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 session that followed, 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.” Much to the surprise of the workshop attendees, another speaker revealed how gender inequitable matriarchal North-Eastern societies can be. 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.” The youth optimism was evident from the perspective, “If we talk about more problems, we will end up generating even more of those by the sheer virtue of having thought so. Instead, let’s talk more about solutions and we shall find ourselves creating exponential opportunities.” 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 intellectually invigorating discussion with the youth panelist was thus, due to the beautiful variance of perspectives they presented at the conference.
On the second day, the Centre for Social Research was graced not only with more intellectuals from the gender movement but also a #SocialSurfing workshop was hosted by the organization. The first session on the second day of the #AllGenderS conference, started with a talk by Prof. Dr. Usha Tandon who as Wikipedia describes her is, “an alumnus of the New Delhi based Campus Law Centre (CLC), who occupies the position of being the Twenty Second Professor-In-Charge of CLC.” Dr. Tandon elaborated upon the Protection of Women against the Domestic Violence Act (PWDVA, 2005) and stated that the burden of proof lies of men when they are being legally interrogated under the Act. This is not only a protective measure in the favor of women but also an exception made by the Indian Constitution, the underlying principle of which is, ‘Innocent until proven guilty’. Dr. Tandon explained to the workshop attendees, the manner in which Indian laws are structured as per – Neutral, Prejudiced(against women) and Protective. The Right to Vote and Education come under the category of Neutral laws. Right to Property and adoption are prejudiced laws and Article 15 (3), PWDVA and Prevention of Sexual Harassment (POSH) are protective laws for women.
Dr. Pamela Singla was next on the podium and she spoke about creating enabling environment in colleges for gender sensitization. Dr. Singla is a professor at the Department of Social Work, University of Delhi. Her website states that“her focus for research has been on women and related issues and her teaching assignments have been diversified and include Women’s Welfare and Development; Social Policy, Social Statistics, Social Defence and Social work in the Unorganized sector.” Dr. Singla spoke about relative lack of security in educational institutions for women, which is a detriment to their attainment of education. She was of the opinion that creative measures (like mid-media campaigns) should be employed to sensitize not only the students but also the institution’s faculty. On a concluding note she mentioned the need to re-look at gender relationships from the perspective of mutual trust and respect rather than dominance of one over the other.
Ms. Bijayalakshmi Nanda, who was the next speaker, emphasized the importance of family in creating a gender-just society. As a website describes her, Ms. Nanda is “an academician, feminist activist and researcher who teaches political science and gender studies in Delhi University’s Miranda House College. She coordinates a self-funded initiative called ‘Campaign against Pre-Birth Elimination of Females’ (CAPF) which works with the youth to raise awareness and advocacy and to support women survivors and victims of gender violence and discrimination.” Ms. Nanda has also written books on gender issues in India. At the #AllGenders conference, she explained how important it is for the family to nurture gender equality before the same can be handled at the societal level. She made a sharp point about the lens through which gender movement in India is perceived. According to her, off late, the issues of women have been spoken of more at the personal level; not as per the socio-political phenomenon, it is.Concluding her talk, Ms. Nanda spoke about how hierarchy in the family should be evened out which will have a positive ripple effect on the society at large. In order to do so, the elders / caretakers / parents and similar authorities need to be self-educated to bring about a sustained effort in the direction.
Ms. Nanda’s talk was followed by Dr. Onika Mehrotra and she spoke extensively on the need of mentor at the level of microcosm, for directing the gender movement in India. Dr. Mehrotra is the Vice-Principal of the Kalka Group of Institutions, International (KGI) which is known for providing quality Graduate and Post-Graduate courses, ranging from Technology, Medicine, Commerce and Business Administration. Dr. Mehrotra stated her opinion that positive gender ideologies are created in the formative years of a person’s life. Societal reformation will be brought about by focusing on the future generation and nurturing them, so that a gender-just society can be created.Encouraging Co-Education School for children is a small but a sure way of creating a generation which is in solidarity for women’s rights as human rights. At the broader level, Dr. Mehrotra articulated action points which can possibly lead the gender movement from intention to action. Strengthening the individual knowledge and skills, promoting community education, educating providers of education, fostering networks and coalitions, reforming organizational practices and influencing policy were topics that she discussed with the workshop attendees.
Ms. Babli Moitra Saraf was the last speaker of the panel. Similar to Dr. Mehrotra, Ms. Moitra Saraf spoke on changing pedagogy, not only at the level of academics but also a paradigm shift in popular culture (media and art) discourse. Ms. Moitra Saraf is the Principal of the New Delhi based Indraprastha College for Women which has over 2000 students enrolled in courses. At the #AllGenders Conference, Ms. Moitra Saraf cited patriarchal traditions in the society and how they are reflected by the media for further ingraining of lopsided understanding in the mindsets of society who consumes such media. The workshop attendees and Ms. Moitra Saraf had a lengthy dialogue on various aspects of media and society which have been catalysts in hampering the progress of the Indian gender movement.
The first session of the second day at the #AllGenders conference ended on a high note. The next blog would be a continuation of the Day 2 conference proceedings and would also summarize the conclusive key points.
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