Power at Play
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While hundreds of independent women trooped into pubs on Valentine's Day protesting the lurid display of patriarchy that suddenly catapulted the little-known Ram Sena to newspaper headlines, author Rita Banerji probably wanted her book to be a reality check of sorts. "We are talking about the financially independent, upwardly mobile, educated women here. But then we also have to understand that they are just a minority – a large section of Indian women are still denied the rights to birth control and suffer from AIDS," says Banerji. And it possibly has to do with the power structure that the country follows at present. "The political hierarchy in our country has for a long time decided what is considered moral and what is immoral," says Banerji, when spent five years on her book Sex and Power: Defining History, Shaping Societies (Penguin).
Around five years back, a magazine based in London had requested Banerji to write an article on the philosophy of the society that came up with the Kamasutra. "While working on the article, I realized that the sexual expression in all the distinct historic periods was directly related to the people in power. Like, the Vedic age was permissive and the perid between 200 AD- 1200 AD was both liberal and permissive. It encouraged sexual expression and freedom even for women," she explains.
The 'pattern' goaded Banerji to find how the power structure in contemporary India would impact the sexual behaviour and expression of India today. "I realized that women are the most 'objectified' today. And the spiraling rate of female infanticide proves that. Only when you treat something like an object, is when you can dispose it off, like female babies are," says Banerji.