Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Changing Gender Equations In India

Sexual violence in India and its increasingly relevance to the public discourse, that is frankly a comparatively smaller problem in comparison to the major problem facing our society : that of Gender roles, and their redefinition in the changed world. The reality may even be that it is the percentage of reported rapes and sexual misdemeanour that are increasing. This, far from being a problem, is actually a welcome development, if that is indeed the case. It means that the stigma is receding, at it is being perceived as a plain and simple crime. This cannot be viewed in isolation, but has to be seen in the complete socio-cultural mileu, especially if we are to label an entire society.

The major aspect that needs attention, in my opinion, is the concept of Gender Roles in Indian Society, and especially how the Man {including I Me Myself} views this. The Challenges and questions being posed to the Indian Family Unit due to this need answering. Further, we need to move away from accusation and self-accusation, and blame games; this isn’t Gender Suppression, although that is also a factor in some cases, to be honest. It is just that I cannot say how prevalent Suppression is...

Suppression is when the act is one-sided. A lady once said to me categorically, "Women are also the ones responsible for it". It was a statement that initially stunned me, but is increasingly making eminent sense. A Hindi movie from the 50s had a very interesting scene in it, when the lady defends her husband beating her by saying that he also loves her deeply {which was a fact as shown in the movie}. This is but one parameter of the problem. I have seen this quiet acceptance in many a household, and majorly in the educated classes, rarely in the lower classes.

And the solution isnt empowering women : that is an insult to women in general. The women does not need "empowerment". That statement itself implies the inherent superiority of the male of the species. The need of the hour is education of the male mind, and engendering equality of the sexes right from childhood. That means social programmes to educate society and the parents. And, unless you understand the level of the full problem, its deep-seated nature and its genesis, all such outreach programmes are bound to be less effective. That is why understanding why this arose is so important.

Just who is the male to "give the women power"? Is he God? Or, does he own the woman? If not, how can the male give something which anyways does not belong to him in the first place? There are many, many parameters to this issue, which get lost out in the brouhaha.

People say Women should not tolerate abuse, But what about the attendant issues? Some women, just to take one tiny example, tolerate abuse for the children. What happens to them – the Women and The Children? Their lives get destroyed, that is what. That act of sacrifice makes the women far stronger than the male, and a far better human; but that comes at a high cost to the individual lady. Point is that there are a myriad set of parameters involved here, all of which need consideration. Unless all questions are answered, even a majority of women will {might} not support, and that is a sad fact.

That also indicates the solution cannot be just plain empowerment, or legal remedies etc alone. What is truly needed is a combination effort of legal remedies, laws and their implementation, social education programmes, setting exemplars of everyday women and men who have reached a balance, {not your famous women, people dont relate to famous personalities}, This involves changing mindsets, and is a very tall task

Why is this so? The answer lies in the socio-cultural constructs of our society and its historical experiences, whose current impact is a matter of studied and documented research. For example, castesim, once thought to be a core sanaatani construct, has been proven as a hard-core colonial creation in more than one solid research, one of which I have read. In it, the impact of history on the modern world and society has been effortlessly traced. I refer to Maria Misra's Vishnu's Crowded Temple - {Vishnu's Crowded Temple Book Review}

Thus, if we are understand this problem, we have no choice but to go back to its genesis. Societal trends, norms and behavhiours only change over the course of generations, and if you have to alter the course of society, you perforce need to understand the history. Then and only then can a solution emerge. Then key question here is why is this so in Modern India? Since when has it become so? Why did this emerge?

If the emergence is recent in history, relatively simple steps like laws are the answer. But if the genesis lies deep in history, then there is no solution apart from a combination of laws, education and social change steps that need to be taken.

It isnt a Power issue, it isnt an issue of men wanting power over women. This is a deeply ingrained cultural attribute, whether or not you like it, or anyone else for that matter. Gender Relations and Balance is a fundamental construct of Society, more so a stratified and hierarchical society like India's. Indian Society is at its core hierarchical, with strictly defined roles, norms, modes and behaviours and styles of conduct.

This hierarchical structure has both good and bad points, just the same as any other structure. One cannot only look at its negative ramifications and blame the entire structure for it, forgetting the other good points. Any structure will be definition have both good and bad points. This isnt Power; it is a simple case of hard-wired behavioural parameters, ingrained into collective memory over generations.

It has been said that the current dispensation is against Dignity; while I don’t deny that there may be some cases where this is true, but the questions remain. A person's dignity is non-negotiable, granted. But how do you define dignity? Does the other person accept your definition of dignity? Your definition of freedom and independence? If not, then you are also imposing, and this cannot lead to a solution! This is a classic western concept, sorry to state; and does not apply to eastern constructs of society with its many shades, parameters and nuances. If the people themselves do not accept such imposition willingly, we are back where we started.

This is a highly subjective and relative issue, one that cannot and should not be discussed off hand without proper lines of thought. Furthermore, if the respondent does not accept the imposition, the result is a backlash. This cannot be ignored, or forgotten. Individual dignity is again a core societal construct that arises from roles, mores, morals, hierarchies and their inter-relationships nuances and other cultural parameters. Solving this complex equation will take generations, not less - as it is a painstakingly slow process that involves a variety of solutions and approaches

Add to this the purely eastern concept of Honour, and dignity takes on exceedingly complicated hues that defy definition. The interplay of these two in society determine a lot of what we see, more so in the Indian Context. And that fact of the matter is that these two are exceedingly powerful forces in Sanaatani Society - Honour, and Family.

Thus, in order that we understand this situation, we perforce have to cater to the ground reality. And Western constructs, theories, views do not apply on the Ground in India, that much is an absolute. Till lately, this was so deep-rooted that even crimes went unreported; I refer to rape and wife-beating. So strong, so hard and so deep are the bonds of honour and family that even heinous crimes went unreported.

The very fact that unreported crimes are now on the decline proves that our society is actually moving in the right direction. This is actually not a problem - honour and family are what define our uniqueness, and the two have a massive range of practical and powerful ramifications in the Modern Context. So much so, that they are actually a massive plus of our society. But each plus has some attendant weaknesses; the challenge before us is to remove the attachment of these two from crimes. And that is happening at an ever-increasing rate.

If you look at the increasing participation of ladies in the workforce, as an example, and juxtapose it with the continuing and in fact strengthening hold of honour and family in the Indian context, it can be readily seen that Indian society is changing quite rapidly , adapting itself without compromising its uniqueness, and its basic precepts.

What is happening is that increasingly, there is a subtle redefinition of constituent roles in the family unit, with the male increasingly shouldering some increased burden. I dont say that this is happening willingly in all cases - again, honour and family interplay force change on males as well, who are notoriously slow to change {genetic defect in the male? :) } - but change is happening. And newer forms are emerging, adapted to the newer reality, making for a much better India.

And, speaking as a Man, what it requires is for Males to accept that the equations between the Genders are now changing; it would be better for all of us males – starting with Myself – to accept this change, and adjust, change ourselves for the benefit of the Family’; the same Family for which Women have more than frequently given their all...

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