“What’s it like to be a woman in Delhi? Do you feel safe?" Those were the questions I was often asked while traveling last month. With the recent publicity of rising incidents of violence towards women in India, many are alarmed about what is going on here.
It’s difficult to explain just how unsafe you feel—how the spectre of rape hangs over your every thought each time you step outside alone, when a car slows down behind you, when men pass lewd comments as you walk by, or even when your auto driver casually asks if you travel to the same location everyday.
A friend of ours recently shared an experience that captured the essence of the problem we face in India. A family sitting next to him in the hospital were excitedly thinking of boy names for their newborn. When they heard that it was a girl instead, there were tears and exclamations of horror. It was considered a calamity, as if someone had just died. This is a common phenomenon in a country where your very existence as a female is undervalued.
I’m Indian and I love India, but the way women are treated here must change.
There is a mindset embedded in us that causes us to believe women are less than men; or even worse, that women are born to serve men. I was brought up by parents who don’t believe either are true, but I’ve been born into a society that has subtly but clearly taught me what is expected of me as a woman. With the increase in rape and violence against women, the objectifying by the media, and the killing of the girl child, the only hope of change I have is that our God wants change here too.
Last month, I had the opportunity to visit Hong Kong. How refreshing it was to be in a place where I was treated like a human being. Men didn’t stare at me and I didn’t need to worry when walking on the streets in the middle of the night. How unfortunate that it’s an experience I cannot enjoy in the place I call home.
While I was there, my husband and I met a couple who had planted a church in Hong Kong. They shared with us how they worked together, discipled together and gave vision to their church community together. They spoke about how it wasn’t just the husband who was called to plant a church; it was the whole family. Their children were excited and involved in their ministry too. You could tell that this was a foundational value for them. Their church felt like a family. We were invited into a community where men, women and children were all of equal worth and given equal importance. It was complete, whole and full of joy.
We met many people like this couple during our travels and it made me reflect on how culture can sometimes undermine the Bible’s view of women. Our unredeemed, patriarchal culture sometimes creeps into the church and we forget the value that the Bible gives to women.
How beautiful it was when God made Eve to complete Adam; to be a steward of the earth with him. It is no coincidence that the word helper, Ezer, for women in relation to men is the same word used to refer to God in relation to humanity throughout the Old Testament. Women are to men what God is to humanity—made in His image and reflecting His glory in a uniquely different manner than her male counterpart.
When we speak of a woman’s role, submission is often a word that comes up. And I think our cultural definition of submission has robbed us of the partnership we’re meant to enjoy. As Indians I think sometimes we believe that we’re meant to obey our husbands without asking any questions; that we should serve what he dreams of doing and be completely joyful in doing so. But when I look at how the Father, Son and Spirit are submissive to each other, I realise that there is a healthy mutuality in submission (Eph 5:21) that makes marriage a beautiful partnership between two equals under God.
In every generation God raises both men and women to join Him. Men and women have unique and different strengths. Men are capable of greater things than putting food on the table and managing money. Women are capable of greater things than housekeeping and hospitality. We need to step out of cultural stereotypes and have a biblical view of what men and women are capable of doing with God as their helper. Then we will be free to work together and complement each other with our strengths, supplying what is lacking in the other.
After reflecting on these thoughts, coming back to Delhi felt like entering enemy territory. Though it was lovely to be home, I felt a strong sense of hostility towards my gender almost as soon as I stepped off the plane. I felt like I was back in a place where some men feel like they own us, and where our feelings don’t seem to matter. Sometimes it even feels like some women will not respect the opinion of another woman and would rather listen to a man.
The frustration and fear that I had forgotten returned again with a jolt. It was quite an unnerving sensation. But one thing I’ve learnt during the last month is that I cannot fight this battle. It isn’t even mine to fight. God is doing something amongst women in India and I must find out what it is. Trying to fight the battle myself is a futile and tiring exercise. I am not equipped to win this fight, but I am loved by Someone who has already purchased our victory.
As I step aside to watch my Father take on the spiritual forces of darkness, I find my hope isn’t simply in the fact that He is commanding this battle. He turns and calls me to fight with Him. The Bible says, “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him...” (2 Chronicles 16:9). My commitment cannot be only to myself and my problems— it must be to Him. When I turn to Him, I begin to fight for the sake of others with His power flowing through me. There are women in desperate situations being trafficked, raped, used and abused—and God wants to partner with people to redeem this country from its wickedness and evil.
It is time to be alert; to take stands when God brings the opportunity; to explore what our Father thinks about women and to operate out of that reality; to realize that Jesus has already broken the curse that has hung over our heads for centuries; to appreciate that the Spirit works with us to redeem and regain ground that belongs to Him.
God calls women to partner with Him. We must answer His call. This is my hope. This is my prayer.
Have you heard God's call to partner with him in battling stereotypes and changing the way Indians perceive women?