I watched an amazing movie, Pinjar last week. (It has subtitles so if there's an Indian store near you, it's worth a watch) To me the major message of this movie was the treatment of women in the eastern subcontinent. I refer not to any particular religion because the culprit of the acts against women are not religions but people. Though based on the 1940's, the helpless status of a woman portrayed in the film remains true today.
If a woman in the eastern subcontinent is raped, more often than not is cast away from her family, worse still sometimes sentenced for adultery. This situation has come to the world's attention with the brave Mukhtar Mai. Her teenage brother was accused of flirting with a woman of a different family, in retribution the men of the woman's family kidnapped and gang raped Mukhtaran Mai. Typically a woman in such a situation kills herself. Instead, Mukhtaran went public bringing to center stage the shame that countries who avert their eyes to such practices must face.
Honor killings, another henious practice, justifies a family murdering their own daughter for
indecent behavior oftentimes as simple as a relationship, or a smile which leads townfolk to wonder more. If people talk, its as good as if you did it. Kill your daughter, protect the family name. The men are rarely implicated or face any reprucussions for their behavior.
Stories like Brick Lane, Arranged Marriage, show the despair of the ordinary housewives trapped by the system and limited in the ability to fly to the heights, unrestricted they could. Dancing Girls of Lahore shows as Mayya pointed out, only in the red light district is the birth of a girl truly valued... and only for the saddest of reasons.
Even today "wife burning" continues where a woman whose family didn't come up with the "dowry" to pay the groom's family will gas the woman in the kitchen and light a match. whoops. "Accidents" happen they claim. Governments turning their eyes. It is not right.
The rights women in the US were afforded very recently in the span of humanity such as working outside of the traditional "nurses and teachers" and the right to vote, to choose, etc. are still light years from reaching most of the developing world. In India with the advent of sonograms, baby girls are aborted before they are born leading to an unusually high boy to girl ratio in many cities. It's too much work. The weddings can bankrupt a family.
I can't imagine what it would be like, for my birth to have been a day of sorrow. For my role as a wife to be one of servant, and child bearer, the caterer to the needs of everyone in the joint family system. Sometimes as I drive my car simply to visit a friend for lunch... I can't help but stop to think of women who will never even know such simple freedom.
In Pinjar, the mother weeps as she holds her daughter and says, when you were born I prayed you would die. The saddest part of the movie is you understand. The movie does not seek to play one side as right and the other is wrong. The movie shows the mindset of the people. Why they make the decisions. They are working with the cards they're dealt with. No one sleeps with peace at night.
* I don't mean to generalize millions upon millions who do not sanction such activities. But I speak of a problem that does exist. The women of these areas have no voice. Without attention, it can't be solved *