Masculinity continues to Ransack lives of women in times of COVID-19

When the whole world is busy in fighting against the Coronavirus pandemic, the economy is declining like humanity, men are not able to perform their so-called ‘masculinity’ outside their home, when other creatures are freely moving, in this meantime, women are doing household work as it is assigned to them by so-called superior sex. Women are doing household work as usual as before this ruinous pandemic. There is a sharp rise in violence against women. Earlier violence against women was also high but due to this devastating pandemic, another kind of virus- patriarchy – begins attacking women with more force. The global agencies and government are telling people to stay home and be safe. However, this safest place can save humans from the coronavirus but it can’t save women from the ‘patriarchal’ virus.

There is rising violence against women at home while the home is considered as the safest place. UN Population Fund assumed a 20% increase in violence against women globally. UN Population Fund also predicted at least 15 million more domestic violence as a result of pandemic lockdown. India is among those countries which saw an increase in domestic violence against women.

National Commission for Women has observed a spike in domestic violence in India. Coronavirus pandemic may end in some times but domestic violence may not. According to the NCRB report of 2018, domestic violence against women is the top category of violence against women. In all the crime registered under IPC, ‘Cruelty by husband and his relative’ is at the top with 31.9%. Women are exposed to violence not only by her husband but also by his family members. Women don’t feel safe at the safest place. Not only in terms of violence but home, in general, cannot be called the safest place for women.

Oppression of women first begins from home. It begins with toys and sports segregated between boys and girls and then the education. Oppression of women occurs not only in the form of physical violence but in the form of verbal abuse, mental abuse, sexual abuse and emotional abuse. Life of women becomes more miserable after their marriage. Women after marriage are supposed to serve her husband and his family. In marital relation with her husband, women become what JS Mill called ‘marital slave’. He also pointed out the solution from this ‘marital slavery’ that relation of both husband and wife become ‘martial friendship’.

In 2019, a study by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime said that the home is the most dangerous place for women. It may surprise some people but data is scarier which makes the home a dangerous place for women. Data shows that in all the cases of homicide in 2011 – 58% of crimes are committed by victims’ intimate partners or family members.

Condition of women at home is as miserable in the twenty-first century as it was centuries ago. The first modernist of India Raja Rammohan Roy wrote about the condition of women two-century back. What he wrote in 1818 is still true:                       

At the marriage, the wife is recognized as half of her husband, but [after marriage] they are treated worse than inferior animals. For the woman is employed to do the work of a slave in the house, such as, in her turn, to clean the place very early in the morning, whether cold or wet, to scour the dishes, to wash the floor, to cook night and day, to prepare and serve food for her husband, father and mother-in-law, brothers-in-law, and friends and connections! If in the preparation or serving up of the victuals they commit the smallest fault, what insult do they not receive from their husband, their mother-in-law, and the younger brothers of their husband! After all the male part of the family have satisfied themselves, the women content themselves with what may be left, whether sufficient in quantity or not . .. In the afternoon they fetch water from the river or tank, and at night perform the office of menial servants in making the beds. In case of any fault or omission in the performance of those labours, they receive injurious treatment.                

Since the abolition of Sati system in 1829 to the passing of Triple Talaq Act in 2019, many legal reforms have been made to prevent the oppression and violence against women but women are still victims of men’s crime. In 2018, the Thomas Reuters Foundation declared India as the most dangerous place for women.

Laws and reforms are not useful until people’s perception of women does not evolve from conservative and orthodox social rules. There is a need to abolish the existing social norms regarding women. There is a need to develop a sense of equality between sexes. There is a need to establish a new order where no one feels inferior or superior.

All these will happen when reforms will be made not only through legal institutions but through social reforms and education. When people of the superior position will decide to form an equal order for all when the leaders will decide to reform social problems, and when academicians will come out from their air-conditioned rooms to tell the people what is right or wrong. When the people who hold a superior position will decide to do their moral responsibility.

There is a need to free women from their heavy cultural responsibility. Women are portrayed as divine power, goddesses and preservers of honour. Women are suppressed under these heavy cultural burdens. It is supposed that women should maintain their chastity like Sita. Within the walls of households, it is expected from women to behave under these imaginary characters of goddesses.

Women are expected not to cross the ‘gender boundary’ in any act of her acts such as speaking, laughing, clothing and many more. In the 1950s, when the Parliament was debating Hindu Code Bill, Jawaharlal Nehru remarked: “I do not seem to remember men being reminded in the same manner of Ramachandra and Satyavan, and urged to behave like them. It is only the women who have to behave like Sita and Savitri; the men may behave as they like”.

Women should be known by her skills, talents and strengths, not by the name of any goddesses or imaginary character. When both men and women will be treated as an equal human being, when everyone will get equal opportunities in all spheres of life; then women will feel safe at her home. When both husband and wife, brothers and sisters will realize that they are equal in every aspect of life and their desired goals, then women will feel safe at home.

Kashif Umair is a student at Aligarh Muslim University.

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