Sunday, October 20, 2013

Rural-to-urban migration raises social challenges for India's young women

Here's the gist of Ellen Barry's story, dateline Rohtak, Haryana, India:
As young Indian women leave rural homes to finish their education in cities, often the first women in their families to do so, they act like college students everywhere, feeling out the limits of their independence. But here in the farming region of Haryana State, where medieval moral codes are policed by a network of male neighbors and relatives, the experience is a little different. There is always the danger that someone is quietly gathering information. 
The old and new are continually rushing at each other in India, most starkly in places like Haryana, a largely rural, conservative state abutting New Delhi whose residents can commute 20 miles to work in nightclubs and office buildings. But their home villages are sleepy places, whose main streets are patrolled by glossy, lumbering black water buffalo.
One leader of an un-elected all-male village council, a khap panchayat, explains why he supports the practice of monitoring the women:
The mobile plays a main role. You will be surprised how this happens. A girl sits on a bus, she calls a male friend, asks him to put money on her mobile. Is he going to put money on her mobile for free? No. He will meet her at a certain place, with five of his friends, and they will call it rape.
The story also features the perspective of 20-year-old Mena, a former village girl, who advises other young women on how to avoid the prying eye of village agents.  Barry's report is well worth a read in its entirety.  

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