such prejeduce is evident. This is very different from the racism in america, and many foreigners find it a little complex to understand.
    True there is also tendency amongst people to think that whites have money and therefore in a hotel often these people get better treatment and Indians are ignored! But when it comes to actual racism, thinking that dark skinned people are inferior, no, it is not the case in India. North Indians are perfectly aware of how brilliant south indians can be.
    Don’t be afraid to come to India baraje. India is one of the safest countries in the world, with one of the lowest crime rates. There is hardly any fear of mugging unless you go to an isolated place at night and that can happen even if you are man. yes there is eve teasing and staring, but every country has its problems. You can walk through a slum in India and no one will touch you, no one will rob you. However its always better to come in a group as there are some cabbies and tourist touts who are cheats who try to loot foreigners.

  5. May 6, 2007 10:56 am

    Nita, this doesnt’ reflect the poor status of women in India, it is more of our society and law&order in the country. We all have to think more rationally and allow freedom for all irrespective of their sex, religion or caste. It looks like it will take few more decades where women will be free to do what they want to do.

  6. May 6, 2007 1:52 pm

    I was about to blog on the Karnataka govt’s ban on night shifts for women, when I stumbled upon yours. Thanks for raising this issue and voicing your opinion. I wish more Indian women will come forward to criticize this outrageous ban!

    And the way you’ve connected it to the kiss episode is also interesting, weaving a tapestry of the underlying hypocrises of the Indian male.

  7. May 6, 2007 6:56 pm

    Banning women from working in night shifts is not acceptable. Law and order is the job of the govt. If the present govt accepts that it is incapable of providing safety to the female population than they have no right to be in power.

  8. May 6, 2007 9:01 pm

    Vishal, if it was simply a question of law and order, why ban women from select industries? As we all know, there is safety in numbers. The more women there are on the roads at night, in buses, in cabs, the safer it is for women. So what the Karnataka government has done is make it more dangerous for those women who work night shifts. The reason they have banned only women working in select professions is because they think that if women have to work at night, they should do it only in certain ‘important’ professions. Otherwise, they should be at home! What is this except for unequal treatment of women?
    In any case now the govt has seen some sense because of widespread protests by womens’ groups. There is an indication that the govt. will ask companies to provide transport, which is what they could have done in the first place!

  9. May 10, 2007 12:20 pm

    Very well put Nita. Thanks for voicing what so many of us feel. Have added your link on our blog (thats ok right? let me know if not)

    Guess you’ll have to remove that update from your post, what with todays news😦

    THERE MUST BE SOMETHING WE CAN DO ABOUT THIS. Something! If so many of us feel so strongly about it, is there something more we can do? What do you think?

  10. May 10, 2007 2:25 pm

    Ofcourse I am happy about the link. Thanks.🙂

    I didn’t know that the ban is on though. Its not appeared on the news this side of the country.
    Well, I think one can protest peacefully. The best thing is ofcourse submit a PIL to the court. That will work a hundred per cent, the court will throw out the ban. I am sure some womens groups have already done this.

  11. May 11, 2007 11:41 am

    I know Vimochana is going to do file a PIL. So is Pramila Nesargi , a BJP candidate.

    BTW, it is a law. The only thing that is left is a Government Order, after which nothing stops them. The story is here http://www.nerve.in/news:25350045941.

    What now bothers me is how do they plan to implement it? Surprise raids? Stop fines and/or imprissionment? What if the employer herself is a woman and chooses to stay back and work. Is that unlawful?

    And finally why do I feel we are minority against this? Is seems like only ‘women’s groups’ are really talking about it. This is so not a feminist issue. Its curtailing of freedom, in an unconsitutional way. The papers here too give it some 4 page, 5 page kinda mention.

    Looks like everyone’s really confident that this will never pass. Or even it does (and it has) it will never be implemented. I hope the optimism is not unfounded. I hope this inaction on all our parts is ok.

  12. May 11, 2007 12:52 pm

    As you are in Karnataka you can ask Vimochana if they need support. If you can collect a group and offer help I am sure that it will be accepted. If you are feeling the itch to do something, do it!
    One can never be confident of anything as in this country anything can happen!

  13. October 23, 2007 5:30 am

    this is generally how our govts respond to problems of the common man
    avoid and skirt respinsibility- if possible ban-
    with the state goin thru power sharing and the daily squabbles and all the pushes and pulls of satta >
    who has the time for common man oops womans problem ?

  14. October 23, 2007 6:05 am

    Prax, banning is easy like you said and it also generates a lot of publicity. And those who are against freedom of women in the first place feel this is the right step! They feel the solution is that women should mind themselves, not go out etc!! I feel there are quite a few people in India who actually believe that women should stay indoors etc and I am sure that some of these people run the government too!

    p.s. out of curiosity how did you come to this post?

  15. October 23, 2007 3:56 pm

    didnt get the how did you come to this post?
    do u mean how did i access ur site or post ?
    maybe thru my blog or docs blog or anyones blog or
    googling nitawriter

    yes most politicians are agriculturists and traditionalists
    and love to live in the 1800 and 1900s
    little wonder even an agriculturist making a 10lakh income lives tax free!

    prax, why i asked is that i was suddenly getting a lot of hits on this post and i wondered if there was a site which had linked to this post. anyway, it’s not important.🙂 – Nita.

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