Sometimes it is hard to believe that we are living in the 21st century especially when I talk about India.
I recently had the occasion to go through a study on ‘Gender based violence’ conducted by the Population Council, Centre for Development and Population Activities (CEDPA) under the aegis of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
This report is based on a survey conducted on men and women of various age groups about the justification for violence against women both married and unmarried or as the intro of the report clearly states “The prevailing norms about men’s entitlement and women’s acquiescence to violence.”
First of all I have problem with the very need to conduct such a survey in the age that we live in. Giving prominence to such malpractices and quoting the logic of both the perpetrators and the victims of such violence is demeaning the dignity of women and an affront to the intelligence of the average Indian. This is a UK based programme and by allowing this survey in our country we cannot really blame the foreigners for spoiling the image of the country.
But since that is not in my hands let me come to the point straightaway. I strongly believe that such questions should not have been asked in the first place and if they were they should not have been published.
After the publication of this report India has gone several centuries back and it will severely dent the image of India as a modern, tech savvy, economically viable and self respecting nation ready to take its place among the top ranking nations of the world.
Men and women were asked separately as to why they felt beating up women was justified. The basic premise of the question is faulty. Who gave the right to beat up women to men? Are they their personal property? If anything, that right should go to women whose parents have purchased the grooms by paying a heavy dowry.
Almost in every group the men in this survey unanimously justified beating up women because they felt that was the only way to instill fear into them. I interpret this as a sign of insecurity among men folk but more of that later.
What is more shocking is that not a single man or woman in this survey considered slapping as a sign of violence. It has to be more harsher than mere slapping they all shout in unison.
Grounds for this justification range from the women going on the wrong path to not giving food to the husband when he is leaving for office.
More dangerous than this is the justification for forcefully having sex with the wife especially on the wedding night.
One man has been quoted as saying, “On that day (wedding night) 95 per cent men are like a car without a brake. Stopping them from having their way would be disastrous.”
But the real shocker for me was that almost all the women interviewed also justified the violence and forcing sex against their will and almost for the same reasons that the men had used.
True, the survey had been conducted in some districts of one city (Patna) but the real shock awaited me when I discussed this issue with some my friends in Delhi who were very vocal on issues of women’s rights and writing dissertations on issues of gender-violence.
They all nodded their all knowing heads saying that the survey was a reflection of a harsh reality in the country.
“All men are like that. Those who say they are different are hypocrites,” they said in a grand and convenient generalization.
I am really pained by this defeatist attitude by the generation that we parading all over the globe as representing a country which has the largest number of youths in the world.
Is my generation content with saying only Yes Sir, Yes Ma’m to whatever they see happening around them? Even if we accept that this mindset has taken firm grounds in the culture of our country who are we waiting for to change this?
Taking one’s career forward is of course one of the prime movers that motivates the new generation goaded by marketing. But there has to be a conscience somewhere within us that should have a go at changing the hoary past into a glorious future. We owe it to our generation and to the next!
By Deepshikha Singh