For a democratic state that has had its gender inequities issues become a global dilemma, India has seen some small change in a more empowered position for women in parts of its culture.
A tiny hint that women are enjoying new and increased independence is the proliferation of female biker gangs! During the past four years, women’s involvement in biker gangs has more than doubled. A growing number of women are choosing to ride bikes as motorists over four wheels — not simply as passengers on a motorcycle being driven by a man. The reasons are as varied as the girls themselves (Doctors, housewives, lawyers, business owners), but many find the experience nothing short of empowering. “It’s a sign of independence and authorization for me,” my new roadside friends said over newspaper wrapped samosas in tin-hut eatery in 2012.
She learned to ride when she was only 18 in Mumbai, while in college without her parents knowing. Like others who take to motorbikes, she points out that there’s nothing about riding a motorcycle that would preclude a female from doing this. “Riding a bike doesn't require any extra strength or testosterone power, ” She shrugged. Another biker, pointed out. She learned to ride at age 13.
Some women have said one factor which has discouraged girls from joining mix-sex gangs is the fact that there’s a feeling of pressure to perform well on a motorcycle with male riders. And until recently, there clearly was little in the way of mentorship for women who desired to be bikers.
What they can agree on is that getting behind two wheels brings the kind of power and assurance that lots of Indian girls can only dream of growing up. Riding a motorbike in a nation where girls are frequently told to stay within four walls, forced to obey outdated philosophies or are followed by male members of the family when out, on the pretext of their security - might seem like a far-fetched notion. "But this is still India." I heard from many female motorcyclists.
There has been an abrupt increase in some women taking up this activity; one traditionally related to macho men is now an immediate and honorable consequence of advancement in Indian society.
In 2012, the tremors started after death and the brutal gang rape of a female medical student in New Delhi. Protesters of both genders took to the streets, and women found their voices, demanding reforms in how they're treated and the freedoms they have been denied all these years. Life for Indian women was never going to be the same again! And it hasn't.
That’s not to say progression has been rapid and will take time. The sight of a woman on a motorbike isn't as common in India as it should be – but the female riders I've met don't consider themselves to be undertaking anything fantastic or unnatural.
To their peers and myself, however, they symbolize the few brave Indian women prepared to maneuver their way two-wheels around the patriarchy with confidence, refusing to be cowed by the pervasive story that women are 'not good enough, can't drive, not safe and alone on the road.'
In fact, to many of these young ladies riding a motorbike just gives women the simplest freedom, plus a strategy to travel without needing to depend on anybody else.
Despite India's turtle pace at substantial legislation on more women's rights, this trend is rapidly catching on. The nation's largest annual cycling festival which began in 2013, India Bike Week, has found the involvement of girls riders shoot right up in the four years.
While the variety of girls riders in 2013 and 2014 stayed close to 1,000, girls, in 2015, 2,500 female riders participated - more than doubling the previous amounts.
That's all changing now and in popular trend! All sorts of women-only biker gangs have emerged in the last couple of years, and they boast hip names such as the Lady Bikers, Lady Riders, Hop on Gurls, Biking Queens, REgals and Bikerni (the term for a female biker in Hindi).
As with absolutely any action women undertaken on the sub-continent, despite being told it’s ‘not for them’ by society, these female bikers and new gangs feel ready to take on the world by busting the myth of feminine fragility and female dependence on the opposite gender for protection and freedom.
It supplies a chain reaction leading to unique liberation and empowerment for both sexes on the road.