Whenever there is an incident of violence against women, we get a lot of opinions about how the girl should have dressed, was she roaming around unescorted and being unsafe, how the culture of having boyfriends ruins the society etc. But we all forget that the victim is at only one end of the spectrum. Usually the helpless end. At the other end is a man, the offender. Who was once a boy, as innocent as other boys. Who, unfortunately, could not distinguish between right and wrong.
I am not saying that parents are to be blamed for the entire tree, but definitely we should think about how we are tending to and nurturing the plant. While parents and elders may not intentionally be responsible for the type of persons their sons become, they do have a hand in the ideologies that are formed in their mind.
Do these sentences – ‘don’t cry like a girl,’ ‘you lost the game to a girl,’ ‘can’t you fight, are you wearing bangles,’ – ring a bell?
These sentences, seemingly said in jest, can have a deep psychological impact on the child. The child does not hear the joke, but gets a message that they are supposed to be macho and must be in control of their inner feelings always. That girls cry all the time. Girls cannot win at anything. Girls should not fight or become angry. These are the ideologies we as a society are deliberately, though subtly, feeding the child.
I remember an incident where a little girl, just about 10 years old, went to play in a chess tournament. She reached the finals and was up against a boy of about the same age. During the match, the boy did a foul and the little girl called him out on it. The judges intervened and declared it as a foul. The match continued and eventually, the girl won.
Now the boy’s mother, due to her attachment to the child and who wanted her brilliant son to win, reacted quite negatively. She objected, complained and worse, accused the girl of cheating! All her ravings that day was subtly indicating that a girl winning is highly improbable!
This accusation made the girl uncomfortable but she kept silent and said nothing, while the boy also looked on without any comments and was seen smiling for the support he got from his mother.
So what did this incident teach the boy and the girl?
The incident taught the boy:
- He should not accept losing to a girl.
- If a girl wins, she must be cheating.
- He deserves to win always, since his mother, a girl as well, believes he is better than the girls.
The incident taught the girl – To be silent and not speak up against any wrong, in order to avoid such discomfort in the future.
This is one example of what we inadvertently feed the young minds.
It has gone to an extent where men do not realize what they are doing wrong. The most recent National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4) actually showed that 69% of the women, as opposed to 58% of the men, approve of domestic violence in some form or the other. In short, they believe that men have the right to beat their wives under the following circumstances:
- Not properly looking after the family and children.
- Disrespecting their in-laws.
- Bad or careless cooking.
- Refusing to have sex.
Going in detail – 30% of people approve assault on women by husbands if the woman leaves home without permission, 40% approve of violence if a man doubts his woman’s loyalty and 30% approve assault by husband if his wife argues with him.
If women themselves take up inferior positions voluntarily, it will be difficult for men to understand what they are doing wrong, when they hit a woman.
Unless we consciously undo the last hundred years of teaching and learning, these incidences will keep rising. Interestingly, our culture does NOT teach us to ill-treat women. Until a few decades back, it taught us division of responsibilities between man and woman to make domestic life smooth in those days where women did not work. Some of those do not apply today, where not only earning responsibilities, but also household responsibilities should be shared. Our culture has always taught us to be respectful towards others – elders, youngsters, women etc.
But over the years, and with the kind of conditioning we have received, some started feeling superior and made rules to curb the rights of others.
Now it is up to us to let that not affect us.
It is up to us to make things right.
It is up to us as women, to stand up for other women’s rights – whether it is our mother, sister, daughter or our mother-in-law, sister-in, daughter-in-law.