Indian TV journalist Ritu Bhardawaj reckons that the dancing girls have a special insight into the plight of women. That’s because they’re really men, dressed up for the Navratri festivities in the Indian state of Bihar. Ritu is visiting Bihar to continue her report on the ‘Silk Ceiling’ – the invisible barrier which confronts so many Asian women. And if Anand and Shrish are right, women are still too often regarded as sex objects. But supposedly backward Bihar also offers a role model in Kiran Devi, a young housewife elected as village head, or sarpanch. Among her duties is judging local disputes, and so far she’s settled at least 200 cases. Meantime Ritu’s receiving more film from Indonesia, where a marriage law defining women as housewives seems to conflict with guarantees of gender equality. When men, who are seen as protectors and providers, walk out of marriages, women can be left in legal limbo. But is it wise to press for reforms when Islamic fundamentalism is on the rise? Ritu concludes her report by taking her concerns to the government, and wraps up with a pointed piece to camera. When the world talks of gender inequality, the usual images include Latin machismo, the West’s glass ceiling, or the Middle East. Is Asia really so different?
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