Selective Discrimination

On International Women’s Day, there were many discussions about women who were/are a source of inspiration to other women. On the sidelines of one such discussion, a family friend described how her mother-in-law, who had passed away over 3 decades back, was very particular about caste segregation. For example, a certain domestic help, a young woman, was not allowed entry into the kitchen or the ‘Pooja Room’ (Prayer Room) in their house because she belonged to a lower caste. If, by chance, the same domestic help happened to touch any item of clothing on the clothes-line, that item of clothing would have to be washed again.

Strangely, however, whenever a large quantity of green chillies had to be chopped, the work was assigned to the same domestic help! The mother-in-law explained to her daughters-in-law that any person who chopped so many green chillies would have a severe burning sensation on the fingers. Hence, she assigned that task to the domestic help!

Our friend had never mustered the courage (understandable since this happened over 50 years back) to ask her super-orthodox mother-in-law why the domestic help’s touch made an item of clothing ‘impure’, and why the same domestic help’s touch did not make the chillies ‘impure’!!

My tongue-in-cheek response to my friend was that she should be thankful for the fact that her mother-in-law did not want her daughters-in-law to suffer by chopping large quantities of green chillies! Not many mothers-in-law would have been so considerate 50 years back!!

All around us, we see people who practise discrimination very religiously (pun intended) temporarily suspending their beliefs when it suits them.

In many religious institutions, widows are not permitted in the presence of the pontiff because it is considered inauspicious. Even wealthy widows are not exempted from this discrimination. However, many of these pontiffs are extremely enthusiastic about granting audiences to politically powerful widows! Obviously, political power carries more weight than ‘divine’ power! Unfortunately, these politically powerful widows apparently do not even try to put a complete end to the discrimination from which they are exempted.

On a private level, people impose discriminatory restrictions on their daughters-in-law, but do not impose the same restrictions on their daughters.

Why do a person’s beliefs/practices change depending on who is affected by these beliefs?

When a belief/practice can be suspended for a few persons, can’t that belief/practice be suspended, nay abolished, for all persons?

Isn’t it ridiculous to say that all other cars must stop when the traffic signal shows RED, but BMWs and Mercedes Benz cars need not stop?

Selective discrimination is even more ridiculous. It’s like saying that the maximum speed for all other cars is 10 kilometers/hour, but there is no speed restriction whatsoever for BMWs and Mercedes Benz cars!