VEIL OR NO VEIL?

Image created by Shwetangna Chakrabarty on canva.com

Veil or no Veil? A question that women have pondered for centuries. Do we have an answer? Yes, we do-veil if others demand of us and no veil if others permit us. This demanding and permitting has not changed even though the types of veils have. Women need to wear a veil in traditional Christian weddings as a sign of purity; married women need to wear a veil or ghoonghat in traditional Indian households to symbolize their loyalty to their spouses; women need to wear a veil or hijab/purdah in Islam to keep men moral and uphold modesty. There are millions of such parallels that require women to veil and what has it led to?

The recent death of a young woman in Iran should be the last straw for tolerating gender discrimination, just like George Floyd’s death was the last straw for tolerating racism. I have seen women in my family with ghoonghat in the sweltering heat of Indian summer as their male partners continued to ignore their discomfort, celebrating the oppression and discomfort instead. I have felt the agony of young female students hiding away in school corridors and classrooms as they suddenly had to wear a hijab. I have heard women spending ridiculous amounts of money to buy a wedding veil. I always asked myself:

Have we women glorified the veil?

Why have we never questioned the veil?

What if we completely do away with any kind of veil?

I shudder, even while writing about it, as just this might attract a lot of hate. Honestly, my intention is not to hurt people’s sentiment but to poke it hard! If the literal ‘taking away a veil’ hurts us, then let it hurt till we get rid of it. We don’t need to sacrifice our lives just to put up with meaningless subjugation. If we like the veil in any form, think of the form of violence we are nurturing in our context. Tolerate and we will be forced to tolerate, no positive change will ever take place as we continue to be veiled.

Any form of subjugation is a form of human rights violation. While the world is still reeling from the mass murder by Covid, we continue with age old mass murder of women’s rights. We need to look past traditions, customs, and religious practices, to overcome challenges like gender discrimination. A society that limits its women limits half of its workforce, stunting its social, financial, and cognitive growth. And a society that kills women who are demanding their rights as humans, kills humanity.

So why do we need to talk about this? We need to. This is more important than Apple launching the new iPhone, the Kardashians, or Elon Musk’s fantasies. We have managed to veil our real issues and let the veil prevail. If we do not open up conversations with our young learners, they will never be able to rise above the veil of fake news, lies, bias, discrimination and prejudice.

One woman sacrificed her life at the age of 22. She had so much to live for; to help in solving global issues; to save the environment, to explore outer space, to give life to a human, to lay her parents to rest, to solve the Collatz conjecture; could be so many things! There were infinite dreams and possibilities, but the veil took it all. Many women have sacrificed their dreams for centuries but each decade there is a story of change propelled by a woman who had the courage to get out of the clasps of a veiled society, to make the world a livable space. Be it Jane Austin, Anne Frank, Maya Angelou or Indira Gandhi and many more like them, they were change-makers and they did not need a veil. So do we really need any kind of veil? We don’t? This is what a global education should teach its young women learners- you don’t give in to the demands and needs of a veiled society, by rising above a veil, girls and women will help themselves and the world around them. It is a choice to veil or not veil, unveil the choice to prevail.

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