By Kavita Emmanuel | Founder and Director, WOW
Happy Women’s Day 2015 to all the women out there!
These wishes come from a heavy heart but with all sincerity that I can muster at a time when India is shocked at her own attitude towards women.
“We have the best culture. In our culture there is no space for a woman,” says ML Sharma.
Do you wonder what goes on in people’s mind when they make such statements? Do they really hold on to such archaic world views? Have we not progressed with all the awareness surrounding us on gender equality?
Should Leslie Udwin’s film be released? – is the hot debate at the moment in the country. Frankly, I am more shocked by what the defense lawyers, ML Sharma and AP Singh, have said.
Can our lawyers use male chauvinism, misogyny, and patriarchy as a legal defense for rape and murder? How does condoning acts of violence against women and blaming these actions on culture not bring us shame beyond recovery? On the other hand, are these defenses mere excuses to not allow the finer, mature side of human nature to take over one’s baser instincts?
To me, this statement is the essence of a fallen human nature; a human behavior that so vehemently and arrogantly parades its desire to manipulate and oppress fellow humans.
My greatest fear is this: Why isn’t everyone infuriated by these statements or do some people in some sense agree with what is being said? How long will we continue to hear: “A girl should be home before 6,” or “Boys will be boys,” or “her dress invites trouble.”
Government schemes for the empowerment of women, new laws to protect women and the campaigns for equality by women for women focus on one half of the gender equation. There is another half that we can no longer ignore. For too long we have ignored the empowerment of men. The truth is that most men today pathetically display their need to be empowered.
We need to send the message of equality to our boys in our schools and colleges who are so accustomed to seeing gender based discrimination play out right before their eyes.
If we do not address gender inequality now, we will continue to raise male leaders and influencers endorsing the same old dehumanizing attitude towards women.
If we do not address gender inequality now, our generation will have a hand in perpetuating the norm that says empowerment is good so as long as it does not challenge gender roles and a man’s place in society.
Our boys need to be taught to question societal norms that limit women. They need to come alongside us women to stand up and say: Men and women, we are equal. Men and women, together we can reclaim the dignity, value and worth that belong to women.