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You vs Me

Cultural and political differences between countries prove we are not assembly line reproductions.

7/14/2014 1:07:03 PM
written By : Lakshmi Narayan Print

I was invited to be a delegate at the Singapore Writers Festival late last year – along with Ovidia Yu of Singapore and Ameena Hussein of Sri Lanka – to discuss how women authors could play the role of change agents through their writing. What struck me most at the end of a lively, invigorating face-to-face discussion, was how different Singapore women’s problems are from their South Asian counterparts’.

Of course, the ubiquitous glass ceiling exists in Singapore as much as in other countries. Here too, women face the double burden of looking after their families and working full-time at a nine-to-five job. But in other areas Singapore has left its sister countries – especially from South Asia - far behind. 

There are no instances of dowry deaths, no mention of acid attacks, no incidents of violent gang rapes or of honour killings. Yet we have descended from the same stock. Chinese or Indian, we come from the same culture where better food, better education and better options were pretty much given to the male child. Then how is it that in just a few decades, Singapore has managed to move away from these daily horrors that stalk us? How has Singapore retained its intrinsic Asian core, yet has a progressive mindset where nobody cares what a woman wears? Where nobody thinks that if a woman went about in shorts and a skinny halter, she was asking to be raped?

Partly, I feel that as a melting pot, a mosaic of many races, Singapore managed to create an ethos of its own as it was not burdened with the past, of upholding and preserving a sacred “Asian culture”. Partly it is the draconian laws that come down heavily on wrongdoers. But mostly it is because the powers-that-be have somehow, over the years, successfully brainwashed the regressive Asian male to accept a woman as an equal, a colleague, a fellow traveller.

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