World AIDS Day being observed across India
“As per the latest data, the HIV infections have shown a fall throughout the world due to effective HIV prevention and communication programmes. According to UNAIDS statistics, 33.4 million people are estimated to be living with HIV. Among these 2.5 million are children.
One out of three people escape diagnosis of the condition. More than half of infected people are in the prime of their youth. In India, there are about 2.5 million HIV+ individuals of whom 1.7 lakh are in the state of Tamilnadu. Mortality due to AIDS stands at a staggering 2.1 million people worldwide. Among the dead, 330,000 are children. According to a voluntary service group, women and girls in the third world are disproportionately victimized by HIV/AIDS because they face consistent discrimination.”
Most of the victims of HIV and AIDS in India are women. Women in India who are trying to emancipate themselves are up against one of the most chauvinistic male societies in the East. This suppression of gender equality and female rights is one of the most powerful limiting factors the functioning of any society, and without a large measure of equality for women there is no true democracy, however ‘big’ it may be, as in India.
Sathya Sai Baba is revered and protected by many Indian politicians, including many Prime Ministers and Ministers, and much of the top judiciary as a spokesman for Indian values – but he remain a silent as a clam on burning problems in India like AIDS, the suppression of women and children, forced prostitution, sexuality and not least homosexuality (far too touchy a subject with his reputation) him!). (See my previous blog blow here)
Sai Baba down on women: He has shown himself to be a defender of many traditional revanchist views on women (along with his skepticism about human rights, modern democracy, worker’s rights and so on). He is silent about the terrible oppressions many women face in India, from forced prostitution to wife-burning, from female infanticide to grinding slave labour in poverty. He sees women’s place as primarily being in the home, and claims they should never hold leadership positions in the government. Sai Baba stated:-
“From the moment of birth, for every one the mother is the preceptor. If such a teacher leaves her home to teach other children, who will teach her children? For Indian (Bharatiya) women, the first duty is to reform the home and run it along ideal lines!” at Prashanthi Nilayam on `Ladies day` 19/10/1996. (Sanathana Sarathi, Dec. 1996, p. 334)
When women do work outside the home, Sai Baba admits, they surpass men in their dedication etc. But his main view is to bemoan this situation where women are empowered to work outside the home and earn. Again, he harps back to the past he wants to see us all return to: -
“Rama told Bharata that he should not permit women to take part in affairs of state. Women have their estimable role in household affairs, but they should be kept out of state politics. “Don`t employ women as ministers. The reason is: a nation’s honour is based upon its women. It is only when women maintain their respect and honour that the nation will be respected. It is not proper for women to cheapen themselves by roaming in public places.” …and… “How does the situation in the country today compare with Rama’s conception of an ideal government? The state of things today is 100% contrary to the ideas and ideals of Rama. How, then, can Rama Rajya be established here? If we desire to establish Rama Rajya there should be harmony in thought, word and deed… “ etc. . (Sanathana Sarathi, May 1995, p. 118).
Note how India’s Congress Party followed Sai Baba’s anti-women and national chauvinist policy when the rejected Sonia Gandhi as Prime Minister in favour of Manmohan Singh, even though she alone had brought them a resounding election victory.