Shunning an age old practice like “ghunghat” or veil is never easy. But a group of eight women from a prominent family in Mirzapur village in Ballabgarh, Haryana, lifted their veil for the first time in public in the presence of a government official.
These women, who are well educated and have well-paying jobs, were happy to get the freedom from that the piece of fabric, obligatory for every Haryanvi bahu (bride).
These women have vowed never to let the customary piece of cloth “hold them back again”.
These women took their men and the sarpanch into confidence before approaching the Faridabad district commissioner Chander Shekhar, in whose presence they took off their veil on April 30.
They happily called it Independence Day and believe that doing away with the veil will open avenues for young women and girls in a society where purdah traditions have a vice-like grip.
Manju, a law graduate who teaches in a private university, said though there were no restrictions at home, outside they had to follow the tradition and keep ghunghat on their faces.
In many Indian states, it is a regular custom to wear ghunghat which the believers say protects the honour of the women of the household against outsiders. The practice is still on, despite efforts by activists and women’s group over the years.
According to 45-year-old Nirmala, she had spent her entire life in public behind the veil. She said it was creating hurdles as the young brides had to go out for jobs.
In the presence of Chander Shekhar, all the men from the 44-member joint family – agreed that the veil was a bad practice and the women took over their ghunghat for the first time in public.
Some village women said the programme should have been organized in public for wider benefit.