Geeta, Rohan, and the Factory
January 30, 2016 1:57 PM   Subscribe

A few weeks earlier, the male elders of their caste had decreed that village women working at nearby meat-processing factories should leave their jobs. The reason they gave was that women at home would be better protected from the sexual advances of outside men. A bigger issue lay beneath the surface: The women’s earnings had begun to undermine the old order. It came as a surprise when seven of the women, who had come to rely on the daily wage of 200 rupees, about $3, refused to stop. The women would have to, the men said, blocking the lane with their bodies. They did not expect the women to go to the police. (SLNYTimes).

Ellen Barry writes about reporting this story. The piece is the first in a larger series, "India's Missing Women," on the country's experience with integrating women into the work force. Wiki on The Nat.
posted by Diablevert (14 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
I'd like to let this stand on its own as much as possible, but I will say that this is one of the most gripping, well-reported pieces I can recall reading in the Times.
posted by Diablevert at 2:02 PM on January 30, 2016 [4 favorites]

Yeah I couldn't stop reading it. Sad and terrifying but well written.
posted by sio42 at 2:15 PM on January 30, 2016

Interesting. And the ending is so distressing, as is the reporter's comments about it.

That night, the headman, Roshan, pushed us out of the village with his hands pressed against our backs; later he admitted that he had done so because he did not want us to witness violence ... One teenage girl never forgave us for failing to protect her.

I know, there's a mildly promising afterward about Geeta's new house, but still.
posted by Measured Out my Life in Coffeespoons at 2:36 PM on January 30, 2016

Fuck the patriarchy.
posted by dazed_one at 4:14 PM on January 30, 2016 [8 favorites]

These women are incredible, and the fact that those with the power and responsibility to help them - after they so courageously sought help in a system that they didn't understand - are failing to do so makes me so angry.
posted by mossicle at 5:12 PM on January 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

I kind of want to raise a bunch of money, go to India, and bring them enough stuff and cash to make the two main women well-set enough to turn their village around and help other women -- I know it's not that simple, but maybe there's _something_ we can do. Help them move somewhere better? Find a more welcoming village and help them all move there?
posted by amtho at 6:25 PM on January 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

Great article, but what an infuriating ending. These women are incredibly brave and tough (the elders and their henchmen are a bunch of cowardly, selfish bullies). However, I fear for the women's safety. I hope they somehow make it out of there.
posted by genuinely curious at 9:07 PM on January 30, 2016

I am grateful and distressed to read this.
posted by brainwane at 12:18 AM on January 31, 2016

The women’s earnings had begun to undermine the old order.

I love it when that happens.
posted by great_radio at 12:21 AM on January 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

Great article, and a depressing and hopeful picture of what law can and can't do in India just now. It's a great improvement on the past, in that there is a structure above and outside the village hierarchy that can be appealed to, that can provide injunctions and police protection and a framework for negotiations. But it's sad how shaky and erratic that system is.

I sympathise with the desire to just fly to their rescue but I don't think moving to another village - with its own hierarchy - or to the city (with its absence of communal support structures) will necessarily help. There ought to be a well-funded government school in every village in India, guaranteeing that girls and boys gain sufficient skills and awareness of the wider society around them to empower women in adult life. And actual policing needs to be much more consistent than it currently is. The money to make both things happen exists. India is doing so well economically - if all the tax evasion could be reigned in and the money properly used, these transformations could happen in a generation or two. If, if, if. In the intermin, there are organisations like Pratham.
posted by Aravis76 at 2:55 AM on January 31, 2016 [3 favorites]

amtho, your idea makes me think of this village in Kenya, where men are not allowed. #BANMEN
posted by dame at 7:51 AM on January 31, 2016

Amazing and terrible.

I'm also impressed that the reporting team stuck around long enough to be ignored. I wonder exactly how long that was.
posted by ignignokt at 12:01 PM on January 31, 2016

Looked again: Nine visits over at least four months. I'd guess they were still quite aware of the reporters at that point, even if they were more relaxed. I wonder how much differently this would have done if the village was unobserved?
posted by ignignokt at 12:04 PM on January 31, 2016

> I wonder how much differently this would have done if the village was unobserved?

As a cynical ex-pat, I was surprised to find no mention of acid attacks. That's usually a common way to put women in their places in the subcontinent. I guess money talks loudly enough that it is hard to ignore, even when it is undermining the patriarchy.

(Although even with my cynicism, I was taken aback to see that India's female labor force participation has been declining, and by that much - from 37% in 1990 to 27% now. What??)
posted by RedOrGreen at 12:01 PM on February 1, 2016

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