Marathi activist-writer calls for a united fight for gender justice, says everything has a solution

While men are violent with women, women are brainwashed into believing that they are inferior, that they are born to be treated badly, said Urmila Pawar, Marathi writer and Dalit activist, here on Thursday.

She was delivering the keynote address after inaugurating a seminar on ‘Violence against women’ at the Department of Women’s Studies, Mangalore University. Women accept bad treatment without questioning, she said. To illustrate the attitude, she said that in India, if a husband beats a woman, she gets balm for him ignoring her injuries.

People think women are dolls meant to put up with atrocities, to be hit and broken. They tell women to drape themselves completely, to keep chilli powder or a knife to keep themselves safe.

Later in a chat with The Hindu , Ms. Pawar said women tolerated violence because they consider themselves symbols of bearing pain. “Everything has a solution. But there has been a ‘vikriti’ (distortion). There are so many and so frequent incidents of violence against women that one feels demoralised.”

Calling for a united fight for gender justice, she said men should walk alongside women and both should stay united. Narrating her struggle, Ms. Pawar said she was brought up and educated in a rural area by her mother, who made baskets for a living, after her father passed away early. After marriage, she moved to Mumbai, witnessed several social movements and protests in Azad Maidan and became a member of Women’s Liberation Front in 1975.

She appreciated the ‘women in black’ protest held in Mangalore on Wednesday and said it was clear that women want peace and their space.

K. Neela, feminist-activist, said there were attempts being made by members of the upper caste to think and act like them. Women are caught in the vortex created by fundamentalism, communalism and economic liberalisation, she said.

T.C. Shivashankara Murthy, Vice-Chancellor, Mangalore University, said that one should not be pessimistic and feel that there is “no way out” for women against atrocities and violence. However, other than men, women also must change their attitude. “Unless you change your mindset, it is very difficult to stop atrocities against women and children,” he said.

Mangalore University has ‘Sparsh’, (sensitisation, prevention and redress for women staff and students against violence), besides inclusive measures, he said.

Violence against women is increasing every year in India, which is the third unsafe country in the world and the condition of Dalits has not improved. A national report on SC/STs said 13 Dalits are murdered every week and 30 Dalit women raped every week.