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It is hard to write about any other issue this morning when the country is aghast with the comments of a rapist on a death row, taking high moral ground and asserting that “during rape the girl shouldn’t fight back”. Not just this, he has the audacity to go on to predict that if girls continue to put up a fight, rapists will not leave them alive once they are “done” with them! Ironically for 21st Century India, the BBC documentary is to premiere on International Women’s Day!
While we thought the brutal nature of the Nirbhaya rape had shaken the Nation’s conscience, here is another rude jolt! We have all been quick to call the comments dastardly and are raising pertinent questions about just how low people can fall, however we are still just skimming the surface. We need to hit out at the person making such comments all right, but most importantly we need to tackle the mindset that is giving rise to such warped thinking.
To assume that this feudal thinking is the hotbed of rural, uneducated India, alone, is to oversimplify the problem. How many of us have had a brush with this feudal mindset in a throbbing metropolis otherwise lauded for its progressive mindset? It is in these progressive cities that dowry deaths, rapes, domestic violence are still the order of the day & the perpetrators of these crimes go unscathed by law or even social stigma? In the capital city of Delhi, I was aghast to hear of someone refer to their newly born male progeny as an “asset”, the reference to the dowry he could bring two and a half decades later, unmistakable.
How does this make for a parenting blog post, you ask? Well, one of the significant contributions we can make to society is to be able to raise children that grow up to be conscience keepers of society. To raise them with the right values, with gender sensitivity, is no mean task.
Here are my two bits on what we could do as parents & teachers, to raise a generation of men who value women and of women whose self worth isn’t diminished by all these covert & overt messages coming their way.
· Debunk Stereotypes-Well, this is easier said than done. In teaching our sons that they need to be the providers & our daughters that their place is in the kitchen, we are doing enormous disservice to society at large. Its time that these stereotypes were disbanded. And that is a lot of work by any stretch of the imagination. Remember even our Lullabuys are meant to remind girls that “ rajkunwar ji aayenge, mahlon mein le jayenge” and bedtime stories depict women as damsels in distress and men, as rescuers. Well-institutionalized school programs can also go a long way in stemming these stereotypes or at the very least provide an alternate point of view, even if homes are still fuelling these beliefs.
· Ensure a healthy discussion- When you are a seeing a movie with your child & the subject of women abuse surfaces, there can be no better setting than to start a healthy discussion about how the event is absolutely amoral and in an age appropriate manner also explain what the right thing to do in such a situation would be. This way with your intervention, you are able to bring about a positive reinforcement and the child is not left floundering with a whole lot of messages coming his way, thick & fast.
· Ensure that there is a strong Gender Sensitization program running in schools - Not as a one time PR exercise and a photo op, but integrated in the curriculum. This is the time, limiting beliefs haven’t set in -what better time to create a healthy mind that is capable of warding off these draconian thoughts, as & when they occur. The sensitization program needn’t be lecture sessions that talk down to students, but interactive workshops done through story telling, role plays, discussions and other experiential methods driving the point home.
To borrow from Emma Watson, “It is time that we all see gender as a spectrum instead of two sets of opposing ideals.”