Tuesday, 28 September, 2021

Respect Women’s Dignity

Namrata Sharma 

On the eve of Teej, it is important to reflect a bit on the impact of traditions, culture and religion on societies and the market place. “The teej song ‘bich bichma khyassa putali’ by Dugesh Thapa needs to be removed from YouTube and the necessary action needs to be taken against the singers for defaming and making fun of women and on one of the festivals that is associated with them,” says advocate Bishnu Bashyal, lecturer at Nepal Law College. After her comment, I listened to the song. This song reflects the psychology of the youth, particularly of young fundamentalist men with feudal and patriarchal mindset in Nepal that the women movement and political changes are trying to remove.
Nepal’s constitution clearly states that there is no discrimination based on gender and its Article 17 clearly says “every person has the right to live with respect.” Advocate Basyal, who is an expert on international Law and Human Rights, says that Article 19 states that “no one should create misunderstandings between different religions or communities, or use abusive language against anyone and promote gender discrimination; also, the media should act responsibly and not give space to vilifying anyone.”

Abusive words
There should be a stop to the song ‘bich bichma khyassa putali’ by Durgesh Thapa from being played on YouTube and circulated widely as it goes against the laws prevalent in Nepal. The lyric of the song is very derogatory and also uses abusive words like “khyassa putali,” “poila” and "yatrai siti”. What is very alarming and needs attention is the fact that throughout the song the group of men singers use very derogatory and abusive languages and gestures accompanied by their body language that are prohibited by Nepal’s laws. There are sentences in the songlike “they -- meaning girls and women, make their husbands sleep on the floor while they sleep on beds and go around the town dancing on the streets.” The song also slanders the parents of the women and blames their origin.
Abusive words, body language and gestures are used in such a way that women are targeted as someone who need to be vilified, sneered at and ridiculed. The song also says that women who use makeup are inciting the villagers. One sentence of the lyric mentions that although there are happy couples, some women file for divorce and take away 50 per cent of the husband’s property. The whole song is abusive, and attacks the dignity of women, who make up more than 52 per cent of Nepal’s population. This is in violation of several acts of the constitution of Nepal. Therefore, this song should be banned and taken off and appropriate actions should be taken against the song writers and the singers by the concerned authorities.
The whole mentality of this song is geared towards preventing women’s freedom of observing their culture and tradition the way they want and anchoring on their freedom of movement and expression. Not only that, the pent-up anger among the young generation men on the right to divorce and access to property by women is also reflected in this Teej song!
Actually Teej, Karwa Chauth and several fasting enforced on women for the longevity of their husbands in the Hindu culture have taken several turns and twists in the modern world. There is a strong feminist movement to stop oppression of women through fasting with the belief that their husbands will live longer if they fast for 24 hours without taking even a drop of water. Slowly, as women are getting more educated and professional, fasting without water is slowly dying and many have started taking fruits, milk and even food. As women have started earning they have started spending and enjoying with friends and family on their own. They buy stuff for themselves and their loved ones. They also organise parties and dance events themselves, especially during the Teej festival.
The market system in the capitalist world has captured this and products and services have now arisen to cater to the new demands of Teej. This Khyassa Putali ridicules women for their existence and attacks their dignity. The worst part is that young men are singing this song and promoting discrimination by gesticulating and ridiculing not only women but also the transgender community. Towards the end of the song, a man dressed in a saree indulges in conversation with another man in an objectionable way towards women.

Social cohesion
The societies and communities all over the world observe their cultures and traditions which help in social cohesion. It is good to observe rituals which bring happiness and cohesion among families and communities. However, it has to be remembered that these rituals and traditions are made by humans, and need to be changed as time changes. It should be understood that just because a wife fasts it is not scientifically proven that her husband will have a longer life. Actually several fasting in the Hindu culture is very good and both men and women should observe it for their own health. Intermittent fasting that the western world is promoting now has been a quintessence part of the Hindu culture for centuries.
Therefore, fasting in itself is not wrong. In fact all should observe it regularly but with due cautions to improve their own health. But gender discrimination and abuse of women in the name of festivals should be stopped. In the case of this derogatory song, the Women Commission, Press Council Nepal and the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology should be alert and take the appropriate action immediately.

(Namrata Sharma is a senior journalist and women rights activist. namrata1964@yahoo.comTwitter handle: @NamrataSharmaP)