I Can’t Get This Out Of My Head!

A few days back I was attending an identity workshop[1] where we had to write five identities, which describe ‘Who am I?’ and I was the only boy in that workshop.  So, when we were reading our answers aloud, I was hit with the thought that every girl had “I am a girl” identity in their top five.  At the expense of conceding a generalized opinion, I realized that nowadays gender identity is playing a very big role and it has become a lemon in their heads[2] – a result of their being Delhi-ites! It is also, I feel due to the increasing injustices against women I’m reading about in the papers/news – the Guwahati molestation case, the girls who got arrested for their Facebook posts and the recent Delhi gang rape and many other day-to-day activities where girls face discrimination and exploitation. Most women I know do not depend on their husbands, boyfriends or any male relative to chaperone them wherever they go, nor do they go around in chauffeur driven cars. Most of them are young, independent and attractive – and somewhere I know the scary truth that this could have happened to a friend, to a relative or to someone close to me. Whatever the reason, I haven’t been able to get that out of my head.

Lemon in My Head

UntitledaWhat do I do? What do any of us do? Apart from being outraged or just talk and write about it like I’m doing? What else can I do?  I’ve been wracking my brain about what to do, protesting on the streets, but who/what are we protesting against? Our government? The government we voted for? Our nation? The ‘democratic’ nation which each of us is a part of? Don’t get me wrong. We must complain. We must make loud protests; we must put immense pressure on the authorities to take immediate action. Safety is NOT a privilege only for those who have drivers, those who stay in gated communities, those who don’t venture out at night or don’t avail of public transport. SAFETY CONCERNS ALL OF US. It is a basic human right. It has to change now, this minute. The streets should be safer at night, from tonight. If we have enough police to make sure our seat belts are fastened and we don’t jump red lights during daytime, then we should have enough police patrolling the roads at night. We need the laws to be tightened now, we need police to act faster, and catch the culprits more often so that the law can be taken seriously right now.

But there is something else we can do, which can change the nation’s attitude towards women, provided each of us takes part in it. Each one of us individually needs to review how we treat each other and the level of respect we display to one another as human beings created equal by nature, no matter what our gender.Untitled

Have you ever heard of Euclid axioms and common notions? Euclid’s first common notion reads – things, which are equal to the same thing, are equal to each other. That’s the rule of mathematical reasoning. It’s true because it has worked, and always will do. In his book, Euclid says this is self-evident. It is even quoted in the 2000-year-old book of mechanical law. So, we begin with equality – that’s the origin, is it not?  That is the balance.  That is fairness. That is justice.

Make Way for the Indian Woman

We must, in every cultural, social and political way, prepare the way for the modern Indian woman because she is not the woman that most Indian men grew up with at home. Mothers pamper, mothers cook great food – Mothers Stay Inside! The woman of today may not know how to cook, may want to earn her own living and may choose whom she wants to marry (if she wants to marry at all!). Of course I’m generalizing, but you have only to look at how the youth behave in front of their parents and how they behave with their peers to realize that there is a huge generation gap that makes for people to hide their true selves and change frivolously to suit the company in which they find themselves. So until we stop hiding under our social guises, the reform starts at home, with parents treating children equally and accepting their differences, and their choices. It continues to apply to schools and education as well – boys and girls should be treated equally, should be encouraged to work together on school projects. Boys should not see the girl as a strange, mysterious ‘other’ species only to be stared at and not talked to, wondered about, shown in small spurts almost teasingly, locked away most of the time and eventually conquered by the patriarchal system of marriage or, simply by pure physical dominance.

So yes, we blame the government and the authorities, we put pressure so this girl gets some justice, so the arrests are made, so the attackers are severely punished. But, what next? How do we prevent this from happening again and again and again? We have a lot of work to do. Countrywide, we have rape cases that are going on, girls as young as our own daughters, women as old as our mothers, raped by somebody’s brothers, fathers and sons. And the patriarchal society on which India is thriving. It is an epidemic that has spread across the nation, and rising. It cannot be controlled by law and order alone, but also by its people, by each and every one of us.

Actions Speak Louder

Urging others to take action is only a beginning towards bringing about change. However, the first step should always come from within. I realize this and have tried to inculcate the practice of following up on my thoughts with some form of action that reflects those deep-rooted sentiments. With this thought in mind I decided to be part of ongoing movements/ workshops/ community visits, instead of remaining a silent spectator from a distance.

On February 14, 2013, a one-day event was held, ‘One Billion Rising’, a call for one billion women around the world to join together to dance in a show of collective strength. The word “billion” refers to the statistical information that one in three women will be raped or beaten in their lifetime, or about one billion. I was overwhelmed to be part of such a powerful movement where women poured into the streets.

My search for answers did not end there and I found myself going back and getting involved in certain other projects time and again (from visiting children of sex workers on G.B. Road to attending workshops on implementation of safety measures in Delhi schools) in an effort to understand the deep-rooted sense of discrimination along ‘gender’ lines.

So I urge you friends:

‘Bosses’, be sensitive to women employees and their complaints – TAKE ACTION!

‘Colleagues’, stand up for the woman who’s being objectified at work, TAKE ACTION!

‘Teachers’, encourage your students to mingle and mature together, TAKE ACTION!

‘Mothers and fathers’, don’t give special treatment to your sons (or your daughters), TAKE ACTION!

‘Writers and directors’, make your stories relevant to today’s men and women, TAKE ACTION!

‘Actors’, be brave enough to portray characters that speak their own minds and are not necessarily conventional, TAKE ACTION!

‘Media’, don’t let us forget injustices quickly, TAKE ACTION!

‘Politicians’, be quiet and TAKE ACTION!

‘Men’, respect women who are not like your mothers, TAKE ACTION!

‘Women’, don’t let even the smallest act of eve-teasing slide, TAKE ACTION!

‘Neighbors’, don’t ignore a cry for help, TAKE ACTION!

‘Bystanders’, for God’s sake, TAKE ACTION!

‘People’, let’s not live in our bubbles until the injustice affects us directly. TAKE ACTION!

Come join us in this quest, engage with social issues that interest you and play your active role in building a peaceful and just society! Visit http://www.pravah.org or like us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pravahdelhi

Ravinder Singh

SMILE Volunteer

[1] This Identity workshop was part of a project OXFAM India to better understand the urban-middle class youth identity; what institutes or entities shape their beliefs & what helps them to break them.

[2] A case where our thoughts and actions are governed by pre-conceived notions resulting in deeply entrenched beliefs, and stories, which might not be true, universally speaking.


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