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Women and cattle.

Until 1993, Taslima Nasrin, the Bangladeshi feminist newspaper columnist, novelist and poet, was largely unknown outside the Indian subcontinent. That quickly changed after she attacked her country's Muslim extremists in her novel Lajja ("Shame") and received a death threat from a Bangladeshi Islamic group. Her fiery defense of women's rights, her Swiftian criticisms of Islamic traditions and the sexual content of her writing have jeopardized her life. "All the mullahs are now in the street," Nasrin wrote a friend. "They are continuously demanding my death sentence." An arrest order in June from the Bangladeshi government and clamorous calls from Islamic militants for her execution, as well as a price on her head, pushed Nasrin to flee. In August, after negotiations among her legal advisers, Western ambassadors and her government, she appeared before Bangladesh's highest court and was granted bail--a ruling that had clearly been prearranged. Spirited out of Dhaka, Nasrin is currently in Sweden. We publish below an excerpt from a column, on one of South Asia's highly profitable industries, which she wrote for the Indian feminist magazine Manushi.

"A lucky man's wife dies; an unlucky man's cattle die" is an old proverb. It remains a commonplace on the threshold of the twenty-first century. If your wife dies, you can get another wife. But if you lose cattle, you do not get free cattle. For new cattle you have to pay hard cash, whereas a new wife brings some cash. You can neglect your wife, but you should never neglect your cattle. No wonder, cattle are more valuable than a wife. These days, a Bangladeshi girl is bartered off for six head of cattle smuggled in from India. Many are shocked at such news. I am merely surprised. I cannot but rejoice at the rare good fortune of getting six head of cattle in exchange for a single girl. It is welcome news, because whoever gets the six head of cattle is making a bigger profit.

Six hefty cattle from India are certainly more attractive, more productive and more valuable than an undersized Bangladeshi girl. I think they are rather getting cheated taking a girl in exchange. Where women are not worth two bits, they have given women honor by giving six head of cattle in exchange. I express my gratitude to these cattle-runners.

Our gentlemanly society does not pay any price for women. It kills the girl-child in the womb. On the other hand, the smuggler is giving six whole animals in exchange for one--a poor hapless girl, at that! They will put her in the flesh trade. So what? Are not respectable women being used at the pleasure of respectable men? This is not a new deceit in a different world. Our respectable women are given away free, whereas the outcast woman fetches half a dozen cattle. It would indeed be nice if this could raise the price of women a little.

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Title Annotation:women undervalued in Bangladeshi society
Author:Nasrin, Taslima
Publication:The Nation
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Oct 3, 1994
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