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Though the recent interview of Smriti Irani with Tina Brown drew a lot of flak, in the same interview she said something very important about parenting.
The Union HRD Minister of India, Smriti Irani drew flak from the citizens when in an interview with Tina Brown at The Women In The World India Summit, she remarked that women in the country are not told “what to wear, whom to meet and where to go”. What didn’t get much attention though, was something important she said in the same interview about parenting, and raising kids right.
Irani recounted an incident with her 12-year old daughter who was in Paris when the terror attacks happened. ‘Desperate to get her back, like any mother would be,’ Irani said she asked her daughter if she could take her back. “You said that life is to go on. So I will go back home with my team on the scheduled date, and I will roam the streets of Paris,” her daughter replied. The minister said that her daughter’s reaction to her made her realise that she had raised her kids right.
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Now if we replace Paris with Delhi, and terror attacks with ‘rape’, we are not far away from a typical clash of ideology that many parents and daughters living in Delhi (and elsewhere) face every day. But would the above still hold true? Would an Indian parent be happy to see a fearless daughter tow the line when it comes to orders and requests of “come back before it’s dark” by the parent? Apparently not.
When an online petition Pinjra Tod, asking for removal of campus curfew hours for women hostellers in Delhi colleges gained momentum, Pratibha Jolly, Prinicipal of Miranda House, a prestigious women’s college under the University of Delhi, told The Washington Post that most parents want the curfews. “Parents see these rules as critical to keeping their daughters safe in college,” she said.
When Jermemy Corbyn suggested women-only train carriages in the UK to tackle the incidences of violence against women, Carole Millon, a columnist with The Sunday Mirror, ended her editorial that supported the idea, with this moot point: “And if you’re still not convinced, ask yourself this: If your daughter was coming home alone on a late night train, where would you want her to be – in a mixed carriage or a women only one?”
Note, Millon did not write, “Ask yourself this: if you are coming home alone…”, but “if your daughter was…” Most of the concern and fear of ones safety is not arisen from the actual potential victims, the girls- but by the parents of the potential victims.
Smriiti Irani was concerned about her 12-year old daughter more than the little girl herself. What the mother’s self-congratulatory metaphorical pat-in-the-back for raising her kids right shows, is that she considered the little girl to be an individual first- and appreciated the place the dismissal of her plea to get her back home came from. In her refusal to run away from Paris, and shut herself in her house, away from the danger of any more potential terrorist blasts, the little girl not only smashed terrorism in her own little way, by refusing to be terrorised-; she also showed the dignity, the confidence and the self-esteem which refuse to re-arrange one’s schedule and plans because of a hate- and terror-mongering act by some strangers.
This clash between a worried parent and a fearless kid is not restricted to daughters and their safety from gender-based violence alone.
Some 53% of the parents in the UK are anxious that their children might be kidnapped by a stranger or be harmed by traffic when playing outdoors.
Some 53% of the parents in the UK are anxious that their children might be kidnapped by a stranger or be harmed by traffic when playing outdoors. Their over-protection prevent children from experiencing the rough and tumble of outdoor play. These fears about kids too small to decide for themselves are rational, but keeping the children shut inside the house is not the way to go about it.
From a small kid to a young girl, letting your kids grow up in an environment where a parent controls and tries to protect the kid every time would not only transfer the paranoia and fear to the children in the long term; it would also help in propagating the unsafe culture.
There are only so many days one can live re-arranging one’s schedule, one’s route to work, and one’s mode of transport in fear of a potential rapist at a dark alley- and even that might not be enough.
As a story goes, a man who kept himself in his room always because he found the public areas to be dangerous, died after a photo frame fell on his head in his room. Approximately 4 in 5 of rapes were committed by someone known to the victim. Marital rape is unfortunately, a reality.
Rape culture is nowhere near to being eradicated. Parents need to put their foot down, and let the kids live their life the way they want. Parents of young girls need to teach their daughters to fight their battles, rather than run away from them.
Smriti Irani’s reaction to her daughter’s unafraid outlook and continuing to live life as it is, is commendable. And something a lot of parents can learn from.
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A student of English Literature, Shaifali loves to write, likes to read and enjoys sketching.
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