The biggest and most meaningful event that took place when we visited Madurai was a visit to Lady Doak college. Lady Doak is an all women’s college in Madurai. We were able to sit down with a group of about 15 students from the social sciences departments. We were able to ask questions, but essentially they described their lives as women and as students. I don’t want this to be a list of grievances against the way Indian society treats their women, but I really wanted to share what they shared.
Women are supposed to be less educated than their husbands and earn less if they have a job.
A more educated wife who earns more is harder to control.
“A girl should be in the house, before you have to switch on the light.”
Girls are not allowed to be out past 6pm. If they stay out past dark they are at a greater risk. It could also cause the neighbors to talk.
"Our lives depend on what others want."
Whether a girl would like to pursue higher education or whether she gets married by the age of 20 is completely in the hands of the men in her life. Her father, her brothers, her grandfather, her uncles, etc. etc. etc.
We talked with a couple of girls who wanted to pursue other majors, but weren't able to because their parents wanted them to pursue something more "stable." One student wanted to be a lawyer, but her parents protested because lawyers are very hard to marry off. "No one wants to marry a lawyer, because they talk and argue all the time," was their reasoning.
"We can be broadminded, but we can't apply it unless our husbands or our husband's family agrees."
I asked if the women would raise their children to be broadminded as they are. One girl replied, "It is not in our hands." So much depends on others. If a girl is married to a man who does not agree with her, she can't do much to persuade him, especially if his family thinks similarly.
A proper wife is expected to be silent, less educated, and doesn't open her mouth for anything; while the husband is be to treated like GOD.
Wives lose their identity and place in society when their husbands die.
Women are forced to wear a white sari for the rest of their lives. They can't wear flowers, bindis, jewelry, toe rings, or anything else that would designate her a married woman. She isn't allowed at big social functions.
It should be noted that this applies to the group of girls that we met at Lady Doak college. One thing that you begin to learn about India is that there are contradictions all over the place. So, while this applies to much of India, it doesn't apply to all women all over India. Just throwing that out there. Some women have more freedom than this, some don't. For example, at my college the female halls have a curfew of 6:30pm and we're even a Co-Ed institution. The boys curfew? 10:30pm.