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Beautiful flowers surrounded by thorns (culture) that limits full blooming....

Many women in Asia have been like beautiful flowers hidden inside the thorns that restricts full blooming......

Since young, they were taught not to smile or talk to men, cover their bodies despite of the heat during summer, not to date men as that would ruined her reputation of possible marriage, not to go out when it gets dark, not to raise voice in community meeting/forum, as it is considered 'taboo' for women speaking in front of men. Vocal women might be stereotyped in the community not to go for marriage proposal (i remember women sitting quietly in various meetings/forums when men are present), women were taught to maintain purity as much as possible! When women violates any of such restrictions/rules of patriarchal society, she might become unacceptable to the society. In my years of work experience with grassroots women in northern India, network and interaction with women across Asia- I saw similarities of such norms and culture that has bound them in bondage. I still remember an encounter with bruised 12-year-old married girl in Haryana, who gets beaten up for not being able to have sex with an alcoholic husband of 22 years old. Her parents sold her off to remove the burden of raising a daughter, who is considered as 'others' property. At times, i question 'why' in the name of 'women', women have to face extreme struggles and hardships in Asia or Middle East. What's wrong with the culture that works against women? what mistakes did the young girl commit to endure such hardships of life? I remember her sitting quietly in the meeting, when i reach out to speak with her, she showed me her bruised hands of torture!

Being born as a Naga woman that follows christianity in such culture, it gives more space to breathe & live in the society. However, patriarchal society pervades religion and culture even though it could be different from society-to-society or culture-to-culture. Women are trapped with patriarchal culture that inhibits growth and development of self. They fear not following the culture, as they could easily become 'subject of the talks' in the circles of men, neighbors & society. I view such lives of women as beautiful flowers trapped inside the thorns of the society. Such restriction and rules inhibit women's growth and development of becoming potential great leaders to change others life. Therefore, we see more men in leadership roles than women.

The culture of Asia limits women walking in the path of self discovery. They often marry young to become wives, mothers & daughter-in-law. When the women reach certain age without getting married, she becomes a 'taboo' that something must have been wrong with her! Such culture still exists & practiced.

Can we imagine how many thorns surround women from the time of her birth till the end- who shall remove such thorns from her life? It would be change of mindset, culture, religion and society that plays critical role in damaging women from full growth & development of unique, colorful & beautiful flowers that she envisions to be & not what the society dictates upon her.

I wrote this piece as a reflection of how women's life in Asia gets torn with restrictions and rules of the culture, religion and society. This piece might apply beyond Asia as i see similar problems faced by women across the world....

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