Friday, March 8, 2013

Men on Women's day!

Well, what does International women’s day mean to the men of today? It all began this morning when I took a local bus to commute to office when a fellow male passenger, who appeared to be an educated professional occupied a seat next to me, in reckless disregard of the “For Ladies” sign screaming out in red above the seat. It was only after being nudged by the lady conductor, that the man next to me offered the seat up to a lady passenger who was standing. Now a repeat of the same situation a few minutes later at a major junction when there were no women passengers standing, but the difference was that the man who sitting next to me was a rustic villager who vacated his seat as soon as a female passenger climbed in!  While my post on women’s day the last two years had been a reflection on what it means to be a woman, this time I decided to pose a few questions to the educated men reading this post!  Seriously, does it hurt to follow a gender based law without being told? Or do you resort to the same insipid argument on reservation being an antithesis to equality when you may have no qualms in being admitted to a college on a reserved seat? Why should gender play a role when you are on the road….why should you be more piqued about being overtaken by a woman driver than your own tribe? Similarly, do you grudge a woman colleague who turns out the same work as you, but doesn’t stay as late as you do?  Do you have a dormant “Asaram bapu” lurking in your subconscious that surfaces as you read reports on violence against women that has you blame the women instead? Finally, did you wish the women in your life “Happy Women’s day” today?? J

Anyway, true respect for women can arise only when you understand and value the intrinsic differences between and a man and a woman as opposed to simply getting judgmental about it. Similarly, true respect for women has to be inculcated early and as parents of young kids, especially boys, it is our responsibility to ensure that our sons don’t end up like the accused in the December 16th Delhi incident. Children also learn by imitation and it is therefore important that we imbibe the spirit of gender equality in our actions for our little ones to emulate therefrom. Today being Women’s day, I couldn’t find anything specific to read to Abhay, but would like to refer to an Ethiopian folk tale narrated by Madhu Bhushan of Vimochana at a seminar on “Popular Responses to Violations against women” held in Jyothi Nivas College last month wherein I had presented a talk on the legal responses. The dramatization of the folk tale was a part of “One Billion Rising” a global campaign against violence against women held on 14th February.  The folk tale goes like this - when  an Ethiopian tribal woman is married off, she is presented with a stick ( please feel free to correct me if my terminology is not right). Why, you may ask? The stick was meant to protect her from abuse, but in the most unusual manner. When a woman is subject to abuse at hands of her husband or his family, she takes her stick and leaves her house to protest silently in the village square. When other women notice her seated with the stick, they too leave their domestic responsibilities behind and join her to express their solidarity. When the women of the entire village stage a protest in such a manner, everything in the village comes to a standstill leaving the men and children to fend for themselves. With work in the whole village coming to a grinding halt, the pressure is on the husband to own up and apologize in front of everyone and when he does, the entire womenfolk go back to their respective houses with the dignity of their sister restored! We can only hope the world turns into one giant Ethiopian village, where the men value and respect our presence and contribution as women!  A beautiful story that went slightly above Abhay’s head for now…..but hopefully went into several others reading this. Cheers to Womanhood! Happy Women’s day!

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