“We are three sisters!” I answer as my acquaintance asks back in reiteration, “You don’t have a brother?” I answer, “No” as I wonder for the zillionth time why people don’t ask boys whether they have a sister.
Born in the 80s, while I grew up in a progressive family seeing my aunt heading a leading organisation, while me and my sisters were brought up with constant focus on education and career, when I stepped outside home, reality was different.
While you can ask me, “Who deprived you? You received a top notch education and will be peaking your career soon.” I say, “Society! Democracy is the poison that killed our women’s rights.”
While the Greek forefathers of democracy historically did not even allow women and slaves to vote, elsewhere in Switzerland, thanks to their intricate democratic system, women did not even have the right to vote till 1971. And what’s happening in my motherland Bangladesh right now?
I have given up hope that women in Bangladesh will ever have equal inheritance rights, because the majority will lay havoc if the government dares take such a step. Maybe, I should change my religion you can tell me, except, oh, no, not only us Muslim girls, but even the Hindus and Buddhists do not have equal inheritance rights for women in Bangladesh.
Then again, I lay in dismay, as I wonder why the Citizenship Act would not allow my husband to gain Bangladeshi citizenship if he was a foreigner, while foreigner wives of Bangladeshi men would be able to get it. I wonder again now as to who to blame? Religion? Society? Democracy? The Pakistanis who made the Citizenship Act of 1951? Or might I dare point to the Bangladesh government, who had the opportunity to amend the Citizenship Act 1951 fully and properly in 2009, but very charitably only amended it enough to allow foreigner children of Bangladeshi women to gain citizenship by descent but not our husbands.
Then again, you may argue, look at the bright side, our Citizenship Act did not even allow that basic right to us Bangladeshi women till 2009, while men enjoyed different privileges. But I want to know, while our constitution says that it shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth, “Who are you to tell me I am not equal?”
And my fight for “freedom from discrimination” continues as I sing along, “Oh sinner man! Where are you gonna run to?” and wonder if the pen is really mightier than the sword.