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揭秘印度各种女性的真实生活

2014-03-26    来源:chinadaily    【      美国外教 在线口语培训

India's invisible widows, divorcees and single women

2012年,一名女学生在德里的一辆公交车上被奸杀。这一事件屡屡登上新闻头条,引发了对女性承受暴力行为的抗议。但是在印度,女性还身处其他困境,单身女性更甚——她们一般无法过正常生活。

The rape and murder of a student on a Delhi bus in 2012 made headlines and sparked protests about violence against women. But there are other hazards for women in India, and particularly for single women - who are often unable to live a normal life.

Wearing a long, bright yellow frock and two well-oiled plaits, she was silently doing her chores in a village home when I first saw her.

For a moment I took Khuddo to be a teenage domestic help, a small girl cooking, cleaning and mopping, just like millions of them who work in homes in India's teeming cities and villages.

But when she turned and flashed a shy smile, I saw a face of an older woman. And then I discovered, to a creeping sense of shame, that she was not a domestic help either.

Khuddo lived with a vast, extended family in a crowded home with her widowed mother, aunts, uncles and their families. She had four siblings who lived and worked all over India. Her father had passed away a long time ago.

Khuddo was about 50, and single. Even as the family grew, she had faded into the background, immersing herself in the drudgery of dull and backbreaking chores. She contributed nothing to the thrumming noise of the family. They called her their "tragic case". "Sometimes, it feels," a family member told me, "she does not exist at all."

Why do you dress like a girl, I asked her. Her mother answered instead.

"She is unmarried, so she should not look or dress up like a woman."

The family refuses to accept that a woman can be grown-up and still not be married. So to them Khuddo is still a child. [or "a child woman"?]

Khuddo is one of many Indian women who have simply sunk into oblivion because they remained single, not by choice, but by circumstance or a twist of fate.

In a society where a woman is traditionally considered to be complete when she marries - preferably to a groom of her parents' choice - singledom can be cruel and oppressive.

There are some 40 million women in India, according to the 2001 census, who are single and over the age of 30 - divorced, separated or unmarried. This is believed to be a conservative estimate.

Many of them are beginning to defy convention by remaining single by choice, and eking out a life for themselves without depending, like Khuddo, on the grudging munificence of their families. India's fast-changing cities are also slowly beginning to accept single women for what they are. But the change is extremely slow and painful for many who are facing it every day.

If being single can sometimes relegate a woman to the background, divorce can be traumatic. Social stigma surrounding divorce still hangs heavy over women, usually housewives, who are dependent on their husbands.

That's not all. If a married couple splits up, the woman generally struggles to receive her fair share of the couple's property. And even what she is entitled to can get tied up in litigation in India's excruciatingly slow-moving courts.

Deepali, 25, from the city of Mumbai, is a sorry example of how a slow justice system and social stigma can unwittingly conspire against a separated woman, especially with children.

She lives in a grotty one-room tenement with her four-year-old son, and does odd jobs as a waitress at wedding parties or as a housemaid.

Her husband abandoned her and initiated divorce proceedings after his family rejected her.

She says she has received no maintenance payments in the three years they have been living separately. It says a lot about Indian society that she is keen to be reunited with her husband, despite the fact that he used to beat her regularly.

"I don't want a divorce. My son and I need the name of the father to avoid social stigma. Society should not say that my son is illegitimate," Deepali says.

"I don't want to be called a divorcee. So I'd rather carry on like this. I also think what my son will think of me when he grows up if I end up being a divorcee! Good women don't end up as divorcees, you know."

Nimisha, in her 30s and working, does not fit the description of a "good woman" by that logic. She is among a very small but growing number of women who are walking out of abusive marriages despite the social and financial costs.

Her decision to seek a divorce from her husband was a blow to the prestige of both families, but now, she says, people have started accepting her and her new status.

"It's a hard life to be single and divorcee in India but I would rather be single than be in an abusive marriage," she says.

Shakti Dasi is another kind of single woman - a widow aged 65. I met her in Vrindavan, a holy city where large numbers of Indian widows take refuge if life with their family becomes unbearable.

"When my husband was alive, I had his protection," she says, tears welling up in her eyes and her voice choking.

"Then he died and I was like an orphan. My sons and daughters-in-law no longer cared about me. I was abused and beaten up by them. Once my son broke my legs and I decided, I didn't want to live with my family any more."

Like many of the widows in Vrindavan, who are mostly from poor, rural backgrounds, she had little to lose by leaving home. The life she'd taken decades to create had already been taken from her.


Now she lives in a small brick shack, impoverished and alone.

The reasons for tensions between widows and their families are primarily economic, says Winnie Singh, a social activist who works with the women of Vrindavan. A widow is an extra mouth to fill and could try to stake a claim to the family property.

Winnie tells me the fact that these widows don't resist is deeply rooted in their culture.

"They still hope when they die, that their son probably will come and light their pyre," she says. "A son who breaks your legs, a son who hits you so hard that your skull breaks, a son who is willing to put cow dung in your mouth - and yet you want the same son to come and light your pyre. We need to break that mind-set also, somewhere."

Living as young, unmarried adult woman in a women's hostel in the Indian capital in the late 1990s, I realised how, in the name of protection, women are sometimes excessively fenced off. You had to be back in your room by seven in the evening, you could not leave the hostel before six in the morning, you could not invite male friends, and you had a quota of nights out with the consent of a "local guardian".

Those of my women friends who were single and lived alone faced similar problems. Getting a place to live in was tough, there was the unrelenting gaze of the landlord and neighbours to contend with, and male friends visiting them were a no-no.

Things are changing but the process is glacial. India is a complex society that reveres goddesses and yet seems to discriminate against living women in equal measure.

Interviewing Indian women over the last few months has been an uncomfortable experience.

If you are single, you could just fade away. If you are separated or divorced, you may struggle all your life - so many women stay in a bad marriage and suffer. And in some families the prospect of being widowed does not bear thinking about.(ChinaDaily)

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我第一次见她时,她穿着亮黄色的长袍,扎两条整齐的长辫,安静地在一个村民的家里做家务。

那一瞬间,我还以为库多是个年少的佣人,一个帮忙做饭、清洗、抹地的小姑娘,就像其他几百万个在印度密集的城市和乡村的家庭里工作的小姑娘一样。

可是,当她转身,闪过一丝羞涩的笑,我才看到那是张更年长的脸。然后带着隐隐的羞愧感,我发现她也不是佣人。

库多与她的寡妇母亲、叔伯姑婶和他们各自的家人住在一个拥挤的大家庭里。她有四个兄弟姐妹,在印度其他地方工作生活。她父亲已经去世很长时间了。

库多50岁上下,未婚。她的家族不断变大,而她却日渐淡化,每天做着辛苦枯燥的家务和苦力。家人平日里敲敲打打的声音与她无关。他们把她叫做家里的“晦气”。她家里一个人告诉我:“有时候,我感觉她根本不存在。”

我问她,你为什么穿得想个小姑娘啊。

她母亲代她回答了:“她没结婚,所以她穿衣服不能看起来像个结了婚的女人。”

这个家庭不肯相信一个女性不结婚就能长大。所以对他们来说,库多仍然是个儿童。[或者“童女”?]

印度有许多因为未婚而直接被人遗忘的女性,库多只是其中一个。这不是她们选择的,而是扭曲额命运和环境使然。

在一个长久以来认为女性只有嫁了人——新郎由女方的家长决定——才能完整的社会中,单身是残酷而难以忍受的。

根据2001年的人口普查,印度有大约四千万30岁以上的单身妇女——原因包括离婚、分居和未婚。这还仅是保守估计。

她们中许多人正开始反对传统观念。她们选择保持单身,竭力维持自己的生活,而不像库多一样,依靠家庭勉强的一些施舍活下去。印度迅速发展的城市也开始慢慢地接受了单身女性。但对于那些每天面对单身困境的女性来说,这一变化极其缓慢而痛苦。

如果说单身有时候把女性淡化成背景,那么离婚会给她们带来灾难性的打击。离婚随之而来的社会污点仍然沉重地笼罩在女性头上,尤其是那些依赖丈夫的家庭妇女。

这还不算。如果一对夫妻离婚,女方一般会努力争取获得夫妻共同财产中属于自己的一部分。然而,哪怕是她们应得的财产,也会因为印度慢如龟速的法庭而卡在诉讼里,变成一纸空文。

25岁来自孟买的迪帕里,就是一个这样的例子:缓慢的司法系统和社会污点在不声不响中同流合污,把一个离婚母性——尤其是有孩子的离婚女性——推入困境。

她和4岁的儿子住在一个丑陋的单间里,平时打一些零工:在婚礼上当服务员,或是做女佣。

她的丈夫抛弃了她,然后提出了离婚诉讼。

她说,他们分开的这三年里,她没有得到任何抚养费。很多人都说,她非常想和丈夫复合,哪怕他过去常常打她。

“我不想离婚。我儿子和我都需要一个父亲的名字,才不会有社会污点。要不然别人会说我儿子是偷生的。”迪帕里说。

“我不想别人叫我离过婚的女人,所以我宁愿就这样过下去。我也想过,如果离婚,我儿子长大后会怎么看我!好女人都不会离婚,你知道的。”

照这样的逻辑,30多岁有份工作的倪米莎不符合“好女人”的描述。她就是那些极少数但在不断增加的女人之一——她们不惜社会和金钱的代价,走出那个受凌辱的婚姻。

她要求与丈夫离婚的决定,给两个家庭的声望都带来重大一击。但是现在,她说人们开始接受她和她的新身份了。

她说:“在印度,单身和离婚的女人过得非常苦。但是我宁愿单身,也不要在婚姻里受虐待。”

沙克提达希是另一种单身女性——一个65岁的寡妇。我在沃林达文遇见她。那是个圣城,许多印度寡妇都来这里避难,离开家里难以忍受的生活。

“我丈夫还在的时候,他会保护我,”她说,泪水夺眶而出,声音也哽咽了。

“他死了之后,我就想一个孤儿。我的儿子们和儿媳们再也不管我了。我被他们打,被他们虐待。有一次我儿子打断了我的腿,我就决定,再也不要和家人一起过了。”

沃林达文其他很多寡妇,大多来自贫穷的农村。她就和她们一样,离开家之前就已经一无所有。她用了几十年创造的生活已经被夺走了。

现在她住在一个狭小的砖块房里,一贫如洗,孤苦伶仃。

温妮·辛格是一个针对沃林达文的妇女的社会活动者。她说,寡妇们和家人之间关系紧张的原因主要是经济原因。多一个寡妇就多一张吃饭的嘴,还有可能要求得到家庭的财产。

温妮告诉我,这些寡妇不反抗,是有很深的文化根源的。

“她们还巴望着她们死的时候,儿子可能会过来为她们,然后为她们火葬,”她说。“一个把你腿打断的儿子,一个打你打得头骨破裂的儿子,一个会把牛粪往你嘴里塞的儿子,你竟然还想让他们过来看你,帮你火葬。我们需要在有些地方打破这种心态。”

20世纪90年代末期,我曾经住在印度首都的女性招待所。当时,作为一个年轻、未婚的成年女性,我已意识到,印度的社会有时候是怎样以保护之名把女性过分地隔离起来。你必须在晚上7点之前回房,早上6点之前不能走出旅社,不能邀请男性朋友,而且只有“本地监护人”同意,才能在某几个晚上出门。

我的那些单身而且独自生活的女性朋友也面临着相似的问题。要找一个住的地方很难,房东和邻居们无情的目光让人寒心,男性朋友过来拜访简直是禁忌。

虽然情况在变,但冰冻三尺非一日之寒。印度是个复杂的社会,人们崇拜女神,然而对现实生活中同样的妇女却似乎带有歧视。

采访印度女性的过去几个月,是一段让人难受的经历。

如果单身,你只会慢慢淡化。可如果分居或是离婚,你可能要挣扎一辈子——所以许多女性只能留在悲惨的婚姻里饱受痛苦。而且在一些家庭,成为寡妇甚至是让人想也不敢想的事情。


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