What do we understand when we talk about gender or gender based violence? Generally, we talk and think about the women experiencing physical and/or sexual violence, harassment, and of victims trafficked for sexual exploitation. Obviously, these are big causes, and cannot be thrown away to the side, but what about another much quieter issue that quietly rages among women, especially from South Asian continents? I am talking about the psychological concerns like depression, anxiety and other form of mental illnesses that occur in women and get swiftly hidden behind locked doors by the very women themselves.
Let me share two incidents which has occurred to two female members in my community among my family and friends for you to understand what I mean. Rehana grew up with 9 brothers and sisters – 4 male and 5 female siblings. She was amongst one of the older siblings and came from a well off, middle class family. She was given the task of looking after her younger siblings, one after another, and she had no room to have a childhood for herself. To make matters worse, she and her sisters were always fed the substandard parts of chicken and eggs whereas the males in around were given the better pieces every time they sat to eat. This was purely due to the social conditioning of the females in her life during that era, and unfortunately particularly by her own mother. Adding to this, she also faced some of the civil atrocities during the War in 1971. As she grew up, she was married off to a wealthy man and had children of her own – a son and a daughter. Even though she felt inferior being treated the way her mother treated her – she continues to treat her daughter in the same manner, even subconsciously. Even though she is now in the higher level of social and wealth strata, she gives her son better facilities such as a providing him a car and a chauffeur to be picked up from school, whereas her daughter Anindita is instructed to walk back from school.
As time passed, Anindita grew up and got married to a very well off family herself. Her in laws can be found in the prominent list of socialites of urban Dhaka, and are considered to be broad minded and posh. However, one day Anindita was faced with severe shock as she found her husband’s ex-girlfriend and her family seated at the dining table of a dinner hosted at her in laws house. This caused her with severe stress and emotional pain that she had to accept and bury, and not address these complex emotions and move on.
I refer to these two stories to only point out the many mental and emotional pain that women face due to countless factors of psychological abuse. There are countless other women like Rehana and Anindita – their stories may be different, but their pain is the same – neither can they shout it out, nor can they be easily placed into marginal groups, as such cases are not even considered to be included into marginal groups. Their troubles are not considered troubles as they come from a higher part of society.
It is very difficult at times to be kind, but it is such a significant trait to accommodate in our daily lives. Due to the strong influence of social conditioning from our childhood – our sisters, our mothers, fall victims to psychological roller coaster rides which can turn their world upside down. The sad fact is that it is the women themselves who make it difficult for other women. Let’s be empathetic and try to put ourselves in our daughters, our daughter in laws shoes and not make the same mistakes as we went through.
“Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.”
Coordinator, Capacity Building