Gender: Change must start from the womb itself

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By ANANYA CHAKRABORTY

Only bad girls ask questions. Only bad girls rebel. Instead, we encourage them to be home-makers. Marriages are considered safe havens for women, and we pretend that domestic violence does not exist

At the stroke of midnight on August 14, 1947, India got freedom. And, it was followed by one of the most evolved and progressive constitutions which gave women the right to vote right from the beginning. India has had a woman Prime Minister, a woman President, several woman chief ministers and women have excelled in every arena possible since then. Yet many surveys, including the latest one by Thomson-Reuters, suggest that India is the most unsafe nation for women on earth. This is a classic case of contradictions, a puzzle that deserves an in-depth study.

On one hand, it is hard to believe that India, which is a welfare state, is more unsafe than many of the theocratic and right-wing states. Yet studies say it is. One explanation could be women find it easier to lodge a complaint in India since there is that much freedom for them, that there is less sense of shame in acknowledging that they have been victims of crimes, and that there is still some faith left in the law enforcing agencies. These could well be true. It has been observed that when vigilance grows, with it grow crime figures. That should not be a worrying factor. What is important is the rate of conviction.

What can we expect from a nation which treats its women thus, as mindless bodies, to be only used as vessels of child (read male) bearing, a nation where even cows are more revered than women? We have created laws to protect women, innumerable ones, but failed to give them the courage to speak up when the time comes.

Once conviction rate goes up, the crime rate gradually shows signs of coming down. However, in this regard, one big deterrent has been the excruciatingly slow judicial process which is often frustrating for the victims seeking justice. But let us delve a little deeper. How did women rise to the top in politics in India?

It has been observed that women in South and South East Asia have only come to power in politics as political widows or political orphans. This is true of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, The Philippines etc. Women can only be viewed as powerful entities under male patronage. This reflects the extremely feudal mindset that Indians continue to have which is an extension of patriarchy.

So, powerful women in India are only carriers of patriarchy and are practising shadow patriarchy. This is hardly helpful in the real empowerment of women. The Parliament passes the POCSO Act by which any sexual contact with a minor is considered rape, and yet the moment she turns 18 and is married off, her husband has the liberty to rape her since Parliament refuses to pass a law making marital rape illegal. Which in essence means a woman has no right of consent either before turning 18 or after marriage.

Unless we groom our daughters to be brave and not to become submissive lambs, unless we groom our sons to be compassionate, we will continue to have a society where violence brews and overflows with violence. Because men will continue to think women have no right to consent, women are mindless bodies to be used as vessels, and deserve to be raped for some excuse or the other.

Women are thus viewed as persons incapable of taking sexual decisions. What can we expect from a nation which treats its women thus, as mindless bodies, to be only used as vessels of child (read male) bearing, a nation where even cows are more revered than women? We have created laws to protect women, innumerable ones, but failed to give them the courage to speak up when the time comes. So, cases of domestic violence go largely either unreported or under-reported. We tutor our girls to be submissive, compromising, adaptable peacemakers, whose only role in life is to keep the family together.

Only bad girls ask questions. Only bad girls rebel. Bad girls are bad news, troublemakers. Instead, we encourage them to be home-makers. Marriages are considered safe havens for women, and we pretend that domestic violence does not exist, or is something that happens to other women.

Unless we groom our daughters to be brave and not to become submissive lambs, unless we groom our sons to be compassionate, we will continue to have a society where violence brews and overflows with violence. Because men will continue to think women have no right to consent, women are mindless bodies to be used as vessels, and deserve to be raped for some excuse or the other. It has to start before the grooming actually. It must start from the womb itself, by saying no to sex-selective abortion or technologically crafted pregnancy to avoid getting a girl child.

Surveys are sometimes correct. At least for India, where the woman is not even safe in her mother’s womb.

Source: National Herald

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