But sometimes the victims themselves are afraid to voice their grievances in the public because speaking up entails shame, ostracization, and even extra-judicial killings. The victims can express their grievances in public "only at certain times and in certain ways" because their rights are infringed on social and cultural levels (Dewey).
The fact that cultural and traditional beliefs and attitudes contribute to violations of women's rights in a systematic manner can be observed by reading literature on the practice of dowry. Many Indian legal and philosophical thinkers use relativistic terms to contest the notion that the practice contributes to the abuse of women. They contest the notion because they argue the concept of human rights is a Western notion, sometimes disregarding cultural variations and sensibilities of the Indian nation (Gupta). The general critique of the concept of human rights as a western notion may be valid in some matters, but there are compelling evidences showing that the practice of dowry and many other traditions and cultural beliefs in the Indian society contribute to gross violations of women's rights. These evidences are mostly compiled by Indians themselves, victims as well as women's advocacy groups who have been challenging sexist and misogynist beliefs and practices in India for several decades. Instead of addressing the problem, some legal and political officials and their supporters in the academia try to exploit post-colonial and post-modern discourses in order to minimize the level of problem or even try to defend sexist and misogynist beliefs.
Violations of women's rights operate within a system where different forms of oppression overlap and complement each other. Domestic violence, sexual harassment, the practice of Sati, and female foeticide are the results of the same set of traditions and cultural practices that exist in the Indian society. And the problem is worse when gender relations involve members of minority groups. Members of so-called "untouchables" and even Muslims (the largest minority in India) sometimes carry the double burden of patriarchal and caste or religious oppression. Human rights organizations are now paying greater attention to the abuse of sexuality minorities (members of non-traditional sexual orientations) whose treatment again operates within the system of gender relations where sexuality minorities are viewed with the same contempt that is directed at femininity, but on a different level; they are treated even worse ("Human Rights Violations Against Sexuality Minorities in India").
The grim picture demonstrated in this paper is not to suggest that India is unique in the matter of gender relations significantly disfavoring women's rights and equality. Like in many other societies, the country has significantly improved women's position and role in the society through the enactment of numerous laws and legislations. Public perceptions of the role of women have also changed due to the efforts of human rights and women's advocacy groups. But the problems remain because of the existing cultural beliefs and attitudes as well as centuries-old traditions, perpetuating the idea that the role of women in the society is simply to complement those of men. Many men still operate within a cultural system where women are treated like property whose sole position in the society is to be a housewife bearing sons and taking care of house chores. The problem operates on a systemic level also because many women have internalized these ideas and participate in practices that discriminate against women. Enacting laws and legislations protecting the rights of women are important but the problem cannot be solved through legal means alone. Educating the society must be at the forefront of activism directed against this problem.
Dewey, Susan. "Dear Dr. Kothari': Sexuality, Violence Against Women, and the Parallel Public Sphere in India." American Ethnologist, 36/1 (2009): 124-139.
Duggal, Ravi. "The Political Economy of Abortion in India: Cost and Expenditure Patterns." Reproductive Health Matters, 12/24 (Nov. 2004): 130-137.
Grewal, Indu and Kishore, J. "Female Foeticide in India." International Humanist and Ethical Union. 1 May 2004. Web. 12 Dec. 2011
Gupta, Nidhi. "Women's Human Rights and the Practice of Dowry in India." Journal of Legal Pluralism and Unofficial Law, 48 (2003): 85-123. Web. 12 Dec. 2011