The Centre for Social Research initiated an institutionalized action towards all-inclusive gender approach for eliminating violence against women and making India, a gender-just society. “Engaging Men and Boys in Fight against Violence” (henceforth referred to as #AllGenders), was a conference which resonated the social reality of empowered men making way for women to empower themselves.
The inaugural session of the conference set the tone for the discourse. It was articulated that women empowerment should be in tandem with iconoclastic actions for redefining masculinity. There were discussions on areas of patriarchal powerhouses and how indoctrinated socio-cultural values and normalized violence are, leading to fertile grounds for creating gender stereotypes.
The first panel, highlighted the need of making men realize how indispensable they are, for furthering the cause of a gender-just society. It was discussed how men should make the transition from being perpetrators of violence against women to protectors of the dignity of women’s lives, which in turn will raise the dignity of theirs. A speaker in the first session rightly said, “Don’t only tell the men what’s wrong; also tell them what is right.”The session concluded with the speaker referring to the culture of silence around violence against women and how it is high time and beyond, to change that.
The second panel of the #AllGenders conference were youth who spoke on perceptions around gender movement. It was they who directed the attention towards common definition of masculinity which is in direct proportion to brute force and bullish leadership. It was suggested that the same strain of male aggression can be channelized to support women and facilitate their leadership roles in the society.A less known fact was stated about the Indian society that there are no reformatory social institutions but penalizing ones. The panelist concluded by saying, “Violence is always against the defenseless. Let’s not have a personal agenda with which we look at this social reality; instead, let’s have an agenda against violence.”Roping in college students to work for the social cause, was felt to be the need of the hour, if efficient mentoring can be provided to them. The panel were of the opinion that fostering independent thinking in the mindsets of society can demolish patriarchy.The third panel of the #AllGenderS conference,spoke elaborately on the legal rights of women and undertaking capacity building the younger generation who shall be carrying the baton for the creation of a gender-just society.
The last panel of the workshop covered the eclectic plethora of legal vulnerabilities of men, the psychoanalytical approach of understanding the nuances of male psyche and the Marxist perspective of the gender movement trajectory in India. Dr. Anup Dhar had the workshop attendees spellbound by his story telling approach as he psychoanalyzed the human mind and its reasoning.The Ambedkar University website describes Dr. Dhar as, “A medical doctor and a keen follower of the ‘political’. On the one hand, he moved to histories of healing and philosophies of the body and thereafter to mental health, especially post-Foucauldian psychiatry and post-Freudian psychoanalysis. On the other, the passion for ‘non-party political imaginations’ took him to the interstices of Marxian and feminist perspectives. The question of ‘cultural difference’ is, however, his present preoccupation. He has a PhD in Philosophy from Jadavpur University, Kolkata.” Dr. Dhar left the audience thinking when he concluded his speech by saying, “Is it too late to educate the eye?” in the context of gender perceptions and carnality in the same.
Mr. Adab Singh Kapoor spoke after Dr. Anup Dhar and he explained the fact that misuse of laws which are in favor of women are actually detrimental to the perception and progress of gender movement in India. Mr. Kapoor is a New Delhi based lawyer whose practice also extends itself to Mumbai. He is a legal expert in Information Technology forCorporates and Corporate Laws, International Business Law and Intellectual Property.Mr. Kapoor objectively stated how giving dowry is as much a crime as receiving it and that both the parties are liable to be punished for the offense. He cited sections within the Indian Penal Code (498A, 406, 34, 304B, 326B, 354 [A to D], 355, 363, 366, 375, 376, 377, 493, 497 and 509) that had been violated, misused and exploited by women thus adversely impacting the perception of laws being gender sensitive and protective. It was indeed a humbling fact to note that we need to work upon the same in order to holistically and without regressing work towards welfare of both the dominant sexes in the society.
Mr. Ravindra Rukmini Pandharinath was the last speaker at the conference and added a stellar piece to the crescendo. He charmed the attendees by mentioning that the suffixes to his name are actually the first names of both his parents; to whom he gives equal respect for having contributed in his life. The Men against Violence and Abuse (MAVA) website describes Mr. Pandharinath to be, “the Honorary Director of Dharamitra, a NGO, based in Wardha, Maharashtra, working for sustainable agriculture and rural development. He is a former Professor and Chairperson, Academic Committee at NMIMS – School of Pharmacy and Technology Management, Shirpur Campus andan activist / researcher who has significantly contributed to the nation-wide campaign against sex-selective elimination of females and in drafting of policies and legislations on this issue. He is also a renowned writer, he has been actively involved in MAVA’s key programs.” Mr.Pandharinath continued his speech by creating a gender empathetic environment and stating that men are not the culprits in patriarchy. On the contrary, they are the products of that ideology which gradually makes the victim as well as the perpetrator. He made a plea to understand men so that it is easier to reform and make sublime, the benchmarks set by the society. Mr. Pandharinath concluded his note by stating that men have not been anything else but power hoarders. To take that power away from them without giving an intellectual and humane purpose as a replacement; would not only backfire the efforts made by the gender movement, but also hinder its long term goal accomplishment.
A Charter for Men and Boys was drafted by the Centre for Social Research as a discourse referendum and the two day conference on ‘Engaging Men and Boys in fight against violence’(#AllGenders)concluded in being an intellectually stimulating discussion which gave fresh impetus to the gender movement bellwethers.
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