In Fast Changing Times, Our Patriarchal Mindset Needs to Change

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The safety of women in India is a globally discussed topic, and it is high time that we introspect as a society where half of its population is forced not to participate in decision making and nation building processes because of the patriarchal system.

SADIQ ZAFAR | Caravan Daily

THE NEED of the hour is to understand the stigma which has pushed women to margins; the stigma followed by a series of incidents in a woman’s life.

The globalised world has provided a platform for different nations to interact in a way that was unimaginable earlier. In these fast changing temporal settings, human rights are among the most discussed subjects across the globe. The dichotomy is that a nation talks about women rights at the global stage but at the grass roots, women find themselves as most vulnerable. The status of gender inequality and discrimination against women hasn’t changed much in this scientifically advanced society.

A nation with a high number of female foeticide inevitably shows that a law against pre-natal sex determination is good in books, talks and symposiums only. The need of the hour is to understand the stigma which has pushed women to margins; the stigma followed by a series of incidents in a woman’s life. Discrimination in studies, sports and politics and the incidents of rape and domestic violence have largely exploited women in this patriarchal setup.

A country where women have been at the center of power at the national level, the third tier of democracy still finds itself trapped in the patriarchal mindset.

The 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendment Acts empower women by reserving seats for females (this doesn’t mean that females can’t contest elections from other seats) at the urban and rural local body level of the governance setup. But, what happens at ground is very contrasting to the whole ethos of these acts.

We must acknowledge the fact that discrimination has been happening in our society on the basis of gender, caste, religion and region, though the law talks about equality for all and prohibition of discrimination on any ground. When we study the present political scenario, we find Dalits as the most marginalized community in terms of their political representation (though Justice Sachar says Muslims are more deprived than Dalits), and gender inequality has pushed women to margins in terms of political representation.

In this majoritarian democracy, empowerment of women in terms of political representation faces resistance from conservative mindsets and patriarchy both, a case of dominance and supremacy.

The need of the hour is to understand the stigma which has pushed women to margins; the stigma followed by a series of incidents in a woman’s life. Discrimination in studies, sports and politics and the incidents of rape and domestic violence have largely exploited women in this patriarchal setup.

We’re a nation where a parliamentarian has to stand up in the august house and say that the government is busy protecting cows but women are suffering various atrocities, while starting her speech showing mirror to the political dispensation of the nation. The parliamentarian needed to say this because we’ve elected molesters and rape accused as our law makers.

Discrimination of women never becomes a political issue in our country because god-men and politicians face serious charges of sexual abuse, rape and murder.

Indian cinema, sports, education and politics – in each field – largely, women are portrayed as a helping hand to their male counterparts and it is the rarest scene that women are seen in the leading positions. Even if they get a chance to lead and perform, they don’t get their due space in the media and are least acknowledged for their efforts and achievements.

Social media today is evident of the dominance and supremacy of males and this can be studied in the light of trolling that happens, on especially on Twitter over the exercise of freedom of expression (FoE) by women. Recently, a UAE based paint company fired and deported an employee because he had been abusing an Indian journalist Rana Ayyub on Facebook. Rana had filed a complaint with the authorities in UAE and action was taken against the man for his sexually abusive posts.

But, here in India, authorities hardly take any action over such complaints made by women who face abuse on social media. Barkha Dutt, Gurmehar Kaur, Rana Ayyub, Sagarika Ghosh, Shehla Rashid, Kavita Krishnan, they all are trolled and abused on Twitter on a regular basis because of their views.

The exploitation of women is not restricted to social media or any such space. Recently, in Gonda, a communally vulnerable and economically stagnant district in the eastern part of Uttar Pradesh, sweepers were agitating against the exploitation and discrimination by money lenders of the region. When these poor people were unable to pay back the debt money, including the interest amount, women were the first target of these money-lenders; they became the subject of sexual abuse. Though officially no such traces of exploitation were found but the leader of the sweepers’ group said, “Since, it is believed that respect of each household is associated with women, people don’t complain about incidents of sexual exploitation as it may bring bad name to them.”

The safety of women in India is a globally discussed topic, and it is high time that we introspect as a society where half of its population is forced not to participate in decision making and nation building processes because of the patriarchal system.

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