Who Is An Empowered Woman?

kill bill uma ‘Women’s empowerment’ is probably one of the most overused phrases in global campaigns today.  But who exactly is an empowered woman? I was asked this question in a recent interview and this is what I said:

An empowered woman for me is a woman who has realized that freedom and power is not something that another person or society can give you.  Whatever your circumstance, as humans we all are born free, and our power is within. The question is, have you allowed others to rob you of your freedom and choices? Are you using your power to assert yourself, your freedom and choices, or are you giving away your power to the system that’s trying to repress you through rules, customs, and fear?

An empowered woman is one who has complete ownership of self, which is the absolute and fundamental essence of being a free citizen in a democracy.  It is only slaves and prisoners whose lives are controlled by others through fear and power. Women and girls controlled by society, family, traditions, religions, through dictums, and fear and power, are like slaves and prisoners.

A woman who is a doctor or engineer, whose parents are blackmailed for dowry, who continues to tolerate violence and death threats from her husband and in-laws, but does not walk out to reclaim her sanity and safety, because she fears social stigma for herself or her family, is not empowered.  In fact, I say, that a village woman is more empowered than her, who may have little education, but who defies khap and community diktats, and chooses to leave her community and seek a new life with a lover of her own choosing.   It is the village woman who is more empowered than the urban, educated, working woman, because she has recognized and claimed her absolute freedom as a human being.

You can read my full interview with ‘Glad to Be A Woman’ here http://www.glad2bawoman.com/category/achievers/rita-banerji-woman-behind-50-million-missing-campaign

Gandhi to Asaram: Who Empowers the Sex Crimes of ‘Gurus?’

We are all accountable when we allow men we worship/ idealize/ idolize/ follow/ to get away with crimes we wouldn’t allow ordinary men to get away with.


by Rita Banerji

It’s uncanny how similar he is to Gandhi.  I’m talking about Asaram, the Indian spiritual leader who was recently arrested for sexually assaulting the 15-year-old daughter of one of his devotees.

Both Gandhi and Asaram commanded followers in the millions, who regarded them as saints, spiritual ‘guides’ and called them “Bapu” or Father.

Both Gandhi and Asaram regarded sex as and sexual desire as “sins,” and any expression of sexuality as ‘dirty’ imports from the west that needed to be shunned because they ruin India’s youth and culture.  Both preached abstinence to their followers and the control of sexual desire as a form of self-‘purification.’

And both Gandhi and Asaram in hypocritical violations of their own preaching, indulged in sexual gratification of one kind or another, even when it resulted in the sexual abuse of girls and women in their flock.

Details that continue to emerge

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Why India’s View on Sex and Sexuality is Deadly!

The question that led to the writing of my book Sex and Power was, why is India with its erotic history, so neurotic about sex today?  See “India Uptight over Erotica in Hinduism?

Yet, there are two other factors I observed over the course of my research.  Firstly, there continues to be an underlying sexuality to the practice of Hinduism, which Indians seems bizarrely blind to, and in denial of even as they practice it!

Secondly, modern India has the most extreme form of cultural tolerance for various types of sexually deviant social behavior – like sex-trafficking in the form of marriage!  As I tried to understand why this was so, a theory from Freud explained it quite clearly, and also made a projection.  As I searched further, I realized that Freud was right!  The biggest shocker for me was making the connection that the female genocide in India today is a direct result of India’s confounded, perverted social attitude to sex and sexuality!

Below is an excerpt from the last section of my book.

lingam yonijpgThe lingam-yoni which continues to be worshipped by millions in India is perhaps one of the most blatant sexual allusions in Hinduism. It is not just the terminology, the actual use of the words ‘penis’ (lingam) and ‘vagina’(yoni), but it is the representation as well, the idol (bearing) a likeness (to) the respective anatomies…an unambiguous portrayal of sexual intercourse. Yet, surprisingly, most Indians will vehemently deny (more…)

What Will The Death of Communism Bring To Bengal?

Today was Election Day here in Calcutta, and could be a historical one for the state of West Bengal.  The CPI(M) – The Communist Party of India (Marxist), that has ruled the state with an iron sickle and hammer, for three and a half decades, is said to be on its way out!  People of my generation, who have never known a Bengal under any other influence, can’t quite fathom what this change might bring.

But there is an uneasiness that’s discomforting.  There’s police everywhere, and para-military — in full battle gear, armed to the teeth, patrolling the streets, and directing polling booths.   I suppose till India learns that democracy means the free and calm exercise of choice, this is how we will continue to vote!  Since the Lok Sabha election polls, two years ago, when the electorate first indicated that they were weary of the CPI(M) and desperate for change, even if it means choosing the Trinamool Congress party led by the chaotic  and highly strung Mamata Banerjee,  West Bengal has been in a state of a virtual blood-bath.  There’s news of abductions and killings almost every other day.  The CPI(M) has no intentions of leaving without an all-out fight! Nine of the eleven constituencies in Calcutta have been declared “sensitive” for the polling period – meaning prone to violence.

Wishing to avoid the poll warriors, I was at my designated booth by 6.30 a.m.  There were about 50 other people there, already, in line who probably thought the same way.   My poll booth is an old, ram shackled, government school-building.  All schools remain closed today as they double as polling booths.  The voter’s line ran parallel to the water line – that is the line of people with buckets and plastic drums waiting to fill water at the municipal tap, which for some reason is located 6 feet directly in front of the school’s entrance.   A woman at the water line, with about 4 big buckets in tow, smiled at me and said (more…)

Why did the Chinese Women have a Secret Language?

When I was a student, I remember reading about a secret language known only to Chinese women.  I lost that article, and for many years, every time I brought it up in conversation, people would look at me strangely.  No one had heard of anything like this — that the women of a society would have their own language which their menfolk knew nothing about.  What more they had managed to keep this language a secret for a few hundred years.

I had almost forgotten about it, when last year, browsing through a bookstore, I came across the book Snowflower and the Secret Fan. It sounded sort of fairy-tale like (not my kind of book), so I almost put it back.  Then on an impulse I turned it around to read the synopsis.  And there it was — the evidence to what I had been seeking information for so long.  There did exist such a language and it was called Nu Shu. The author Lisa See based her book on her research about Nu Shu.  Read more about Nu Shu here.

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