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Parents who do not have open conversations with their sons and teach them to respect boundaries are responsible for future entitled men who're abusive to women.
Parents who do not have open conversations with their sons and teach them to respect boundaries are responsible for future entitled men who’re abusive to women.
I felt disturbed by the Guwahati high court’s judgment, granting bail to the rape accused at IIT Guwahati, citing him to be “a talented student and future asset for the state”. At the same time, I wondered why such talented boys do not learn basic humane behaviour, to respect the boundaries of women.
It is evident with the judgment that this society is not interested in raising men as humans and the women to have basic human dignity. Being a mother of two growing boys reminded me of the challenges I faced on different occasions, and how I have learned to help them grow as better human beings.
Recently my younger son, who is in the eighth standard, shared that his friends go to another street for playing, because one of them has a ‘crush’ on a particular girl in that street. He also told me that the girls in the street do not really like them going there, and do not treat them well.
We were having this conversation over the dinner table, while my elder son looked at me. He is 21 years old now. It reminded us both of the similar experience he had while he was of this age.
It was like history repeating itself.
I asked my younger son, ”If your friend likes the girl, did he tell her? Is it a good idea to go and stare at someone, just because you like her? How would you feel if someone stares at you and does not tell you the intention for doing so?”
I also reminded him of the experience he had shared with me once, when he felt uncomfortable because someone from the opposite side of the street stared at him while he stood on the balcony in another house.
We had a long conversation on the questions such as, “what do they do if they like a boy? Do they ask him to play with them, or do they go to his street to see him playing?” We also discussed the issues related to discrimination with girls within the family. The incidents of ‘eve-teasing’ (aka street sexual harassment) on the streets, in the school, the idea of consent, and to respect boundaries, etc. We also talked about how gradually girls stop coming out to play and boys continue to roam around in their streets. Sometimes they even start following the girls to the tuition or a friend’s house etc. We talked about how such acts get converted into sexual harassment.
We talked about how beautiful it is to like someone and how it can become even more beautiful if they can express the feeling to the person who they like. If the girl shares the same feelings they can be friends, share things with each other, and gradually the feeling may grow deeper or it may vanish as they grow older, that it can convert into a very good friendship, or they may choose not to remain friends to each other.
All these are genuine and natural feelings, but the idea of going to other streets, staring at a particular girl, passing on the chocolates to her without really having a conversation with her may lead you into confusion, can leave a bad impression on the girl, her friends or the parents.
While I was having this dialogue with my younger son, my elder son who has a more recent perspective towards these experiences was also with me to engage in it. The three of us could indulge in a warm and sensible dialogue, without scaring him, judging his friends, or passing on instructions.
I was glad that we all were on the same side. The younger one who was a bit confused about the situation listened to us carefully, shared what he felt about the situation, and agreed that it is not a good idea to go to another street just to ‘see a girl’ as she is not an object to watch.
When I shared this experience with one of my neighbors, a mother of a grown-up boy, I got a different response.
She said, ”It is natural for boys to do these things at this age. You might be making him a bit too conscious. He may find himself left-out in his friends.” She also said that even the girls go to the streets to see particular boys. Although we did not have a debate about it, I told her that I had a similar conversation with my elder son, and over the years, he developed better friendships with the girls around. Also, this helped him to choose better male friends who do not treat women as objects.
I wondered is it natural for boys and girls to form a group and go to see someone, if they have a crush on the person? Is it the same for boys and girls or in both the situations the girls are the objects for desire, while the boys are the ones who desire the objects?
I am often amused to see that how young girls and boys are behaving differently on social media platforms. I can see many young girls, whom I have seen growing as kids post their pictures posing with make-ups, showing up themselves in different dresses, seeking attention or a gaze while the profiles of the boys reflect the activities they are involved in. It tells a lot about how the girls are raised to please others, while the boys are trained for the real world. All this does not come to boys and girls naturally, but it is a reflection of poor parenting, and education.
While raising two boys, I have often noticed that many boys do not invite their sisters to play with them. Even the mothers are reluctant to send the girls to go out and play with their elder brothers. If some parents want to send their daughters to go out and play, the growing boys tend to ignore the girls to play with them or do not make enough room for them. On the contrary, I have seen girls taking their younger brothers along to play with them. They tend to protect them from other children in any conflict, help them to learn ride cycles, and make friends.
These things do not happen instinctively to the children, but the children imbibe these behaviors at home. The boys do not learn to make room for girls to participate in the activities, to respect the boundaries, and the girls do not learn to assert their space and draw the boundaries, as a result of which others can treat them like trash.
The act of rape may happen when the man is a grown-up adult, but the mindset of becoming a violator gets shaped at a very tender age. It is the responsibility of the parents, the school, the neighborhood to keep an eye on and make them aware of the boundaries in every relation.
Police and the courts can ensure justice in a society that seeks justice. But when the very foundation of the family ignores the basic tenants of justice, police may refuse to lodge the FIRs, and a court may compromise the dignity of women for the sake of some so-called ‘future asset.’
Image source: a still from the film Ranjhaana
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Women's Web is an open platform that publishes a diversity of views, individual posts do not necessarily represent the platform's views and opinions at all times.
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