Stepping beyond the limits of Khandaanity: gender violence in Indian Ocean writing
(Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona)
Esther Pujolràs-Noguer (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona)
Paper short abstract:
Contemporary Indian Ocean writers are challenging the physical and psychological violence that continues to monitor women regardless of their class or ethnic background. The three writers chosen inexorably condemn any form of patriarchal power used in detriment to the freedom of women.
Paper long abstract:
M. G. Vassanji's hybridized notion of khandaanity underlines many of the gender constraints that regulate the lives of Asian women in Indian Ocean societies. The ideology governing gender relations was based on the necessity to safeguard women's sexual purity, men's honour and social status being heavily dependant on it. This translated into an excessive enclosure of the various Asian groups within their own communities for fear that their daughters would be led astray, women being the guardians of culture and the transmitters of traditional values. Religion and culture combine to establish the boundaries that respectable females should honour. In this paper we aim to contrast how contemporary Indian Ocean writers denounce the violence - both physical and psychological - that continues to monitor women regardless of their class or ethnic background. Jameela Siddiqi's The Feast of the Nine Virgins (2001) denounces the double standards of the Asian community. In Vassanji's The Book of Secrets (1994) a glaring example of the pressure of society on women is revealed through the suicide of the Muslim girl Parviz, whose affair with a Hindu brings public disgrace. Lindsey Collen's prize-winning novel The Rape of Sita (1993) leads inexorably to a condemnation of any form of patriarchal power used in detriment to the freedom of women. We conclude that until women can free themselves from ideal patriarchal notions of femininity, heterosexual chastity and faithfulness to "the community", they will remain prey to acts of gender violence.
Africa in the Indian Ocean