Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Women of Asia

   China had women with bound feet, as a custom, by applying tight binding to the feet of young girls (4-7 years old) to prevent further growth.  Every toe would be broken except for the big toe. Then the foot was wrapped with binding cloth. It was done because men thought it made women more feminine and dainty.  Foot-binding resulted in lifelong disability.  Communism abolished foot binding not out of concern for women but aimed at making them more effective soldiers and laborers.

   India and Pakistan have bride burning should the husband and/or in-laws determine that the dowry was inadequate they set the bride on fire so the husband can remarry and to punish the bride and her family.  Bride burning incidents are sometimes disguised as accidents.  According to an Amnesty International report in 1999, although 1,600 bride burning incidents were reported, only 60 were prosecuted and, of those, only two resulted in convictions.

   Japan has the Geisha, female entertainers who act as hostesses and whose skills include performing various Japanese arts such as proper ways of serving tea, dancing, casual conversation, classical music, games and sex.  Historically, geisha training begins as early as 9 years old.  They wear 5 different hairdos that mark the stages of their career and spend hours each week at the hairdresser then sleep on holed-pillows to preserve the elaborate styling.  

   The Philippines has Gabriela Silang and Fe Del Mundo.

   Gabriela was the wife of a revolutionary leader, Diego Silang.  She joined him in battle and was his closest adviser.  Following Diego's assassination in 1763, she led his group until she was captured and executed. 

   Fe Del Mundo was the first woman of any nationality to be a student of the Harvard Medical School.  Her research was instrumental to the invention of the incubator for premature babies.  She sold her home to finance The Philippines Children's Medical Center, the first pediatric hospital in the Philippines, inaugurated in 1957, later expanded as The Institute of Maternal and Child Health, the first institution of its kind in Asia.  Fe chose to reside at the second-floor of the hospital itself and as late as 2007 she rose daily to make her rounds in wheelchair at 99 years of age.  She died on August 6, 2011. She was buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes Cemetery).

   These are only two Filipinas who lived and died for what they believed.  There are many more unknown and unsung in those islands.  

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