Disha Arora’s Documentary Tells Us How Different Religions Have Been Negatively Affecting Women
- IWB Post
- August 13, 2019
When you Google the definition of ‘religion’ it tells you that it is “a particular system of faith and worship.” Though this system should have only focused on faith and worship, it has, invariably, led to gender hierarchies, something which 29-year-old Disha Arora’s first documentary Women and Religion in India focuses on.
After a couple of screenings in the US, the documentary premiered last year in Delhi by the Kriti Film Club. “I wanted to explore this topic for two important reasons. One, I have always been a feminist, even before I knew the term and two, I had my love-hate relationship with religion,” she said. “I was a fairly religious child and as I grew up, I saw how religion is used as a tool for discrimination. That was something that motivated me to explore how different religions in our country affect the human rights of women.”
“We always talk about changing the mindset of people and I think we definitely cannot ignore the dynamics of structures like religion and caste when we are trying to do that,” she added. “Religion is something which in India you just can’t escape.”
From featuring a grassroots activist in Uttar Pradesh, a professor in Rajasthan, a Christian nun in Kerala, to scholars in Jammu and Kashmir, a housewife in Pune, Disha has covered all major religions including Hinduism, Islam, Sikkhism, Christianity, Buddhism, Jainism, and Zoroastrianism. She spoke to some 200 women in 10 months as she traveled across 14 states.
“I have majorly interviewed women, deliberately,” Arora said. “Because religion, in other domains of our society, is led by men. I want to use this documentary as a space to add diverse voices of women to discussions on religion. To know, what do women think of religion? How do they feel that religion is affecting them, and how can it be used as a tool to better their situation?”
“Religion and women are like a game of seesaw. One goes up, the other goes down – when religion wins, women lose,” said one of the interviewees, a housewife from Maharashtra.
Even progressive religions like Buddhism exhibit this gender discrimination towards women as Lajwanti, a student of Buddhism in Jammu and Kashmir, talks in the documentary about not being allowed to enter a monastery in Nubra, Ladakh as she was ‘impure’. It is a concept that does not even exist in Buddhist texts.
“In most of the religions, on paper, there is some discrimination. But the interpretation makes it worse,” Arora said. “Because it is majorly men who are interpreting it, historically and they have taken away the good things, the part that talks about women’s rights, for instance, and stressed on the negative aspects.”
We come to learn two things from her documentary. One is that no religion is free from discrimination. The second is that at the core of every religion women are forced to be inferior and away from positions of power.
Self-financing most of the project, Arora traveled alone across the country for her documentary. “The highlight was the kind of women and girls I met because they challenged a lot of my preconceived notions and stereotypes,” Arora elaborated. “For example, we have certain preconceived notions about rural women, Hindu women, Muslim women etc. The people who I met challenged a lot of these notions.”