We are contrary creatures, us humans, but that isn’t something we need to be afraid of, or even much troubled by. And if you make a list of those people who worship consistency, you’ll find they are one and all tyrants or would-be tyrants. Ruling over thousands, or over a husband or a wife, or some covering child. Never fear contradiction. It is the very heart of diversity.
– The Bonehunters (Malazan Book of the Fallen)
A few days back, I overheard a conversation between two Software Engineers. Both of them were discussing rape cases and laughingly agreed with each other that 95% of the rape cases are consensual. I am sure that they kept a window of 5% open in case a female member of their own family gets raped. Such females can then be conveniently boxed in the category of 5% women who are tamed and belong to well-to-do families but who are victims of the evil. Mind you, these are extremely well-educated men working in an MNC and earning a handsome salary, who like going to a pub and like getting drunk, who despite being married will stare at a woman’s buttock as she passes by, who snigger at a woman driving a car. This well-educated category of urban Indian male also believe that any woman who does not belong to their family are objects and possible prostitutes and leave no stone unturned in blaming the victim. They forget the fact that a stranger might be having similar thoughts about a female member of their own family.
The bad news is that education has nothing to do with changing mindsets. Education cannot teach the idea of respecting a fellow human. But then what can? Baring a minuscule population of India, a large unbelievable chunk is deeply entrenched in the swamp of patriarchy. The rot is so deep that we will not be able to see a change in our lifetime. Patriarchy glorifies the act of controlling another human’s life. The acts of crime against women that we witness in modern India are illegitimate offspring of patriarchy. Respect has to be treated as gender neutral and so should be freedom to make choices.
Can we make a beginning somewhere?
It is extremely difficult to change the mindset of an adult. Two adults can react differently to the same situation. For example, consider a man who has seen his father as an authoritative figure all his life. It is possible that such a man carries his father’s legacy and treats his own wife as a subordinate. It might also be possible that he reacts to the suffering of his mother and when the time comes, treats his own wife with all the dignity and equality she deserves. But where does the distinction comes from? What are the factors that decide the path a man would finally take?
In the end it all boils down to how much contradiction can you swallow as a human. How much is the magnitude of your fear for a thought or an act that contradicts your beliefs? Are you willing to let go and ready to open the cage that was meticulously built around you? Ironically, a majority of us do not acknowledge the presence of a cage. It has melted so deeply into our psyche that we fail to feel its presence. It is embedded in us. A monster that lurks silently.
Sometimes I wonder that if gender inequality is such a pressing issue, why can’t our government work towards bringing up a more gender sensitive next generation? Why can’t we set up mandatory sensitization sessions for all the newly wed couples? Why don’t we put a huge fine if the couple fail to attend these sessions? Why can’t we arrange similar sessions for all the parents with children in the age group of 0-10 years? I don’t believe reactive measures are the correct way to approach the issue. What we need are preventive measures in place so that the next generation don’t end up like those two software engineers.
I see that as our only hope. Unless the present lot of parents understand the idea of bringing up their daughters and sons at an equal footing, no amount of punishments or laws are going to work. We have to make sure that our next generation is not as messed up as the present one. Otherwise this is a vicious cycle and there is more never-ending, unimaginable traumas coming our way for years.
A majority of women in this nation do not know what real freedom is. The irony of mankind is that we have used the very act of creating life to abuse women and then blame them for it. It is similar to cutting a tree that sustains life and then blaming it for being in the middle of the road.
We have to bend this devious road or there won’t be any trees left.