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International Women’s Day: Some Perspectives

Mushtaq ul Haq Ahmad Sikandar

Woman; humble, shy, docile, obedient, sacrificing and modest are the values that our literature, religion, culture and society has bestowed on the personality and being of a woman. Her behavior, worldview and way of life have been made synonymous with these values. She is supposed to uphold these values in all circumstances. An honest adherence to them can elevate woman to a status of a deity, and non conformity to the same can retrograde her to the abysmal pits of lowest of low. The notion of honor, sin, lust and vice has been mostly attributed to the women. The unjust patriarchal structures have rendered sin, wrongs, evil, vice synonymous to being a woman. Being an embodiment of all these ailments and the evil baffling humanity, she needs to be controlled through religion, social norms, culture and above all men. If she is given freedom to live life on her terms the society and humanity will be in chaos. She is ‘deficient’ in ‘reason’, ‘intellect’, ‘judgments’, hence the men around her need to guide her. Her whole being symbolizes sex and it is evident from her every tissue. Thus she needs to be covered, as her dress, gestures and walking style can lure men towards sexual anarchy. Her body drives men crazy, hence her body needs to be caged and controlled by men for the betterment of society and humanity at large.

Since times immemorial women have been subjected to abuse, violence and violations of her rights have been carried out with impunity. Women by birth and nature are physically weak. This weakness has been turned to their disadvantage by men through a structure of patriarchy. Women couldn’t have been controlled through physical power and might only, hence institutions, norms, and theology needed to be invented to legitimize their subservience. It was done by the structures of patriarchy, created by using the connotations of religion, culture and social norms. These religious decrees, cultural norms, social values and theological interpretations were all carried out by men, and most of them have been biased against women. Hence all these structures have certain amount, tinge and in many cases are completely misogynistic because of patriarchy. The meaning of honor, shame, virtue and even justice when it came to gender relations were spelled out and deliberated by men using misogynist glasses, that helped reinforce patriarchy.

Women also accepted these skewed and unjust gender relations as natural. They accepted them as their fate. Few women if ever resisted these structures were given bad name and silenced in the name of preserving the status quo. Witch Craft practiced by the medieval church is a glaring example of the same phenomena. The complete notion of honor was made synonymous with women, hence they needed to be controlled and saved in order to uphold that honor. Armies, Enemy nations used rape as a weapon of war to dishonor and debase the men of the conquered nation. Women being physically weak were violated through sexual abuse. Also sexual intercourse whether by coercion or consent leaves an indelible mark on woman only? She has to bear the burden or pregnancy whether the source of man’s seed is wedlock or out of it. Women can be violated by men; hence there need to be curbs on them in order to save them from men. The concept of honor has been explained in such a manner that whole burden of sexual misdemeanor falls on women.

Girls since their birth are inculcated by the structures of patriarchy to think, adopt and obey the framework and rules of the game as spelled out by men. Most girls when they become women, can’t even think of anything beyond these patriarchal structures, to resist them is out of question. A few women who try to rebel and resist these structures of patriarchy are given name tags as Tom Boys, Femi Nazis and Male Bashers. These patriarchal structures teach women to suffer in silence for the sake of her family, their honor and large interests of society. At each step of life, these structures demand sacrifices from a woman; killing her dreams, ambitions and desires. Women suffer in silence particularly if they belong to the lower strata and classes of the society. In most cases she isn’t supposed to live life on her own terms. She is coerced and in most cases co opted to think in terms of her family, then her husband, then her children and ultimately above all her family. She gets so mired in these vexed relations that she never has time to contemplate about her very own purpose of creation and life.

Education and Economic Empowerment has helped in the empowerment of women. But still the structures of patriarchy haven’t been dismantled. Violence against women has been growing with each passing day, despite the fact that modern man may not get tired of his narcissism. The empowerment of women has given birth to new institutions of patriarchy and ventures for more violence against them. In most of these structures despite her empowerment women are suffering in silence. To add insult to injury most of the perpetuators of violence against women are never brought to book, and very rarely they are punished for their crimes against women. The structures of patriarchy bestow them with the impunity against law. The structures of patriarchy are so deceptive that they have different scales for classifying the intensity and magnitude of violence against women, based on their social, cultural, regional, religious, ethnic, educational and economic background. Media and even some of those who espouse women’s causes have different scales and inherent bias when it comes to violence or rape of an upper caste, class or elite woman as compared to lower class, dalit or minority women. The media minutely covers every incident of rape or violence if it happens in a cosmopolitan city involving an upper class working lady compared to the violence happening in periphery, with woman of lower class and agricultural economic background. Patriarchy has invented this mindset of using different yardsticks when it comes to violence against women of different backgrounds. This system is helping none but the perpetuators only.

The violence against women has been carried out by men in Uniform too. In these cases the perpetuators have been protected from legal structures that again reinforce and perpetuate patriarchy. Countries may boast about women empowerment but if they don’t have the nerves of punishing their uniformed rapists and bandits then no women empowerment is holistic. To safeguard the ‘morale’ of uniformed men, violence against women has been legitimized and justified in the web of nationalistic jargon.

Women who have been violated, abused and raped in the name of national interests by the uniformed goons are still fewer in number as compared to the women who suffer in our homes, educational institutions and workplaces. One Billion Rising is one such movement that is transnational in its character and tries to highlight the sufferings of the women who are made to suffer in silence and oblivion. One Billion Rising movement, witnessed its ramifications in Kashmir too, as a young dedicated group of men and women, have come together to raise their voices in support of violence against women. This group asked women to pen down violence as they encounter during their daily lives. They have come out with a booklet that contains eleven such stories of violence, that are a testimony of the violence that is taking place against women, in our homes, workplaces and day today life. It depicts cases of domestic violence, sexual abuse, molestation and incest too.

Women’s Day, Women’s Studies and Gender Issues have been mostly clubbed with women only. Also patriarchy has been wrongly attributed to men only. Patriarchy is a process that gives rise to those structures where men and women both become tools, pawns and perpetuators that help in survival and reinforcement of structures of patriarchy. Women’s Day and Patriarchy doesn’t concern women and men individually only, but they are issues of common concern of humanity. They need to be celebrated and resisted by both men and women. Both men and women together need to stand and resist the crimes against women, as they aren’t related to women only but to our whole society too. There is a need to understand the problem with our institutions of family, school and workplace that produces the abusive men. There is dearth of Gender education and sensitivity inculcation in our families and schools. It starts with the treatment of mother of the children by their father. Patriarchy initiates with a sexist, misogynist quote in the no girl company of boys. It manifests itself in the vulnerability and weakness of men, who can’t face a powerful and successful woman. Thus it becomes necessary for men like us to stand shoulder to shoulder with women and resist violence against them. It is a long drawn battle and we are ready to make sacrifices and tolerate with patience the choicest invectives that will be hurled at us by patriarchy. But it is a price worth paying for the sake of the women are suffering in oblivion, unheard and unsung.

(Mushtaq Ul Haq Ahmad Sikander is Writer-Activist based in Srinagar, Kashmir and can be reached at [email protected])

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