2013. It's a whole new year. I will not talk about rape today. But perhaps this year can be the year when we decided to start thinking. Thinking of how much we really know about respect. India is asking itself this question. It's making statements, in fact. "Respect your women" the placards at India Gate say. But do we really know how?
The maid in my mother's house allows her husband to have an affair with her own sister because she cannot afford for him to leave. She earns the bread. She "wears the pants". She takes care of their three girls. She sleeps outside in the verandah come winter or rain, while her husband sleeps inside their room with her sister.
You might turn up your nose and say, "these stories of the lower classes". Which is what many of the people are actually saying post The Day That Changed India.
But hear me out. I will not talk about rape today.
I know at least two families in my upper middle class, urbane, educated, metro-living world who have got their sons married off to women from lower income families. "We don't want our daughters-in-law to wear jeans, or to work in an office, or to have a brain." Okay, I added that last one, but that's what they're thinking. "We want a simple girl," goes the explanation, "who can adapt to our joint family and not create any ripples."
And that is the crux, right there. We don't want any ripples, do we? Ripples disrupt the flow of society. We can't have too many people asking questions, and wanting insane things like equality and respect.
An engineer I know who used to work at a popular news channel hits his wife. She can only bear him daughters, it seems. When he hits her, his mother looks away.
Women themselves are the greatest upholders of patriarchy.
It's a boarding school mentality. "We will do to you what was done to us."
Tonnes of men that I know look around "for some fun" as soon as their wives/girlfriends are out of town.
A single unattached drunk man who has sex with a single unattached drunk woman goes home and tells all his friends about it. In subsequent retelling of the story the woman is referred to as a slut.
I'm not talking about rape today. I'm talking about respect. And whether we know what it really means to respect a woman.
It's a tough job. And the way we have have been conditioned through generations, it'll have to be a learned response. We have been taught a whole language when the very alphabets used to write that book are out of date.
The pessimist in me is afraid that the year 2013 might not be the year of respect. Or even fully understanding what it means. But can it just be a year of Introspection? I hope so.
Nitika Mansingh is a writer and communications consultant based in Singapore.
>> "Women themselves are the greatest upholders of patriarchy.
<< That's exactly where the problem lies in Indian society, and they need to break free from such stereotypical portrayal of women and mode of thinking, but not in a feminazi way,
(1) Ms Mansingh has really said the bitter truth in her essay. In our tradition bound society we have still not found a positive role for the career oriented woman. Many a problem arise even in families when the daughter or daughter-in law decides to break way from age old traditions
(2)As regards rape and molestation cases, we discuss, discuss more and then forget till the next rape incident happens. We do not give respect to women. As a society, we have failed to create an atmosphere of complete safety for women and this is particularly true in metros like Delhi, with huge mobile population.
(3) Our police officers are not seen as woman friendly. This must change. We need to urgently revamp the police administration.
(4)Yes, we want justice done and ensure that enough care is taken to protect privacy of the victim. But there are no quick solutions and solutions like a death sentence for the culprits cannot solve the basic issue.
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