September 12, 2009

Perhaps its a renewed interest in 'development', or perhaps its coming face-to-face (and often logger-heads) with so many 'gender specialists' obviously so-very-much-more-learned-and-nuanced-than-I, I've become somewhat fascinated by the 'third-gender quandary'.

This interest began when I randomly came across a news story (which I may or may-not have blogged about in the past) documenting a court (I forget which tier) ruling that allowed hermaphrodites, or-as-someone-just-pointed-out the 'intersexed', (hijras for those less aware of politically correct terminology), to benefit from the much-glorified Benazir Income Support Program. It's as yet unclear what kinds of benefits hermaphrodites would enjoy, whether they would benefit from intiatives specifically for women (the (in)famous 'behen basti' concept for example, but the kicker-as-it-were is simply the fact that their case was registered, heard and the verdict allowed for inclusion of the 'third-gender' into the income-support discourse.

When I came across some 'gender-specialists' I know, I mentioned this story expecting my audience to be as enthusiastic as I at recent developments. Imagine my surprise (somewhat-scornful-I-must-admit) when my news was treated as nothing-out-of-the-ordinary and the discussion of 'women-as-walking-wombs' or some such rubbish continued as-if uninturrupted. That's when I realized 'gender concerns' in Pakistan is merely a psuedonym for the women's rights movement. And apparently it is completely accepted as such proved when one overhears a rather-senior government functionary tell us all about how much he's doing for 'women' in order to prove that he's truly mainstreamed 'gender concerns' into his particular office.

Newsflash: Since when do only women count as 'gendered' entities? Men are equally 'gendered'. And similarly, so are hermaphrodites.

And simultaneously it occurs to me that the women rights activists in Pakistan badly disguised as 'gender specialists' really ought to be given one tight chamat and made to sit down and re-learn the fundamentals of gender mainstreaming. Perhaps then they can sympathize with entities whose lot in life is significantly worse than women (and-before-I-find-stream-0f-disgruntled-feminist-types-leaving-rabidly-angry-comments-to-this-post: I'm not denying that women of the-land-of-the-pure have one hell of a cross to bear).

But consider me this: you pretend you're fighting for gender equity, and then you have no sympathy for people who fall SQUARELY into your mandated area of concern because you share the same hypocritical notions and discrminatory reservations about them that the rest of your society does. You're so busy fighting for separate bathrooms for men and women that you forget entirely that there exist many people who have no idea which bathroom to frequent, and more so, they have no idea how they'll be recieved in either. Fight for separate bathrooms by-all-means, but atleast have the heart (and the brain, perhaps) to celebrate a victory, even though you had nothing-at-all to do with it, if only because it furthers a cause you claim to espouse.


jasmine said...

i think the politically correct term is "intersex" rather than hermaphrodite...

Xeb said...

J: Is it? I believe the term hermaphrodite is used to denote the medical (?) condition where a person is both male and female, biologically. I've yet to come across the word 'intersex' in Pakistani discourse around the issue, but you may be right. It definitely sounds like a more PC term at any rate :)