Menstruation becomes the reason for women’s exclusion at Athai, and public places in Rampur, Rajasthan, barring them to participate in any decision making.
Jagni Devi is 68 years old, from Rampur Karauli and has never seen any woman stepping on the ‘Athai’, a public place which is dominated by men. In Rajasthan, Athai, is a raised platform, witnessed by village elders, only men, who gather to discuss issues and make decisions related to the community.
“The panchayat gets together here and also some religious rituals are performed. That is the Deity’s place also”, said Babulal explaining the importance of the Athai. When further asked by our Community Correspondent Sunita Kasera, if women are also a part of panchayat or decision making, Babulal revoked. “A woman never sits up there. This is the Deity’s place. Nowhere do women sit on Athais”, added Babulal.
Rampur village is just one example. In our country, there are several other villages which continue to be gripped by patriarchy. Our society is deeply embedded with patriarchal norms rooted in the misogynist customs and traditions, which marginalises women. Ever since Leela got married 15 years ago and started living in Rampur village, she has never seen women sitting on the Athai or any public place in her village. Leela remembers that this exclusion of women is very similar to what happens at her maiden village.
Even a female Sarpanch is powerless in this case. “Even the sarpanch will sit down there only, not on the Athai. The panchayat will be held from there, but she won’t come up”, said Mohar Singh. It was also explained that women’s menstruation was the reason for practicing these regressive standards by the Athai. “A 10-11-year-old girl may still go, only till the time she gets her period. A girl can go, a woman can’t”, said Leela.
Rural areas in India which are still struggling with the basic paradigm of development. This clearly shows that the illusion of empowerment or freedom is given to women is tailored by men. Age-old patriarchy continues to hold back the development of girls and women, shunning their voices not only in the villages but also in cities.
Video by Community Correspondent Sunita Kasera
Article by Grace Jolliffe, a Member of VV Editorial Team.