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Freedom of speech - Is it gender based?


Khushboo, the female superstar of Tamil film industry, took a lot of flak lately, when she got the guts to throw muck at the chastity of Tamil women! She did a blasphemous act by giving sound advice to the mature young Gen X women to practice safe sex and use condoms. Freedom of speech – a topic most of us study in our primary school, as part of our curriculum, forget it as soon as the exams end. But does it serve any purpose? Do we really have the use of such laws? I don’t think so.

Khushboo got a verbal barrage of bricks and insults after voicing her opinion on the subject. She made a statement about pre-marital sex and women, when the Tamil version of India Today, asked her to write a column in their magazine. She voiced her thoughts on the matter. But she had no right to do so. Oops! She was a celebrity. Moreover, she was an icon and a representation of the women who have been accepted into the Tamil society and catapulted to stupendous success.

Khushboo’s comments on the chaste, pure Tamil women notwithstanding, the real issue at hand here is, why a woman who spoke her mind was attacked so vehemently. If it were a man who had said this, the media would have had a field day covering major sections of the society and asking every Tom Dick and Harry his opinion about Indian women and their rights over their bodies! A woman making a comment on a subject so taboo like pre-marital sex truly inflamed the flimsy ego of the Tamil people, whose daily dose of morality and ethics are the soaps like Kolangal, Anandam etc.

What would the masses do if they have to give a vent to their views? Especially on sacred subjects like religion, God or taboo subjects like sex or even pre-marital sex. Probably the safest option would be to crib about it in the safety of one’s living room, have a happy dinner, and watch some more TV and sleep. But there is another way to give some air and popularity to what you think; provided you are ready to bear the brunt of your neighboring maami or even agree to become the bone of contention for some hundred strange women, who wouldn’t have bothered even if you were raped on a passenger train! But they really would be very much bothered if an actor airs her view on what she thinks is good advice for a mature public.

Rather than thinking why the actor said the things she said, probably the brick brigade and the guy trying to pull the donkey (a major daily carried a photo of a demonstrator who was trying to pull a donkey as a gift for Khushboo), would be better off to look into their lives and ask the women in their homes, what they actually feel. Women of 2005 are more matured and sure about themselves, their sexuality than their counterparts from 1990s. It is high time that the Indian man stood up and tried to accept the fact that women and sexuality have come of age and pre-marital sex might be a reality, more than they think of it as a westernized concept.

As a nation, we are cowards. Indians have the famous mentality to hide away from things that they feel are against the “traditional picture.” They agree to getting married to men/women who they don’t even know, just for the sake of the couple living across the street who are part of the so-called society, which doesn’t even bother to raise its voice, when a hapless girl was thrown from a Mumbai train, after being mercilessly raped!

Why the double standards? Why don’t we as a society accept that we are not what we think we are and that we try to run away from things that seem to hot to handle. We also shy away from situations that do not have any answers in our conditioning. Nothing can change our mindset for the future. We as a nation would remain in the muck we are in now. Raise our voices and shout slogans against a hapless woman who would be now hating the day she came to Chennai, but doing nothing to improve the basic amenities provided to the victims of the Kashmir quake.

Politicians and the beholders of the destiny of the nation, think, giving 33% reservation to women in the Parliament is enough to make the fairer sex feel safe. But don’t they forget, Oh! So easily, that the constitution has given the power of free speech to all the citizens of the nation. By a citizen we mean anybody who votes, has a job, pays tax has the right to say that, “hey, I don’t think I agree to being nudged when I am walking on the roads” or talk freely about their views on pre-marital sex, religious conversions, using contraceptives and much more.

Freedom of speech is just a word in today’s India. A state-centric comment would be to say, Tamil women might be forced to behave like the Abhi of Kolangal than be a independent creature with her own set of ideas and mindset. They have simply no freedom to speak anything that the neighbor might not feel comfortable hearing or something that might earn her a year’s supply of condoms! So much for freedom of speech, being a woman, it might be time for me to go home to find a group of people yelling at me to tone down the words I use in my articles!

Freedom of speech for women - Free to speak, but only what the others want you to speak.

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