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As long as we do not call out sexism in our families, keep quiet when our men abuse women, and raise entitled sons and silenced daughters, we are as guilty as the rapists.
There has been a huge hue and cry after the horrific strangulation, alleged gangrape, and subsequent death of a girl in Hathras district of Uttar Pradesh. There has been widespread demand for handing over the culprits to the public for instant justice, for death penalty, and police encounter (as was allegedly done in the case of gangrape in Hyderabad).
But the Hathras case or many others that happened in the ensuing days are just a fraction of the deep-rooted malaise of violent and sexual assaults on women. Caste is also an issue here; the ‘larger picture’ is not just misogyny. It is deeper than that, because Savarna women still have a layer of protection, at least in public. Dalit women have a double jeopardy, triple if you consider class issues too.
However, in what I say further, I will not be speaking of that as a Savarna woman. I will be addressing only misogyny.
We often ask where does this rape culture stem from, how do instances of violence against women proliferate, but do we ever introspect and look around us?
Let me quote two recent instances.
As I was cooking dinner three days ago, I heard some screaming and banging outside. First I resisted the urge to go out and check since I heard a man screaming and a woman mumbling something and I thought it was an ordinary husband-wife fight. But when it was followed by more banging of a heavy metal object and another man screaming, I rushed out to my terrace.
Both men, apparently relatives, were using the choicest cuss words…teri maa ch** dunga, teri behan ka l****; MC and BC flowed like a wild river in spate. The lone woman, cowering and trembling, still tried to pacify the two men and was asking one of them (probably her brother) to go away.
Just imagine the state of mind of this lady who was trapped between her husband and her relative both of who were trying to humiliate the other by abusing their female relatives. A war is not won until women of the enemy side are won, so isn’t it alright for men to use women to settle scores with other men?
And this may not have been the first time he was using these expletives, most probably this lady too has been bearing this oppressive, abusive behavior from her husband all her life. And yet continuing to live with the man.
The sight of a high ranking police officer (DGP in Madhya Pradesh) brutally beating his wife shocked the country just a few days ago.
Many people demanded that he should be instantly removed from his job. Many also asked why the woman didn’t leave her husband earlier, why she continued to live with him despite being educated. Even the unrepentant DGP declared arrogantly, that she has been living in ‘his’ house, traveling abroad and enjoying the comforts of life on ‘his’ money. ‘If I was violent with her she would have left my house long ago,’ he smirked further.
But should the incident and the statements of the DGP have shocked us?
Aren’t men routinely heard abusing their wife the same way, telling her to leave ‘his’ house, that she doesn’t have an identity in the society without her husband, that her parents would also not shelter her beyond a few days?
And women still continue to live with such men, still bear the everyday insults, the humiliation, even thrashing.
Because if they dare raise their voice, they are told (by their own families) to tolerate it for the sake of ‘parivar ki izzat’ (family honour) and children. Because ‘aurate hi to ghar ko jod kar rakhti hain, because ‘hamare sanskaar aise nahi hain’ (women need to keep the household together, these are our sanskaar). And if she refuses to abide by the diktat of upholding the family honour, she is branded as ‘too feminist’ and a family breaker.
If this isn’t how violence against women proliferates then how else does it? If this misogynist mindset isn’t a catalyst to abuse and oppression of women then what is? If this isn’t how we instill in our boys that it’s ok to abuse, insult and beat girls; if this isn’t how we teach our girls that they are born to bear these atrocities then how else do we do it?
Do we not put the onus of maintaining family honour on our girls’ shoulders? Do we ever tell our sons that their misdeeds, their violent abusive acts would bring shame to the family? Do we ever teach them to accept a girl’s ‘no’ as a ‘no’?
Do we raise our voice within our families when we see men abusing women? Do we object when our men use MC-BC expletives?
Do we, directly or indirectly, not continue to differentiate between our sons and daughters? Do we, even the educated privileged people, refrain from wishing for a pregnant woman a boy child, more so if the first-born is a girl child? Have we stopped considering our daughters as ‘paraya dhan’ which needs to be given away in ‘Kanyadan’?
I was aghast to hear a highly educated man say that a man who has a daughter loses half his life. I was tempted to retort that a man with two and more daughters wouldn’t even be alive then. See how senseless and moronic his remark sounds!
Do we give our daughters the assurance that her parental home will always be theirs, even after their wedding?
Do we give them a share in the family property or encourage them to own a place of their own?
How many women are aware of the legal rights of a married woman? Or a daughter’s right to a share in the family property? How many women can dare to exercise them?
Do we call out politicians who declare, ‘ladke hain, galtiyan ho jati hain, rape ke lye kya faansi hogi? (Boys commit mistakes. Would they be hanged for raping a girl?)
How do we continue to elect sexist and misogynist men as our representatives who put the onus of preventing rapes on parents and advise them to give ‘achche sanskar‘ (right values) to their daughters, to tell them how to dress up and behave in a decent manner?
Why don’t these MLAs and MPs have a word of advice for boys and their parents?
Do we stop watching regressive movies and TV shows, and expletive-laden web series which propagate social injustice and crimes against women?
Do we stop laughing at the double entendre in so-called comedy shows, and forwarding sexist biwi-TV type WhatsApp jokes and memes?
Or which glorify women as goddesses of motherhood and sacrifices?
Why do we appreciate songs which portray women as sex bombs gladly gyrating before herds of lusty men and movies like Kabir Singh and Raanjhna which justify stalking and sexual assault on women?
Think. And cry.
Because momentary and selective outrage doesn’t change myopic mindsets, nor do demands for ‘kade kanoon’ (stronger laws), for dismissal from job, encounter of the rapists, death penalty, stoning on the streets prevent crimes.
Laws for prevention of crime against women are already quite stringent. What fails in ensuring swift justice is the prevalence of social biases among the law-keepers, tardy police investigation and delaying tactics of the judicial system. And indulging in vigilante justice is not the hallmark of civil society and a democratic country.
So how else can we ensure a safe and peaceful life for our girls and women? By being proactive instead of being reactive. By constantly working towards the prevention of crime, rather than demanding laws to be made more stringent, after every brutal crime.
Though the process of social change has begun but the efforts are not serious and sustained. It may not be easy but only a conscious, mindful choice of words and appropriate change in behavior and actions can bring lasting change in society.
Are we ready to be the change?
First published here.
Image source: YouTube
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