November 30th, 2017 witnessed a discussion session organised by Afro- Asiatisches Institut, Salzburg. The discussion was part of the wider annual event – “Violence against women”, and in this context we spoke of violence against women in India. The topic of discussion was the role of religion in India in oppression of women.
On the discussion panel were Elisabeth Feldbacher, who represented AAI, Dr Sumeeta Hasenbichler, Christian Hackbarth-Johnson, and myself. As topics of discussion, Christian Hackbarth – Johnson, having traveled to the sub-continent quite often and having worked there, spoke of Hinduism in comparison to other monotheistic religions, and how it happens to be one of the few living religions that worships female goddesses.
Dr Sumeeta shared stories of her upbringing and life in north India, and perspectives of having been raised in a non-religious family. This stood in contrast to my own stories and experiences of having been raised in a very conservative, religious family, with exposure to various religious texts and points of view that fueled my own personality as a woman.
The conversation steered through various aspects of cultural and religious norms of India that have defined and redefined the gender roles. We discussed the complexities of a multicultural, secular society that is India, and the impact of being privileged and under-privileged in such surroundings.
The discussion included a Q&A session with the audience members, followed by the screening of a documentary film about the “Gulabi Gang”. The debate concluded with a wonderful Indian snacks assortment and drinks, with one on one interactions with the people present at the event.
written by Nayana Keshava Bhat
She is a contemporary dancer/choreographer based in Salzburg and one of the founding members of the interdisciplinary artiste collective INFLUX.