Sunita Murmu, a sixteen-year-old girl in West Bengal [India], was stripped publicly while being mocked at and sexually harassed by random villagers all because she fell in love with an outsider of the community. Later, her naked pictures were circulated through MMS. However, no one dared to defy the tribal Panchayat’s order or report it.
Be it in the movie theatres, public transportation, college campus, work place or at home – we, who have lived in India, are so used to it. Abuse happens to educated, free willed, “independent” women in India on a daily basis. However, I dare to say, as much as men are to be blamed for these, we, the women and our tolerance share the culpability in this on-going saga of abuse.
You may ask, what is the culpability of women in what men do to them? In my opinion, our failure lies at three levels.
- Only a coward, a pervert or a loser abuses a woman. It is nothing but an expression of his deep-seated insecurities and inferiority complexes. However, our male-dominant society makes us believe that tolerance and silently suffering such abuse is a sign of nobility and proof of character. Stop the “forgive and forget because we are women” policy. Stand up against such cowards, or else our daughters adapt to accept such discriminatory values and abuse to be the norm. Self-confidence and self-respect are gained at home.
- Who has more opportunity to teach their sons to respect and treat women well than mothers? Still we let our sons watch TV while our daughters are asked to wash the dishes. Our sons are given the impression that they are exceptional and will see nothing wrong with their ill behaviors and attitudes to girls. Male and female genders are not made equal or unequal. They are made to complement each other. Let our sons mow the lawn while our daughters wash dishes. Seeds of mutual respect are sown at home.
- More recently, our idea about self-identity and women’s liberation got completely distorted. When educated women were mocked, harassed and looked down at the work place, we imitate men by drinking, smoking and acting like them, hoping that it would lead to equalized status. In the name of liberation, women foolishly fell into deeper holes of addiction, sickness, loneliness and kids out of wedlock. Thus, we have failed ourselves.
Women’s liberation or empowerment is not about imitating Priyanka Chopra’s dressing style, walking on the ramp, getting a liposuction or blindly following Western culture. If any woman believes that these behaviors are liberating or empowering, she cannot be more foolish. Empowerment is about standing up against injustice. Empowerment is about having self-respect. Empowerment is doing what is right without fear. Empowerment is about having the courage to accomplish dreams. Women’s empowerment is also about being the cornerstone of the family and nurturing next generation.
If anyone think these are just “good to hear” but impractical ideologies, below are my examples of proof. When Nobel Prize laureate Mohammad Yunus experimented with micro financing, one thing became clear to him: when men make money, they tend to spend it on themselves, but when women make money, they bring benefits to the whole family – especially children. By micro financing women, millions of families rose above the poverty line in developing countries. When mothers were made aware of the importance of education, the overall literacy rate of the country shot up. When mothers became literate, it guaranteed a better future for the country. When women joined the workforce, middle class families multiplied, amplifying the overall productivity and GDP of those countries. Nations change when women get involved. Still, we women, we the fools – do not know our real power. We do not trust in our strength. If we decide to stand up for ourselves and to be strong for ourselves, we can move mountains. One family at a time…
As girls, our brothers are favored. As teenagers, we are always quieted. As brides-to-be, we are given limited choices. As wives, we are treated like slaves. Still…as mothers, we favor our sons. We can end this cycle, we can end this injustice, and the truth is only WE, The Women can do this.
Going back to Sunita’s story, when the police came to conduct an inquiry, in spite of her family’s discouragement, she lodged a formal complaint. Sunita fought for herself. She not only took on the criminals but also stood up against organized crime, regressive, oppressive and outdated values. Sunita was honored by the President of India with the National Bravery Award for her exemplary act of courage.
“I am the master of my soul; I am the captain of my fate” – William Ernest Henley
About the Author
Priya James an Speech Language Pathologist by profession. An AAP volunteer (until recently), NDTV blog contributor, free spirited. (This blog was posted on my personal blog four years ago and removed from it at least three years ago.)
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