A lot has been written about rape and rapists and I fully endorse the view that as a society we Indians need to do a lot of introspection regarding the respect accorded to women treating them as thinking individuals rather than considering them as inanimate objects to be used and thrown. I may sound harsh but apart from a lucky few, majority of Indian women do not even have the privilege of expecting their families to stand up for them in the case of a crisis be it torture for dowry, physical or sexual harassment.
Ours is a patriarchal society and its norms have been tailored to suit our men folk. They will ‘allow’ us o work outside home but will have control over the money that we earn. A colleague of mine was upset that her husband bought gifts for his parents and siblings when they visited them but never asked her what she would like to gift her parents. Oh, yes she did buy stuff for them too but it was his lack of concern that upset her. She had waited for years to see him treat her family with genuine affection but it never happened. On the other hand she was expected to take to their ways like fish to water. He had no qualms about asking her to apply for loan to finance the lavish wedding that was planned for his sister but the gift of a silk sari to her mother on her 60th birthday was waste of money. Would you expect a son who observes the dominating behavior of his father respect the women who may be his class mate or office colleague or for that matter the girl who may marry him? I would be happy if he did but would not be surprised if he didn’t.
Take another scenario. A mother is unable to cope with the influx of unexpected guests and needs help. She invariably expects her daughter to pitch in and help and vocally expresses her displeasure if she doesn’t. The son on the other hand may not be disturbed and the husband continues to chat with the guests discussing anything from politics to share market. The mental tuning is such that it does not even occur to the mother that the men in the family also need to do their bit.
The day a girl child is born one starts cribbing about the expense that would be incurred at the time of her wedding. ‘Who will marry her for free?’ is the common refrain. Did the new born girl ask you for a lavish wedding? She grows up listening to family members calling her ‘paraya dhan’ and even while educating her, parents – particularly the mother – never fail to remind her that spending money on her education was a waste since it would be her husband and his family that reaped the benefits. If one’s daughter was self assured and confidant and established herself in her new home would it not make parents proud? The girl grows up feeling inadequate and is it not true that we need to learn to respect ourselves before expecting the world to do so.
I can quote several instances that indicate that the mind set of subjugating women has been accepted as their fate by women and right by men for generations. Rapists and the like derive sadist pleasure in overpowering their female counterparts and their act is an extension of the will to control and subjugate them. Teaching our sons and daughters to treat each other with mutual respect will help control incidents of sexual harassment, molestation and rape to a very great extent. Distributing sweets when a son is born is not sufficient. It is the not only the responsibility but duty of parents to inculcate values in them and this can be done by leading by example. Like charity societal values also begin from one’s home.