We’ll remember the winter of 2012-13 for the relentless debates on patriarchy and misogyny, following the gruesome gang rape incident in New Delhi. But these issues have always been around, deeply entrenched in society. We discussed, debated and agreed that change begins at home. Here are three different opinions on how we can be the change.
Develop a culture of intolerance
Chief functionary, Prajwala
Patriarchy is a school of thought carried forward by both men and women. We need to treat women’s rights as human rights. The day people in Hyderabad light a candle for a victim in the city, change will happen. When the country was protesting following the Delhi gang rape case, a four-year-old victim of gang rape was brought to Niloufer hospital. Her family was running pillar to post for help. There was no protest against this incident here.
To address sexual violence against women, we first need to create a space for the affected person to break her silence. There has to be a support system to ensure a case is booked. The victim needs a safe place to stay and adequate trauma care. It’s not enough to speak; we need to act and break the culture of silence.
Secondly, we need to address this issue at a personal level. People should stop thinking the problem is about ‘them’ and not ‘us’. To be part of the solution, we must acknowledge we are part of the crime.
Sexuality education, which will deal with femininity and masculinity, if introduced in schools may bring about gender sensitisation.
Above all this, we need to address male abuse to resolve female abuse. Society at large feels male child abuse is non-existent. I’ve observed that a large number of perpetrators of sexual violence against women have themselves been abused in childhood. The journey of a perpetrator of a crime is also the journey of an abused. Unless this is addressed to, the cycle of violence will not stop.
I’ve been proposing to have a directory of convicted sex offenders, including eve teasers, made public in all police stations and localities listing out names and photographs of offenders. This naming and shaming will act as a deterrent for others. A victim is victimised by society all through her life. Why not tilt the scale, victimise the perpetrators and develop a culture of intolerance?
Recognise the inequalities
As Indian women, we must first learn to tackle the Manu-ism that rules our lives. Our upbringing ingrains it in our heads that a woman is not meant to be independent ever: till she is married she belongs to her father, after marriage she belongs to her husband, and finally she belongs to her son should she become a widow. This culture of dependence (on a man) needs to be broken. We must learn to take responsibility for ourselves, recognise the inequalities we are subjected to in every step of our life.
Most often we are taught that equality would lead to lack of respect for a man or destabilise family relations. Nothing can be further from the truth. Tackling patriarchy needs recognition and a relentless, courageous, confident and patient questioning and non-acceptance of all forms of subjugation and discriminatory practices. Life has indeed changed for the better for those who have tried this.
Just like charity, equality begins at home. A boy who grows up being treated equal to his sister will never grow up with illusions of being superior to the fairer sex. Such equal upbringing cannot happen merely on advice; it must be seen in practice between the parents and other gender relations within the house.
Law and stringent punishment alone cannot take us very far in terms of gender insensitivity or discrimination, without a change of attitude in our personal lives. Change must begin in our homes. For instance, no matter how much one professes equal treatment to women, if one continues to practice of dowry in the name of societal pressure, one cannot expect any real change.
Our change in attitude must reflect in every action we take, most importantly banishing customs and rituals that reek of gender discrimination. Such practices are galore in our everyday lives.
A rational mind, knowledge, awareness and confidence are important ingredients in leading a meaningful life irrespective of gender. As a parent, I have attempted to arm my daughter as much as I can with these.
‘There is no division of labour on the basis of sex’
I believe in parenting, not parenting sons or parenting daughters. Similarly, I don’t go out of my way to define my wife as a woman, a slave, a worker or a subordinate. I see her as a friend and a fellow traveller who I discovered had similar destinations and goals in mind.
There is no division of responsibility on the basis of sex. What we do is on the basis of mutual understanding and convenience. Maybe she changes the bulbs because we are scared that a chair may break under my weight. Maybe I make the coffee because I have more of a feel for it than she does.
I make her read my scripts to get a reaction. However, I don’t force her to read what I like because that’s not who I am. I am comfortable with a women’s magazine just as she is comfortable with my eclectic set of non-literary authors. We enjoy Shobhaa De with equal enthusiasm and ridicule the attempts of the discriminated who often make out as if the world owes them a favour and carry the trauma in their heads for too long to be of any evocation.
I don’t find it surprising when my daughter comes to me and asks me to pen the words of her planned music video and I write with empathy…
Give me back my freedom
Give me back my peace
Give me back my safety
Give me back my streets…
I may not agree with her that things are as bad as she thinks, but I respect her opinion and am willing to help her express her emotions.
I don’t think it’s something I would have done only for a son or am doing only for a daughter. I think I am doing it for my child, friend, partner, philosopher and guide.